It's been quite a journey through the history of jersey numbers for our beloved Denver Broncos, but sooner or later, all journeys must end. This one began as an idea from our esteemed leader John Bena (that's Ben-Nay) around 3 years ago. It was twice started, but then fizzled sadly due to off-season drama. That is not to say this off-season has been a vacation, but the fact that an idea has been completed is an accomplishment in itself despite the drama. Thanks to all of you who have stuck around to see it through and thanks to Brian, Jezru and Troy for picking up the slack when I would have faltered.
Today we come to #99. There were twelve players who wore the #99 jersey for the Denver Broncos in team history. Five Defensive Ends, five Defensive Tackles, a Nose Tackle and a Linebacker. Here is the last lineup, the candidates for the accolade of Greatest Bronco to wear #99.
Raylee Johnson DE 2004
Daryl Gardener DT 2003
Seth Joyner LB 1998
David Richie DT 1997
Shane Dronett DT 1992-95
David Galloway DE 1990
Shawn Knight NT 1988
Ray Woodard DE 1987
Kevin Vickerson was drafted by the Miami Dolphins in the 7th round (216th overall) of the 2005 NFL Draft. He was placed on Injured Reserve after suffering an ACL injury in a preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons on September 1st. In 2006, Vickerson was listed inactive for all 16 games and after two seasons had yet to play in a regular season game. The Dolphins declined to offer him a contract as an exclusive rights Free Agent in 2007, so he became an Unrestricted Free Agent. Miami re-signed him and he was allocated to NFL Europa. Kevin played for the Cologne Centurions and was named to the 2007 All-NFL Europa team. Despite a strong performance in NFL Europa, Vickerson was released by the Dolphins on August 27. After a wasted trip and workout with the 49ers, he was signed to the Tennessee Titans Practice Squad. On November 28, Vickerson was promoted to the active roster and finally made his NFL debut on December 2nd against the Houston Texans. Kevin was traded to the Seattle Seahawks along with Lendale White a 4th and 5th round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft in exchange for a 4th and 5th round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. He was then cut on September 5th 2010. Big Vick signed with the Broncos two days later. He was a rare bright spot on a Denver defense that finished dead last in the NFL last year. The 28-year-old was rewarded for his production with a 2-year, $4.75 million contract extension that was signed prior to the lockout in March. Because of the timing of the pact, he receives a $1 million bonus this summer regardless of labor strife. Vickerson had career highs in Tackles and Sacks in 2010. However, that was only his 3rd season with recorded stats, so the Broncos seem to think he can do better in 2011. Big Vick's stats from last season are; 12 starts in 15 contests, 42 Tackles, 2 Sacks, one interception, 3 pass deflections and one Forced Fumble. Not bad for an Interior Lineman.
Ray Woodard was drafted by the San Diego Chargers in the 8th round (199th overall) of the 1984 NFL Draft. He joined the Broncos in 1987 and started 1 of 3 games and had a half Sack. Ray was a member of the Broncos' 1986 AFC Champion and Super Bowl team. He is currently the head coach at Lamar University in Texas.
Shawn Knight was drafted by the Saints in the 1st round (11th overall) of the 1987 NFL Draft. He played a single season in New Orleans and then became a Bronco in 1988. Shawn played in 14 games for Denver and did not record any stats. Knight played for the Phoenix Cardinals in 1989, his final NFL season.
David Galloway was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2nd round (38th overall) of the 1982 NFL Draft. He played 8 seasons in St.Louis and then Phoenix. Galloway joined the Broncos in his final season, 1990. He played 10 games and had 2 Sacks.
David Richie was signed by the Broncos as an Undrafted Free Agent out of Washington University in 1997. He played 2 games with Denver and had a half Sack. Upon leaving the Broncos, Richie played 2 seasons in San Francisco and another in Jacksonville.
