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MHR's Forgotten Broncos -- Paul Smith

The Forgotten Broncos series is part of a larger goal of mine to bring back many of the Bronco greats of the past. I am not writing about some nobody who played a game back in '64 and was never heard about again. I am writing about a player who impacted the organization in some profound way and so long as these players are not remembered in the Pro Football hall of fame, then they are forgotten in my eyes and it is our duty as fans to ensure that they are never forgotten by any of us whether we be old or young.

The next player on my list was the anchor for the fledgling Orange Crush defense of the early 70's and ended up being the first player ever to wear a Bronco uniform for more than ten seasons. He was a consummate pro and helped bridge the gap between the woeful teams the Broncos fielded in the late 60's and the AFC Champions a decade later. His name was Paul Smith, the big man at NT and DE during those critical years while coach after coach was attempting to build a winner.

Sept. 1970 - Paul Smith dropped the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw for a 12-yard loss in the first quarter. Denver won the game, 16-13.

With limited details on Paul Smith's career, (other than his stats), what I found was that he loved his team and never quit on a play.  His passion for the game no doubt transferred to many of the young players drafted in the early 70's that would go on to start for the vaunted Orange Crush defense later in the decade.  Our team's organization owed him a great debt of gratitude that was eventually fulfilled with Paul Smith's induction into the Ring of Fame in 1986.

There is not much information available on Paul Smith that I could find on the web, so I requested some assistance from some of our more distinguished fans.  He didn't want any credit for offering his memories and thoughts on the venerable Smith, but I have never been one to post another person's thoughts without transparent honesty.  Thank you to firstfan for your memories and thoughts on one of the great Broncos from the Orange Crush days.  I also look forward to the other memories and thoughts of Paul Smith from our longer-tenured fans on MHR. 

  • His acceptance of John Ralston in 1972. Paul was part of a veteran defensive line that was improving greatly. Paul had earned the respect not only of his teammates', but also of the offensive linemen he faced each week. Ralston's rah-rah, Dale Carnegie approach did not sit well with many of Denver's veteran players. I am not sure but I think that is what led to the departure of our defensive team captain Dave Costa. Floyd Little made a speech in one of those "players only" meetings and he argued to give Ralston a chance. Paul was not a vocal guy, he did his talking on the field, but he did step up and agree to give the guy a chance. Since Paul didn't say much, when he did, people listened. In '73 Paul made one of the few public quotes you will ever find. "Coach Ralston has us thinking positive and teams are respecting us".
  • What a dominant player Paul Smith really was. Paul went to his first Pro bowl in 1973. Four Broncos went that year: Floyd Little, Haven Moses, and Riley Odoms, all offensive players. Only one defender was chosen from a group that included Lyle Alzado, Barney Chavous, Pete Duranko and many more. Paul Smith was that defender. Also, in '75 or '76 Joe Collier began experimenting with a new look to stop the run. It involved using only three down linemen on defense and four linebackers. To do this he needed a unique skill set from his DT/DE's and Paul made the adjustment gracefully. In '76 Collier installed a front three of Smith at one end and Brison Manor on the other with John Grant as a NT in certain down and distance situations. Of course in '77 we all know the story. None of this could have happened without the talent and versatility of Paul Smith.
  • In the next to the last game of the '77 Super Bowl year we played San Diego. After three quarters we were trailing 7-9. In the middle of the fourth quarter we were hanging on to a 9-10 lead but Dan Fouts had our number and was driving the Chargers for a go-ahead score. Paul Smith put the pressure on Fouts and sacked him and he fumbled. The ruling on the field was a fumble. In today's world there would have been a red flag and review, which would have clearly shown Fouts' knee was down prior to the fumble. Paul got the sack and the Broncos went on to win 17-9. The high-flying Fouts was held to three field goals thanks to Paul Smith and the Denver D. so you see, the whole Hoculi thing was just déjà vu all over again. Charger karma catches up with them again.
Paul Smith's Career Bronco Stats
Games Sacks
135 55