Broncos Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas burns New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis for a touchdown on October 17, 2010. If he can stay healthy, Thomas has the tools to become the Greatest Bronco to wear #88. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
Twelve players wore #88 in the past for the Denver Broncos and another is wearing it at present. Eight Tight Ends, three Wide Receivers, one Split End and a Flanker. There looks to be some decent competition for this honor, which always makes the selection more difficult. Here are the candidates.
Demaryius Thomas, the current #88, was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 1st round (22nd overall) of the 2010 NFL Draft. He started 2 of 10 games during his rookie campaign, with 22 catches for 283 yards and 2 touchdowns. He ran for 1 yard on 2 carries, returned 16 Kickoffs an average of 24.9 yards, Fumbled 3 times and recovered one. Demaryius also contributed 5 Tackles on Special Teams.
Pat Epperson was an Undrafted Free Agent out of Adams State, who the Broncos signed in 1960. He played in 9 games that year, with 9 catches for 99 yards.
Eugene Prebola was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the 19th round (219th overall) of the 1960 NFL Draft. However, Gene opted to play in the AFL with the Oakland Raiders in his rookie year. He spent the next 3 seasons (1961-63) with the Broncos. Prebola played in 42 games, caught 100 passes for 1,419 yards, a 14.2 average and 4 touchdowns. He also had an 8-yard kick return and three 2-point conversions.
Russell Payne played college ball at Appalachian State. He was signed as an Undrafted Free Agent by the Broncos in 1987. Payne played one game for Denver and caught an 8-yard pass.
Jerry Evans was drafted by the Phoenix Cardinals in the 8th round (204th overall) of the 1991 NFL Draft. From 1993-95, Evans played Tight End for the Broncos. He started 18 of 43 games, with 25 catches for 251 yards and 3 touchdowns. Jerry returned one kickoff 6 yards and Fumbled once.
Mike Sherrard was drafted by the Cowboys in the 1st round (18th overall) of the 1986 NFL Draft. He played his rookie year in Dallas and then shattered both bones in his right leg during a scrimmage in 1987. He re-broke the leg while rehabbing and missed the 1988 season as well. In 1989, The San Francisco 49ers signed Sherrard in Plan B free agency in 1989 and let him heal for the entire year. In 1990, Mike broke his right fibula and lost another year. After signing with the New York Giants in 1993, he fractured his left hip socket. 1994 was Sherrard's best season as a Pro, when he had a career high 53 receptions for 825 yards and 6 touchdowns. In 1996 he signed as a Free Agent with the Broncos. He only played one season before announcing his retirement. Sherrard played in 15 games as a Bronco, with 16 catches for 185 yards and a touchdown. Mike didn't play, but was on the roster long enough to get a Ring in San Francisco's Super Bowl XXIV win.
Sir Mawn Wilson played his college ball at Syracuse University. He joined the Broncos as n Undrafted Free Agent in 1997 and was signed to the Practice Squad after Training Camp. He was promoted to the 53-man roster and appeared in 2 games, without recording a stat. The only thing Sir Mawn Wilson did receive was a Super Bowl Ring in 1997. Some guys have all the luck.
Desmond Clark was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 6th round (179th overall) of the 1999 NFL Draft. He played 3 seasons for the Broncos through 2001, starting 6 of 41 games. Des caught 79 passes for 910 yards, an 11.5 average and 9 touchdowns. Clark also returned a Kickoff 11 yards and Fumbled 3 times. The Broncos waived him in the 2002 preseason. Desmond, who was nursing an arm injury at the time, signed with the Dolphins and spent one season with them before joining the Chicago Bears in 2003. He was a Pro Bowl alternate in 2005 and in 2006, Clark helped the Bears win the NFC Championship and a trip to Super Bowl XLI with 45 catches, 626 yards and 6 touchdowns. He remains a Bear to this day.
Jeb Putzier was drafted by the Broncos in the 6th round (191st overall) of the 2002 NFL Draft. He played 4 seasons in Denver from 2002-05 wearing #88. Jeb started 10 of 39 games, with 77 catches for 1,087 yards, a 14.1 average, 2 touchdowns and a 2-point conversion. He also had one 16-yard Kick return, one Fumble and one Fumble Recovery.