Seth Joyner was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 8th round (208th overall) of the 1986 NFL Draft. He was actually cut in training camp as a rookie, but the Eagles re-signed him later in the season. Seth played in the NFL for the Philadelphia Eagles (1986–1993), Arizona Cardinals (1994–1996), Green Bay Packers (1997), and the Denver Broncos (1998). His unique combination of strength and quickness propelled him to 3 Pro Bowls (1991, 1993, and 1994). He was named NFL Player of the Year by Sports Illustrated in 1991 and was runner-up for Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He won a championship Ring in Super Bowl XXXIII with the Broncos and got to ride into the sunset with John Elway, retiring as a winner. Joyner is one of 11 players in the 20/20 Club (Interceptions and Sacks) in NFL history. He started 1 of 16 games for Denver in 1998 and made 5 Tackles.
Daryl Gardener was drafted by the Dolphins in the 1st round (20th overall) of the 1996 NFL Draft. He spent 6 years in Miami, before moving on to Washington in 2002. In 2003,
Denver Mike Shanahan gave Gardener a 7-year, $34.8 million pact with a $5 million signing bonus. That turned out to be one of the biggest blunders Shanny ever produced, Travis Henry and Maurice Clarett aside. To begin with, Daryl was coming off surgery to his right wrist in the previous off-season and that was still a factor. He lost more practice time due to the flu and strep throat, which caused him to lose his conditioning. Coach Shanahan then suspended Gardener twice for conduct detrimental to the team. After ranting on a Radio program belittling Shanahan and stating the team couldn't win a Super Bowl without him, the Broncos suspended him another 2 games. The team ended up putting him on the non-football injury list to finish the year. Gardener was waived after the 2003 season and reached an undisclosed settlement with the team when it tried to recoup part of the signing bonus. The Broncos cut Gardener after the 2003 season, and after that he left the NFL and became a competitive bodybuilder. He ended up playing a mere 5 games for the Broncos, starting two and finishing with 8 Tackles. On June 28, 2011, Gardener was arrested and charged with domestic-violence battery after he allegedly head butted his girlfriend during an argument at a Sorority House.
Raylee Johnson was drafted by the San Diego Chargers in the 4th round (95th overall) of the 1993 NFL Draft. He played 10 of his 11 years for the Chargers, signing with the Broncos before the 2004 season. Raylee started 1 of 14 games in 2004 with Denver, compiling 12 Tackles, 1 Sack, 1 pass deflection and 1 Forced Fumble. He was released on August 29, 2005.
Alvin McKinley was drafted by the Panthers in the 4th round (120th overall) of the 2000 NFL Draft. He played 7 games as a rookie for Carolina and joined the Browns in 2001. Alvin spent 6 years in Cleveland and had his best career season in 2005, with 68 Tackles and 5 Sacks. On March 20, 2007, the Broncos signed McKinley to a 4-year deal making him the 8th former Browns Defensive Lineman to join the Broncos in the 3 previous off-seasons. The Broncos had just released former Browns Defensive End Courtney Brown and Defensive Tackle Michael Myers. Ironically, Alvin was a starter in Cleveland when Myers and Gerard Warren left the Browns for the Broncos. In his one season with the team, he amassed 28 tackles and 2.5 sacks and one Forced Fumble after working his way from the Inactive list in Week 2 to a starter of 10 games. One of his highlights came on a take-down of Ben Roethlisberger for a 4-yard loss in the 1st half of the Broncos' 31-28 over the Steelers in Week 7. McKinley capped the 2007 campaign by helping force a Fumble on the final defensive play of the season. The Broncos released Alvin at the end of Training Camp on September 2nd, 2008. He signed with the New Orleans Saints on September 10, 2008, but was released 9 days later. He is currently a Free Agent.
