Fifteen Broncos have worn the #55 in franchise history. Thirteen Linebackers, a Center and a Defensive End. Three or four players stand out at first glance, so this may take a hard look to decide which one is the Greatest. Here is the lineup:
D.J. Williams LB 2005-Present
Ken A. Brown LB 1995
Glenell Sanders LB 1994
John Kacherski LB 1992
Rick Dennison LB 1982-90
Bryant Winn LB 1987
Art Smith LB 1980
Ken E. Brown C 1979
Godwin Turk LB 1976-78
Pete Duranko DE 1967-70, ‘72-74
Archie Matsos LB 1966
Marv Matuszak LB 1964
Jim Fraser LB 1962-63
Jim Fraser was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the 21st round (250th overall) of the 1959 NFL Draft. You may recall seeing his name last week in the #51 post. Well he wore #55 in 1962-63, his first two seasons in Denver. Fraser played 28 games in that time period with one interception and one kick return (for no yards), but he made the Pro Bowl both seasons with his foot. Jim led the league in 1962 with the longest punt (75 yards) and a blocked punt. In 1963, he had a league leading 81 Punts for 3,596 yards and a 44.4 average. He also kicked 2 PAT's.
Marv Matuszak was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 3rd round (29th overall) of the 1953 NFL Draft. The 3-time Pro Bowler played 10 seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, San Francisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers, Baltimore Colts and Buffalo Bills before joining the Broncos in 1964, his final year. Marv started 14 games at Middle Linebacker and made 2 interceptions.
Archie Matsos was drafted by the Baltimore Colts in the 16th round (189th overall) of the 1958 NFL Draft. A 3-time Pro Bowler & 2-time First-Team All-Pro, Matsos played 3 years each with the Buffalo Bills and Oakland Raiders from 1960-65. In 1966, he played 9 games for the Chargers and also 4 games with the Broncos, making two interceptions.
Pete Duranko was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the 4th round (61st overall) of the 1966 NFL Draft, but played his entire Pro career for the Broncos. Pete started 76 of 98 games on the Defensive Line for the Broncos from 1967-74, recovering 4 Fumbles. He played along side Lyle Alzado but, left before the Defense became the "Orange Crush."
Godwin Turk was drafted by the New York Jets in the 3rd round (58th overall) of the 1974 NFL Draft. After one year, he came to Denver and played 3 seasons. Turk started 6 of 42 games at Left Linebacker, but played mostly on the Special Teams Unit. Godwin intercepted 2 passes and recovered one Fumble. He was on the Broncos 1977 AFC Champion’s roster when they played the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XII. Turk is infamous for dislocating his own shoulder while over exuberantly spiking the ball after recovering a turnover during a regular season home game in Denver.
Ken E. Brown played Center for the Broncos in 1979. He played in all 16 games and recovered one Fumble. There just aren't many chances for an Offensive Linemen to record stats.
Art Smith played 2 games for the Broncos in 1980.
Bryant Winn was drafted by the Washington Redskins in the 12th round (331st overall) of the 1985 NFL Draft. I could not find out why he never played for the Redskins and trying to find out if he was on their Practice Squad was futile, but he did play 3 games for the Broncos in 1987, recovering one Fumble.
John Kacherski was an Undrafted Free Agent who played 7 games at Linebacker for the Broncos in 1992.
Glenell Sanders went Undrafted and played for the Chicago Bears and the Los Angeles Rams before coming to Denver in 1994. He had 2 Tackles in his only game with the Broncos.
Ken Brown was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 4th round (124th overall) of the 1995 NFL Draft. He saw action in two games as a rookie in 1995 and went through Training Camp with the Broncos in 1996 before being waived.
Keith Burns was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 7th round (210th overall) of the 1994 NFL Draft. He played 4 years (2000-03) in his 2nd of 3 stints with the Broncos in the #55 uniform. Keith started 1 of 61 games and recorded 43 Tackles, Forced 4 Fumbles and recovered 3. Mr. Burns wore #56 and #51 as well and the #51 post has more information on his career.
Patrick Chukwurah was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in the 5th round (157th overall) of the 2001 NFL Draft. After 2 seasons with the Vikings, Patrick became a Bronco. He played in Denver for 3 years, but only wore #55 in his first season (2004). That year, Chukwurah had 9 Tackles, 1 Sack and 1 pass deflection in 14 games. He switched to #54 in 2005 because D.J. Williams ended up with the #55 jersey.
D.J. Williams was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 1st round (17th overall) of the 2004 NFL Draft. He wore #52 in his rookie year before making the switch to #55 in 2005. D.J. has started at least 11 games in each of his 6 seasons as a Bronco while playing at the strongside (31 starts), weakside (26), middle (16) and inside (16) Linebacker positions.
He didn't miss a single game in his first 4 seasons with Denver and was the only defender to appear in all 67 Broncos contests during that time. Williams has surpassed 100-Tackles in a season 4 times, including a personal-best 170 Tackles in 2007. He also owns 25 10-Tackle games for his career and ranks 6th in the NFL in tackles per game (8.3) for the last 3 seasons. D.J. was named alternate in the 2009 Pro Bowl after starting all 16 games and ranking 6th in the AFC with a team-high 122 tackles (100 solo), including a personal-best 3.5 sacks, at Inside Linebacker. He has had his problems off the field, pleading guilty in September 2005 to driving drunk. On November 12, 2010, Williams was arrested for DUI and may face possible suspension from the league. As a result of the arrest, the Broncos fined D.J. and took his Defensive Co-Captain title from him.
Rick Dennison was a free agent acquisition by the Broncos in 1982 out of Colorado State University. He spent the next 8 seasons as a versatile Special-Teams player and Linebacker. He was the guy who often did the blitzing. In 1989, he received the Ed Block Memorial Courage Award. He ranked 2nd on the team in tackles in 1988 with 133 and led the team with 3 fumble recoveries for the year. Perhaps the best performance of his career came in a 1987 playoff game against Houston when he registered 8 Tackles and one quarterback pressure. He also had an excellent season in 1984 when he had 164 stops and a career-high 3 Sacks in his first full season as a starter. All told, Rick started 52 of 128 games. He had 4 interceptions, 6.5 Sacks, 5 Fumble Recoveries and 2 kick returns for 27 yards.
But that wasn't enough for Dennison. After he was through playing, he stayed with the Broncos as a coach from 1995-09. Dennison started out as an offensive assistant from 1995-96. From 1997-2000, he was in charge of Special Teams and was the Offensive Line Coach from 2001-05. Rick's last coaching position for the Broncos was as the Offensive Coordinator from 2006-08. He moved on to join former teammate Gary Kubiak with the Houston Texans.
Dennison Went to 5 Super Bowls as a Bronco, 3 as a player and 2 as a coach.
Personally, I am stuck between D.J. Williams and Rick Dennison as the Greatest Bronco to wear #55. So I'm going to give the entire slate a Mile High Salute as being part of the Orange and Blue and let you decide who the Greatest out of this bunch.