Tony Scheffler was drafted by the Broncos in the 2nd round (61st overall) of the 2006 NFL Draft. He spent 4 seasons in Denver from 2006-09. He started 28 of 57 games, with 138 catches for 1,896 yards, a 13.7 average and 14 touchdowns. Tony ran for 2 yards on 2 carries, Fumbling twice and recovering one. Scheffler is also credited with a Pass deflection and an interception as well as one Tackle on Special Teams. In April of 2010, Scheffler was traded to the Detroit Lions in a 3 team trade involving the Philadelphia Eagles. He managed to catch 45 passes for 378 yards and a touchdown last year in Detroit.
Clarence Kay was drafted by the Broncos in the 7th round (186th overall) of the 1984 NFL Draft. He played his entire 9-year career in Denver from 1984-91. Clarence started 126 of 135 games at Tight End. He was a very good blocker, but it took him and Orson Mobley to make a complete Tight End. Kay got the majority of the playing time because Dan Reeves wanted Sammy Winder to run the ball. But off the field personal problems left Clarence unfocused, inconsistent and unreliable. Between 1984 and 2006 Kay was arrested at least 12 times. In 2006 Kay pleaded guilty to harassment from domestic violence, and was sentenced to six months imprisonment. Mobley could catch, but he wasn't the blocker that Kay was. And some of the sweeps that were effective for Winder just couldn't be run as often without him locking out the Outside Linebackers and Defensive Ends.
He had to block well since he wasn’t known for his hands. "I was hesitant to throw to him," John Elway admits. "He was inconsistent."
That inconsistency was likely the result of Clarence's drug and alcoholic addiction problems. All told, Kay caught 193 passes for 2,136 yards, an 11.1 average and 13 touchdowns. He returned 2 Kickoffs for a total of 10 yards, Fumbled 6 times and recovered three. He also caught two touchdowns in the 1988 AFC divisional playoffs against Houston and had 3 games with multiple touchdown catches. Kay totaled three receptions for 44 yards in Super Bowl XXII and XXIV combined and played his last game in the NFL in 1992.
Al Denson was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 6th round (47th overall) of the 1964 AFL Draft and the Philadelphia Eagles in the 6th round (72nd overall) of the 1964 NFL Draft. Denson chose Denver and went on to play 7 seasons with the Broncos from 1964-70 as a Flanker/Tight End/Split End and Wide Receiver. Al started 34 of 91 games, catching 250 passes for 4,150 yards, a 16.6 average and 32 touchdowns, He ran for 3 yards on 3 carries and Fumbled twice. Denson made the Pro Bowl at the end of the 1967 and 1969 seasons. He also led the AFL in touchdown catches in 1967 with 11. Denson ran the 100-yard dash in 9.6 seconds. His tremendous speed and agility made him a threat to score every time he had the ball.
Al Denson had pretty good numbers for his era. In fact, for a comparable amount of time, Hall of Famer Mike Ditka's numbers weren't very much better. However, Ditka played played twice as long though and that doesn't compute. Even that comes up shy of this next player.
The Greatest Bronco to wear #88 is...
Riley Odoms was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 1st round (5th overall) of the 1972 NFL Draft. That made Riley the 2nd highest Tight End ever taken (Mike Ditka was 5th overall in 1961 and in 1960 the L.A. Rams selected Billy Cannon with the 1st overall pick). Odoms was a starter on the Broncos Super Bowl XII team and never averaged less than 10 yards per catch in a season. He started 134 of 153 games in a 12-year career with the Broncos.
Odoms was a very good blocker and was viewed as one of the most complete Tight Ends in the league. During the 1977 Divisional Playoff game against Pittsburgh, Riley had 5 catches for 43 yards and a touchdown. In one of Riley's better games, he caught 7 passes for 165 yards and 2 touchdowns as the Broncos beat the Raiders 24-3 during Week 14 in 1978.
He finished his career with 396 receptions for 5,755 yards, a 14.5 average and 41 touchdowns. Riley ran for 211 yards and 2 touchdowns on 25 carries, Fumbled 8 times, recovered 4 and returned one for a touchdown.
4-Time Pro Bowler (1973, 1974, 1975, 1978)
2-Time 1st-Team All-Pro (1974, 1975)
2nd team-offense on the Broncos 50th anniversary Team.
6-100 yard Games
5-Seasons with 40+ catches
1st in Team Receptions (1973, 1974, 1977, 1978)
1st in Team Receiving Yardage (1975)
MHR gives a Mile High Salute to Riley Odoms as the Greatest Bronco to wear #88.
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