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Denver Broncos Greats... By The Numbers: #47

There were ten Bronco players that wore #47. Eight of them played in the Defensive backfield, one is a well-known Running Back and one is am apparition of a Wide Receiver. I can see right now that there are two players that stand out. That tells me two things. One, that this will be a difficult decision, and two, the membership will likely decide the issue whether they agree with me or not. So without further discourse, here are the ten players who wore #47 in the history of the Denver Broncos franchise.

John Lynch S 2004-07
Ryan McNeil CB 2003
Darius Clark S 2000-01
David Poole DB 1993
Gerald Willhite RB 1982-88
George Atkinson DB 1979
Tony Harris WR 1972
Paul Martha S 1970
James Smith S 1969
John McGeever DB 1962-65

John McGeever was drafted by the Broncos in the 7th round (50th overall) of the 1962 AFL Draft. He played 4 seasons in Denver, starting all 55 games at both Cornerback spots and at Left Safety. McGeever made 9 interceptions, returning one for a touchdown. He also returned 5 kickoffs in 1962, for a 28.6 yard average.

James "Jimmy" Smith was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 10th round (244th overall) of the 1969 NFL Draft. He appeared in 2 games for the Broncos in 1969.

Paul Martha was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1st round (10th overall) of the 1964 NFL Draft and the Buffalo Bills in the 9th round (69th overall) of the 1964 AFL Draft. He played six years in Pittsburgh before joining the Broncos for the 1970 season. Paul started 12 of 13 games at Free Safety, recording 6 interceptions and recovering 2 fumbles.

George Atkinson was drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the 7th round (190th overall) of the 1968 NFL Draft. He played in Oakland for 10 seasons before coming to Denver. George was a notable player for the Raiders, making 2 Pro Bowls and being one of the cheap shot players that gave Oakland the reputation of being thugs. He didn't do anything for the Broncos in the 6 games he played in Denver.

Though the Broncos Media guide lists them, there is no evidence that Tony Harris or David Poole ever played for the team.

Darius Clark was signed to the Broncos Practice Squad on Sept. 3rd 2001. He was promoted to the active Roster on October 23, 2001. Clark suffered a torn ACL on December 10, 2001 and was placed on Injured Reserve. Darius underwent surgery and was expected to be ready for Training Camp. He appeared to be recovering well after backpedaling and covering receivers during OTA's in May 2002. Nevertheless Clark was released on Aug 26, 2002 after playing only 7 games in 2 years for the Broncos.

Ryan McNeil was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the 2nd round (33rd overall) of the 1993 NFL Draft. He played 10 seasons in Detroit, St. Louis, Cleveland, Dallas and San Diego before joining the Broncos for 4 games in 2003. Ryan didn't compile any stats as a Bronco.

Gerald Willhite was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 1st round (21st overall) of the 1982 NFL Draft. He played for the Broncos from 1982 to 1988. In those 7 seasons, Gerald started 21 of 78 games. He ran for 1,688 yards and 17 touchdowns on 380 carries, a 4.4 average. Willhite also caught 207 passes for 1,767 yards and 5 touchdowns. On Special Teams, he returned 101 punts for 1,012 yards and one touchdown, a 10.0 average and returned 26 kickoffs for a 20.0 average. Head coach Dan Reeves liked to use Willhite on the occasional trick play and the halfback option pass was a play that Reeves brought over from his playing days with the Cowboys. Gerald didn't fare too well in that capacity though, as he only had 2 completions in 13 attempts, including an interception.

Willhite appeared in Super Bowl XXI against the New York Giants, rushing for 19 yards on 4 carries and catching 5 passes for 39 yards. That season as Fullback, he contributed by rushing for 365 yards and 5 touchdowns, while also leading the team in receptions with 64, good for 529 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Well known for his back-flip in the end zone, Gerald never did live up to his 1st round status. He was a true north-south runner who didn't spend a lot of time wasting moves on people. He ran with a forward lean which meant that he couldn't bend naturally at the waist and knees to make quick cuts. That left him an easy target for defenders to hit. Accordingly, coach Reeves insisted that the Denver staff work to eliminate Gerald's forward lean.

Willhite's career came to an abrupt end when he was tackled from behind by a Horse Collar Tackle from Minnesota Safety Joey Browner. It was a Monday Night Football game on October 28, 1987 at the Metrodome. The Broncos not only lost the game to the Vikings 34-27, but they lost their Fullback too.

In the 2nd quarter with the score knotted at 7-7, Willhite broke away for a 29-yard run. One step from the end zone, he was pulled down from behind by Browner. On the tackle, Gerald's right foot was caught under his body and he suffered agonizing pain from two breaks in the leg before being carried off the field.

He currently owns and operates GW Spices BBQ Restaurant in Rancho Cucamonga, California.

John Lynch was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 3rd round (82nd overall) of the 1993 NFL Draft. He played 11 years with the Buccaneers, making the Pro Bowl 5 times. Lynch was a 1st Team All-Pro twice and earned a Super Bowl ring with the Bucs in Super Bowl XXXVII.

Tampa Bay released John after the 2003 season for salary cap reasons and he signed with the Denver Broncos prior to the 2004 season. A year later, Lynch almost made his 2nd Super Bowl, but the Broncos lost to the Steelers in the AFC Championship Game.

He served as the Broncos defensive captain in 2006 and 2007, and in July 2008, he was granted his release by the Broncos.

In his 4 years in Denver, Lynch started 59 of 60 games. He had 271 Tackles, 7 Sacks, 3 interceptions, 26 pass deflections, 9 Forced Fumbles and 1 Fumble recovery. John also made the Pro Bowl those 4 years.

At the time of his retirement, John was ranked #10 as the most feared tackler in NFL history, on the NFL Films production "Top 10 Most Feared Tacklers", for the NFL Network. Lynch once knocked out Tight End John Allred, his longtime friend and brother in law.


  • 9 Pro Bowls (1997,1999, 2000-02, 2004-2007)
  • 2 1st-Team All-Pro selection (1999, 2000)
  • 2 2nd-Team All-Pro selection (2001, 2002)
  • Super Bowl champion (XXXVII)
  • Bart Starr Man of the Year Award (2006)
  • "Whizzer" White NFL Man of the Year (2006)

Even though Safeties are an overlooked position, Lynch should receive some consideration for the NFL Hall of Fame.

John is currently doing commentary alongside Ron Pitts for Fox Sports.

Well MHR, I think Willhite and Lynch should each be considered for the Greatest Bronco to wear #47. I'll tell you what though, this time YOU will decide who gets the accolade. So who will it be, Willhite or Lynch?

Either way, John Lynch and Gerald Willhite both deserve a Mile High Salute.

Go Broncos!