Denver Broncos Countdown to Kickoff: 23 Days

Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE

Yo, check it out MHR brethren, we have a curve ball to throw you with this series!

Starting with 20 and counting down to 1, the MHR staff will be ranking our 20 most important players heading into 2013.  Think of it as an internal power rankings of sorts but with implications of just how vital that Bronco is to our teams success this upcoming season.  From there each of us will give you our take on what makes that player important to the team.  Should be lots of fun, and as always we encourage you to participate and give your take as well.

Now onward to 23 and a couple Broncos by the names of Sammy Winder and "Goose" Gonsoulin.

Sammy Winder

Sammy played for the Denver Broncos from 1982-1990.  He was selected 131st overall in the 1982 NFL draft by the Denver Broncos.  Over the course of his 9 year Bronco career, Winder amassed 5427 yards on 495 attempts, with 39 TD's.  Sammy, who's TD dance was dubbed "The Mississippi Mud Walk" was a duel threat out of the backfield averaging close to 20 receptions per season in an era where the RB as a receiver was still a concept foreign to many NFL playbooks outside of San Francisco and their West Coast offense.  Performance wise, Sammy's best season scoring came in 1986 when he crossed the endzone for six 14 times.  His best season rushing was 1984 when he cracked 1000 yards (1153) for the one and only time in his career.

Austin "Goose" Gonsoulin

"Zappa" already has written an excellent article about the Goose so I'll transcribe the tunesmith's sweet riffs for everyone to hear!

Gonsoulin was born in Port Arthur, Texas where he played running back and defensive back in high school while also starring in track.  He was chosen to All-District and All-State in his senior year before heading to Baylor where he added receiver to his list of playing positions.

This versatility made him a complete player when the Denver Broncos brought him in to play defensive back prior to the 1960 inaugural season.

His rookie season was by far his best year as he logged eleven interceptions which is the longest standing record in the Broncos record book.  He also notched four interceptions against the Buffalo Bills early in the season on September 18, 1960 which is another record that still stands to this day.

I know we all love and admire Champ Bailey as one of the all-time great defensive backs, but he has yet to catch the Goose and until that happens, Gonsoulin is the greatest defensive back in Bronco history.  We know how well he played in his rookie season, but what about his career marks?

Gonsoulin's career mark of forty-three interceptions stood as a record until 1987 when Steve Foley notched his forty-fourth as a Bronco.

That really isn't the whole story.  The Goose retired in 1967 holding the AFL Record for the most career interceptions.  Jim Norton of Houston needed one more year to get his forty-five, while Dave Grayson from Oakland needed ten seasons to reach forty-seven.  If Gonsoulin had played nine seasons he would probably own the AFL record easily.

Austin has suffered some serious heath issues lately.  His body is ravaged with cancer and he had to undergo open heart surgery last fall.  The Goose is still here however, and he continues to follow the Broncos. In an interview with him at his bedside, Gonsoulin's love for the game of football is still apparent:

The 74-year-old Gonsoulin had just woken from a nap on the couch when he caught a flash across his television screen: Denver cornerback Chris Harris stepping in front of a pass and racing down the sideline for a 98-yard touchdown against Baltimore last Sunday.

Gonsoulin gawked at each step, his chest hurting from sitting up so suddenly and his heart thumping with enthusiasm.

"I remember exactly what that feels like," said Gonsoulin, who's known around the Mile High City as an "Original Bronco" after being acquired in a trade before the team's first season in 1960. "Such a great feeling when you're in the open like that."

Those that were lucky enough to have witnessed him in person will forever cherish those memories and pass them on to future generations of Broncos fans.  For the rest of us, we revere a Broncos Legend who paved the way for so many great safeties in the decades to come.  A Mile High Salute and God Bless to one of the greatest to ever don the orange and blue!

Cool 23 Factoids:

Sammy Winder played in three Super Bowls but managed only 25 yards on 13 carries in the three games combined.

Goose was a 6-time AFL all star from 1960-1964, and 1966

Current Bronco wearing #23:

Quentin Jammer

Read More: Denver Broncos by the Numbers (Kaptain Kirk)

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