Editor's Note: Great FanPost by Gradishar53. We'll make sure this gets attached to Gradishar's nomination for the Mile High Report Hall of Fame come July 7th. The FanPosts are a great way to make your case for a Bronco, Author or Member you feel deserves to be nominated for the MHRHoF!
For those lucky enough to see Randy Gradishar in his prime, you saw the epitome of an NFL player. He was better than his peers, including Jack Lambert, and often was recognized for this during his career. Awards include: DPOY-1978, 7 time Pro-Bowler and a slew of All Pro Teams:
|1977||1st Team||All-Conf.||Pro Football Weekly|
|1977||1st Team||All-Conf.||Sporting News|
|1977||1st Team||All-NFL||Associated Press|
|1977||2nd Team||All-NFL||Newspaper Ent. Assoc.|
|1977||1st Team||All-NFL||Pro Football Weekly|
|1978||1st Team||All-Conf.||Pro Football Weekly|
|1978||1st Team||All-Conf.||Sporting News|
|1978||1st Team||All-NFL||Associated Press|
|1978||1st Team||All-NFL||Pro Football Writers|
|1978||1st Team||All-NFL||Newspaper Ent. Assoc.|
|1978||1st Team||All-NFL||Pro Football Weekly|
|1979||1st Team||All-Conf.||Pro Football Weekly|
|1979||1st Team||All-Conf.||Sporting News|
|1979||2nd Team||All-NFL||Associated Press|
|1979||1st Team||All-NFL||Pro Football Writers|
|1979||2nd Team||All-NFL||Newspaper Ent. Assoc.|
|1979||1st Team||All-NFL||Pro Football Weekly|
|1980||2nd Team||All-NFL||Newspaper Ent. Assoc.|
|1980||1st Team||All-NFL||Sporting News|
|1981||1st Team||All-Conf.||Pro Football Weekly|
|1981||2nd Team||All-NFL||Associated Press|
|1981||2nd Team||All-NFL||Newspaper Ent. Assoc.|
|1981||1st Team||All-NFL||Pro Football Weekly|
|1981||1st Team||All-NFL||Sporting News|
|1983||2nd Team||All-NFL||Associated Press|
Unfortunately, outside those who saw him play, he fell into the cracks of NFL history, and has largely been ignored his rightful place among the truly elite players of all time.
Don’t even get me started on the injustice of Gradishar being left out of the NFL HOF . . . imho, this guy is the best to ever play the game. As a Chicagoan, growing up with Butkus and Sayers, Gradishar and TD were at least their equals.
In addition to scores of accolades, including: Hardest hit Walter Payton took in the NFL - "Randy Gradishar, 1978" – Walter Payton (responding to Dan Hampton's question about the hardest hit he EVER took), ". . . I thought I was dead . . ." – Tony Dorsett (after being knocked out cold by Gradishar), "Best Linebacker I ever coached" – Woody Hayes, "Every bit as good as HOFs Butkus and Bill George" – Stan Jones (Broncos coach who played with Butkus and George, etc., etc., Randy Gradishar literally carried the Broncos into the post season for the first time and then time and time again for the rest of his career. In fact, the Broncos rise to excellence is directly traceable to the development of Randy Gradishar.
Unofficially the all time NFL leader in tackles with 2049 in just 10 years (many 14 game seasons and one 9 game strike shortened season), until Ray Lewis topped him with 2061 (in 17 seasons). Some outside of Denver argue that his stats were inflated. Those that saw Gradishar in action will say that they never saw the man take a play off, or go less than full force. The reason for Randy having so many tackles is that honestly, the Bronco offense was not that great during his career (his last season was Elway’s first) and the defense was on the field quite a bit more than their record would indicate (even in going 12-2 in 1977 and outscoring opponents 274-148, the defense spent 931 plays on the field, compared to the offense’s 886 plays at a less than explosive 4.4 yards/play). In ’77 Morton started all 14 games at quarterback, threw for 1929 yard and rushed for 125 yards. Our leading rusher was Otis Armstrong with 489 yards and leading receiver was Haven Moses with 539 yards. Combine Morton’s 1977 14 game passing and rushing yards with team rushing leader, Otis Armstrong’s rushing yards and they pale in comparison to Tebow’s passing and rushing yards (yes he rushed for more yards than our quarterback and leading rusher combined in our first Super Bowl run as well as passing for more yards than the legendary Morton) for his total 14 lifetime starts. In the Super Bowl, our offense coughed up the ball 8 times (7 in the first half, alone) and our defense led by Gradishar still kept us in the game, well into the second half. In fact, despite the 8 offensive turnovers, the Broncos gave up the least points (27) of their five losing Super Bowls (27, 39, 42, 55 & 43). This came against a Cowboys team that placed 7 individuals (3 offensive players, 2 defensive players, their coach and their GM/President) into the HOF.
Sometimes dismissed, as a gentleman and not a ferocious hitter, this couldn't be farther from the truth. Just ask Saints' Henry Childs, after Gradishar knocked his helmet off, "It was the first in my career like that, in the open field". Gradishar's hitting ability was a sentiment echoed in Rick Korch's book, The Truly Great. In it, Tony Dorsett recalled the hit Gradishar gave him in a 1980 game, "I ran a pass pattern and was wide open but Danny White did not see me. I go back to the huddle and tell Danny that I am wide open. I ran the same route again but this time I was almost decapitated. My eyes were only partially open when I hit the ground. Trainers and doctors came running onto the field. They thought I was dead. Hey, I thought I was dead, too." Hall of Fame defensive lineman Dan Hampton remembers asking Walter Payton, "Walter, who gave you the hardest hit you ever took in the NFL?". According to Hampton, Payton replied, "Randy Gradishar, 1978". In 1981 SPORT magazine named Gradishar one of the Top 5 hardest hitters in the NFL, quoting the modest Gradishar, "The chance for a real good shot comes very seldom, but when it's there I take full advantage of it".
Just watch the 1977 conference championship against the Raiders to see how tough and determined Randy was along with the impact he had on his fellow defenders. Questionable for the game, due to injury (but overshadowed by the Morton tough guy story), Randy started and on the Raiders’ first play from scrimmage, Randy made a tackle in the backfield for a loss to set the tone for the game. If you watch the defensive huddles (yes back in the day the huddles were televised), Randy commands as much, if not more respect and attention in the huddle than Peyton Manning does in the current offensive huddle.
Randy Gradishar should have been a first ballot NFL hall of famer. People say that Brian Urlacher is a first ballot, or sure fire hall of famer. Well Urlacher’s highest one season tackle total was 151 in 2002 (16 game season), while Gradishar’s lowest was, you guessed it . . . 151 in the NINE game strike shortened 1982 season.
The NFL hall is a complete disgrace without him. Don’t let the first MHR class compound this injustice.