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MHR Broncos History Lesson - Ring of Fame -- Class of 1984

Welcome to the final edition of MHR Bronco's History for 2008. Officially anyway, I may write a few posts into this section during the regular season. I hope you've enjoyed reading this series of posts as much as I have enjoyed researching and writing them! I look forward to continuing the history lessons come next offseason.

One of the biggest topics of general discussion around here during the reloading season is the vaunted(or notorious) Hall of Fame. It's a topic that generates the most discussion and much ire in the MHR Community. It took the Hall of Fame 43 years to induct a Denver Bronco into their exclusive club. Luckily, we only had to wait another five or so to get another Bronco into the Hall. The problem is that there are at least a half dozen former Bronco players that should be honored in the Hall of Fame.

Pat Bowlen became the owner of the Denver Broncos in 1983 and he created the Ring of Fame at Mile High Stadium to honor past Bronco greats in the hopes of no doubt changing the culture of borderline disrespect the organization had always shown its ex-players. It was an attitude not uncommon in the NFL pre-80's. Pat Bowlen was a new kind of owner with new ideas about how to build a successful organization from the top down. Owners like Al Davis continued the old practices of disrespecting players, while guys like Pat Bowlen figured out ways to honor past and present players. The Oakland Raiders went into a downward spiral of mediocrity and the Denver Broncos went on to win ten Division Titles, six AFC Championships, and two Super Bowls.

The Ring of Fame is the Denver Bronco fans Hall of Fame. There comes a point where we as fans have to put more emphasis on the Ring of Fame than we do on the NFL's popularity contest called, the Hall of Fame. Not one member of the Ring of Fame doesn't deserve to be there, while there are a plethora of questionable members in the Hall of Fame. Pat Bowlen was intelligent enough and bold enough to recognize the need for a fan based Hall of Fame.

So in 1984, along the fifth level of the old Mile High Stadium, a Ring of Fame was introduced to euphoric Bronco fans everywhere as part of the Denver Broncos 25th Anniversary. With so many players to choose from, the Class of 1984 was destined to be the biggest group to be honored at one time. So the four biggest stars in Bronco history were inducted into the Ring of Fame on the day of its unveiling and with them a nearly 25 year old tradition was started. There are now twenty players and one former owner enshrined around the field, a number that continues to grow slowly with each passing year as more and more Bronco greats are honored.

Class of 1984

Floyd D. Little is undoubtedly one of the greatest players ever to don a Bronco uniform. Nicknamed "The Franchise", he went on to establish most of the Bronco rushing records that would remain until Terrell Davis would break them. He retired after nine seasons of solid production as a runner and special teams returner. He gave early Bronco fans their only glimpses of super stardom.
Little was considered a shoe in for the Hall of Fame when he retired in 1975, yet 33 years later he is still waiting for that recognition. His enshrinement into the Ring of Fame must go first on this list, since in 1984 he was still the greatest Bronco ever to play the game. He would not be overtaken by John Elway for several more years as the most popular player in Bronco history.

#87 Lionel Taylor, WR, 1960-66

Lionel T. Taylor played well before his time. He epitomized how a receiver should play the game. Speed was a secondary factor to the position, Taylor believed success came from route running and hands. No other player in his era did either of those two things as well as Lionel Taylor did.
He set individual receiving records that wouldn't be broken until the new century. The first man ever to catch one hundred passes in a single season. The guy was a beast before guys like Selvin Young used the word to describe themselves. Unfortunately, Lionel Taylor too has been snubbed by the NFL's Hall of Fame. He is another no brainer first ballot inductee to the Bronco Ring of Fame.

#87 Richard Jackson, DE, 1967-72

Richard S. "Tombstone" Jackson was a true terror on the football field, earning even the respectful admiration of the hated Al Davis. If it wasn't for Coach John Ralston's insistence on doing certain drills that caused Jackson's knees to deteriorate, he may have become a certain Hall of Famer. Even though Tombstone only had four really good years, he is still talked about whenever the topic of Hall of Fame snubs comes around...even outside of Broncoland! Tombstone Jackson is and always should be the benchmark upon which all past and future Bronco defensive linemen should be measured up to regardless of his injury shortened career.

#23/45 Austin Gonsoulin, DB, 1960-66

Austin W. "The Goose" Gonsoulin wasn't quite the Champ Bailey of his day, but he was most certainly a football player and a man's man. He was as tough as nails and always fought hard on every play. He set the standard in the Broncos inaugural seasons, intercepting eleven passes. A record that still stands. He and Lionel Taylor were the only real bright stars on a perennial loser.
The Goose would help lay the foundation for the decades of tradition on the defense. An attitude of toughness and fearlessness that would propel the Orange Crush defense to the Super Bowl and the tough defenses of the 80's, 90's and 2000's. Without the struggles of these early teams in the 1960's, I doubt the organization would as great as it is now, nor would the fan base be as fanatical. We owe it ourselves to remember the past. The Goose rightfully earned his place as a first ballot Ring of Famer.

The Ring of Fame is an important part of our tradition and history. It should hold a central place in our hearts as far as recognition for our greatest players. I know we'd all like to see justice in the Hall of Fame, but it will take several more Super Bowl victories before any flood gates are opened. So until that happens, let us celebrate the Ring of Fame as the true measure of how great a former Bronco was. The list is small, smaller than the roster of former Chicago Bears enshrined in the Hall of Fame, yet the names on that Ring are legendary to all of us Broncomaniacs.

I look forward to profiling each and every member of the Ring of Fame during the 2009 offseason. As for now, it's time to profile and discuss our current members of the 2008 Denver Broncos. So I must say, goodbye to MHR History and hello to MHR training camps!

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