Back on the Ring of Fame trail again this week as we take a look at the sole player honored in the Class of 1987. While I don't think this former Bronco is quite Hall of Fame-worthy, he still makes my All-Time Broncos team as a Safety - just edging out Dennis Smith.
Billy Thompson was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the third round of the 1969 draft. He would play his entire thirteen-year career in Denver and become an instrumental part of the long, arduous journey the franchise made from laughingstock to championship stock.
|Photo via Denverbroncos.com|
Unlike most players, Thompson would get better with age. He languished at RCB for the first five years he played in the league. He appeared serviceable, but just short of great. That was before John Ralston became the head coach. And after watching Thompson for a season, he moved him to Safety; where Billy would become a dominant force on the newly-minted Orange Crush Defense.
The switch to safety changed the course of Thompson's career greatly. He was able to roam the secondary and became the best at killing the big play. Billy was a huge reason why the Orange Crush gave up so few points during the late 70's. He also showed amazing durability, starting every single game from his switch to the Safety position in 1972 until his retirement from football in 1981. He also seemed to get better with age, being selected to the Pro Bowl in both 1977 and 1978, as well as his final season of 1981.
During the Denver Broncos' first Super Bowl appearance, the Orange Crush was faced with their toughest task ever. The Broncos offense would commit eight turnovers and put their defense in the unenviable position of stopping one of the league's best teams. The Orange Crush would hold the Cowboy offense to just 27 points, but really it should have been 17. One touchdown should have been called incomplete and another field goal should have never happened as Billy Thompson intercepted a Roger Staubach pass in the end zone, yet the referee Jim Tunney dubiously decided that Staubach stepped out of bounds before he threw the ball.
In any case, the Broncos would rightly lose to the Cowboys that day, as any team that commits eight turnovers should, but the fans applauded the Denver Broncos and the Orange Crush that day. The season was a success even in the midst of defeat. The fans' desire for a championship would come later; 1977 was all about shedding the history of mediocrity.
Billy Thompson was a fixture in the secondary for the Orange Crush and without his presence that team would never have made it as far as it did. Thompson would finish his career ranked first-all-time in fumble returns for touchdowns and in the top-ten all-time for fumble return yardage. His 179 starts still ranks near the top in Broncos history.
He now resides in Aurora, Colorado and is involved with various non-profit organizations dealing with community outreach for youth, health and hunger initiatives. As great as he was on the field, it has been his off-the-field work that has touched the most lives. We, at MHR, wish him continued success in the community.
|Billy Thompson's Career Stats|