Vonnie Holliday was drafted by the Packers in the 1st round (19th overall) of the 1998 NFL Draft. He spent 5 seasons in Green Bay and then played for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2003–2004 and the Miami Dolphins from 2005–2008 before joining the Broncos on September 4th, 2009. Vonnie started 3 of 16 games in Denver, with 33 Tackles, 5 Sacks 2 Forced Fumbles and one Fumble recovery. He was more than that to the Broncos though. The team was transitioning to a 3-4 Base defense and Holliday brought a stable veteran presence to Marcus Thomas and Ryan McBean. He also took on a few double-teams allowing Elvis Dumervil to record a league leading 17 Sacks. Vonnie recovered a key 2nd-half fumble in the Broncos' 34-23 Week 6 victory over the Chargers. The Broncos opted not to re-sign Vonnie after the 2009 season and he signed with the Washington Redskins on May 17, 2010.
Montae Reagor (Ray-Ger) was drafted by the Broncos in the 2nd round (58th overall) of the 1999 NFL Draft. He played 4 seasons with Denver from 1999-2002. Montae started 1 of 45 games, compiling 43 Tackles, 4 Sacks, one interception, 2 pass deflections and one Forced Fumble. He signed with the Indianapolis Colts as a Free Agent in 2003, and continued to play there until the 2006 season. On October 22, 2006, Reagor was involved in a car accident on his way to the Week 7 game with the Redskins. He suffered a broken orbital bone and received 35 stitches in the back of his head. The Colts placed him on Injured Reserve and he missed the rest of the season. After the Colts won Super Bowl XLI, the team terminated his contract on March 1, 2007, due to the severity of his injury.
In 2007 Montae signed with the Philadelphia Eagles. He was expected to help Philadelphia's revamped Defensive line. Due to his successful play and return from his severe injuries, Reagor was named as the Philadelphia Eagles recipient for the 2007 Ed Block Courage Award. He was released in the 2008 offseason and is currently a 34 year old Free Agent.
This number should have been a celebration to a completion of this series, but it will end on a sad note. The Greatest Bronco to wear #99 is...
Shane Dronett was drafted by the Broncos in the 2nd round (54th overall) of the 1992 NFL Draft. He played 4 seasons in Denver from 1992-95. Shane started 35 of 61 games, compiling 147 Tackles, 21.5 Sacks, 2 interceptions 3 Forced Fumbles and 2 Fumble recoveries. Dronett played only 4 games in 1996 as a member of the Atlanta Falcons. He spent the 1997 season with the Detroit Lions, where he got little playing time. The Lions released him at the end of the 1997 season, and he was rehired by the Falcons, who had just hired as their new head coach Dan Reeves, the man who originally drafted him for the Broncos. In 1998, Shane anchored a defense that ranked second in the NFL against the run. The Falcons won the NFC championship and lost Super Bowl XXXIII against Dronett's old team, the Broncos. In January 2000, he signed a 5-year, $20 million contract. That September, he suffered a torn ACL. Both 2001 and 2002 were likewise marked by a series of injuries that limited his ability to play, including an ankle injury in October 2001, a knee injury in early 2002, and a season-ending shoulder injury in August 2002. In 2003 the Falcons released Dronett from his contract.
Then came the paranoia, confusion, fear, and rage.
In 1996, Dronett began to exhibit a radical change in his behavior. He was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor in 2007, but its removal did not alleviate Shane's suffering or symptoms. The tragic culmination of his pain came when he committed suicide in 2009 at 38, only three years after retiring from the NFL. After his death, Dronett's brain was tested at Boston University School of Medicine's Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy. Scientists determined that Dronett suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a brain disease associated with repeated head trauma.
"There is evidence of CTE in his brain making him yet another former NFL player who had definite CTE," said Chris Nowinski, co-director of the traumatic encephalopathy center. Nowinski said the center has found evidence of CTE in the brains of 13 of 14 former NFL players, including Dronett. Usually found in much older dementia patients, CTE is an accumulation of an abnormal protein in the brain called tau, which is associated with repeated head traumas -- concussions or sub-concussive hits -- that are not allowed to heal. CTE can also diminish brain tissue and is associated with memory loss, depression, impulsive behavior and rage.
I hate to end the series on a somber note like this, but there it is. MHR posthumously gives a Mile High Salute to Shane Dronett as the Greatest Bronco to wear #99.