"With the 218th pick in the 1994 NFL Draft, the Denver Broncos select...." unfortunately for all of us, these late round picks aren't sensationalized like the first round or even the 2nd and 3rd round. Apparently the NFL and its fans don't think much of late round picks;That is until they turn out to be guys like Tom Nalen who just so happens to be the best Center in Denver Broncos history!
Nalen played in 194 games, starting 188 of them. This included 13 playoff games, 2 Super Bowl victories, and countless 100 yard running back performances. Tom Nalen paved the way for 6, count them, 6 1,000 yard rushers as well as Terrell Davis's 2,000 yard MVP season. "Nails" was all too happy to let TD, Elway, and Sharpe bask in the glory of their accomplishments, even though silently, he surely knew as did many that he was the true anchor of their offensive line (and thus success).
Jake Plummer might have said it best when talking about Tom Nalen's impact on the Denver Broncos when he said, "It didn't matter who you plugged in back there, with all due respect to John Elway or Terrell Davis or myself or anybody who had success back there, Tom Nalen was the anchor of that line." Truer words may have never been spoken. You see, we love us some John Elway. He's in the Hall of Fame and one of, if not THE best QB in NFL history, but what is his legacy without Terrell Davis? Terrell Davis was one of the most dominant running backs the NFL had ever seen until he blew out his knee, but what is his legacy without Tom Nalen leading the way with that undersized group of offensive linemen ahead of him? You see, with all these individual accolades showered upon Elway and Davis, they all start up front with one single, solitary person: Tommy Nalen!
Just take a look at the running backs that Nalen helped pave way for success:
Terrell Davis ~ What more needs to be said about TD? You'll have to wait for #30 countdown to find out.
Olandis Gary ~ A nobody who didn't have much success without rushing behind Nalen.
Mike Anderson ~ A 27 year old former U.S. Marine who was painfully close to breaking 1,500 yards as a rookie.
Tatum Bell ~ A future Park Meadow's Mall cell phone salesman (who still to this day believes he can play in the NFL)
Reuben Droughns ~ A special teams running back who up until that point had 40 career carries spanning 2 teams and 3 seasons.
Clinton Portis ~ Dynamic 2nd round running back. Got traded for Champ Bailey.
What do all of those RBs have in common you ask? I'd be happy to tell you! They all continued an amazing 12 year run of 1,000 yard rushers (with exception to TD's retirement year where he split time with Mike Anderson). That's a 12 year stretch of league wide envy! Do you know when that streak ended? Again, I'm glad you asked. It ended in 2007 when Nalen went on Injured Reserve for a torn bicep. Would it pick up the next year when Nalen returned? No, because Nalen didn't return. He suffered a knee injury and missed the entire 2008 season.
The impact that Nalen had on the team and the offensive line could be summed up with a number: 343. Why 343? It's because that is the number of rushing yards by the Broncos leading back in 2008, the first year that Nalen failed to play a game in a Broncos uniform. The Broncos went from year in and year out 1,000 yard rushers to 343 yards. THAT is the measure of worth that Nalen was to the team. That is why he's a Ring of Famer, and that is why he should be inducted into the Hall fo Fame. If you can, please make it to the stadium Sept 29th as he will be inducted into the ROF during halftime of what is sure to be a rout of the Eagles. Although Nalen would prefer for everyone to be getting a beer and pizza at the concession stands during his speech, I encourage you all to stand up and give one last thunderous ovation for the greatest center we've ever known, and one of the best to ever play the game: Tom Nalen!!!
Cool 66 Factoids
December 19, 1966 the Broncos hired Lou Saban to be their GM and head coach.
In 1966, the term "Beam me up Scotty" was coined by William Shater while playing his role as Captain James T. Kirk.
In 1966, the Doors were banned for life from the Ed Sullivan show for agreeing to modify their lyrics to "Light My Fire" and then singing the real lyrics during the live recording.
Notable Broncos to wear #66:
Tom Nalen (1994-2008)
Lonie Paxton (2009-2011)