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Denver Broncos Greats... By The Numbers: #77

Fifteen men wore #77 for the Denver Broncos in franchise history. When this number is evoked some folks will think of a certain player and some will think of another. The fact is, two very dominant players had very good careers for the Broncos wearing this number and a third was very successful as well. But before we get to them, let's take a look at the other twelve players. The list of candidates is comprised of five Offensive Linemen, four Defensive Ends, four Defensive Tackles, a Tight End and a Linebacker.

Brandon Gorin T 2009
Dylan Gandy G 2008
Larry Birdine DE 2007
Dwayne Carswell TE 2005
Tony Jones T 1997-2000
Karl Mecklenburg LB 1983-94
Greg Boyd DE 1980-82
Lyle Alzado DE 1971-78
Alden Roche DE 1970
Larry Cox DT 1968
Jim Thompson DT 1965
Dick Guesman DT/K 1964
Anton Peters DT 1963
Jack Mattox LT 1962
Carl James Larpenter RG 1960-61

Carl James Larpenter was signed by the AFL Broncos out of Texas in 1960. He played 2 seasons in Denver. In his rookie year, Larpenter played 14 games at Left Tackle. The next year, he started 14 games at Right Guard. Carl spent 1962 with the Dallas Texans.

Jack Mattox went Undrafted out of Fresno State. He started 8 games at Left Tackle for the Broncos in 1962.

Anton Peters was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 6th round (45th overall) of the 1963 AFL Draft and the Los Angeles Rams in the 8th round (99th overall) of the 1963 NFL Draft. He played 10 games at Defensive Tackle for the Broncos in 1963.

Dick Guesman was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the 6th round (67th overall) of the 1959 NFL Draft. He played for the New York Titans/Jets from 1960-63 and joined the Broncos in 1964. Dick started all 14 games in 1964 at Left Defensive Tackle and Kicker. Guesman was 13 for 15 (86.7%) on Extra Points and 6 for 22 (27.3%) on Field Goals. Needless to say, Dick had to look for work in 1965.

Jim Thompson was signed by the Broncos as an Undrafted Free Agent out of Southern Illinois. He played 4 games at Defensive Tackle for Denver in 1965.

Larry Cox was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 10th round (85th overall) of the 1966 AFL Draft. He spent 3 seasons with the Broncos from 1966-68, but only wore #77 in 1968 when he played 9 games as a reserve Defensive Tackle.

Alden Roche was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 2nd round (37th overall) of the 1970 NFL Draft. He played 9 games in 1970 at Defensive End for the Broncos. He went on to play 8 more seasons with the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks.

Greg Boyd was drafted by the New England Patriots in the 6th round (170th overall) of the 1976 NFL Draft. He spent two seasons with the Patriots before joining the Broncos in 1980. Greg played 3 years in Denver from 1980-82. He appeared in 40 games, recovering one Fumble and registering a Safety.

Dwayne Carswell was signed as an Undrafted Rookie Free Agent by the Broncos in 1994 out of Liberty University. He played 12 seasons with the Broncos from 1994-2005. The first 11 Carswell wore #89. He only wore #77 in his final year in the NFL.  Known as "House" by his teammates, Dwayne suffered season-ending internal injuries in a car crash 4 days after a Week 7 loss to the New York Giants in 2005. Carswell did play in the first 7 games, recording 2 touchdowns on 2 receptions and fielding a kickoff (0 yards). As a result of his recovery from that crash, Dwayne received the Broncos' Ed Block Courage Award. *Note: Carswell will receive further attention when #89 is considered.

Larry Birdine spent weeks 10 through 17 of the 2007 season with the Broncos, though he remained inactive for those 8 games. He made it through Training Camp and was waived by the Broncos during the final cuts in August 2008.

Dylan Gandy was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in the 4th round (129th overall) of the 2005 NFL Draft. He spent 3 years with the Colts and was released on May 2, 2008. On May 16, Gandy signed with the Broncos. He was released on September 9, 2008, then re-signed on September 25 after Tom Nalen was placed on Injured Reserve. He was released again on October 7 when the team re-signed Tight End Chad Mustard.

Brandon Gorin was drafted by the San Diego Chargers in the 7th round (201st overall) of the 2001 NFL Draft. He debuted with the New England Patriots in 2003 and stayed for 3 years, winning 2 Super Bowl Rings. Gorin was signed as an Unrestricted Free Agent by the Denver Broncos on April 17, 2009. The move reunited him with Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels. He started one of six games for the Broncos in 2009. Brandon is currently a Free Agent.
Tony Jones

Tony Jones was signed as an Undrafted Free Agent by the Cleveland Browns in 1988. He stayed with the Browns for 8 years, playing both Tackle spots. Tony was a member of the inaugural roster for the Baltimore Ravens in 1996. Before the 1997 season, the Broncos signed Tony to bolster their offensive line. He started all 16 games at Right Tackle and was the 2nd option on Left side. Jones made his only Pro Bowl appearance that year. In 1998, Tony moved to Left Tackle to protect John Elway’s blind side. He was also a part the the Offensive Line that opened holes for Terrell Davis' 2,000 yard season. Jones started all 60 games in his 4 years with the Broncos (1997-2000). Better known as "T-Bone" by his teammates, Tony started and won 2 Rings in Super Bowl XXXII and Super Bowl XXXIII with the Broncos.

Lyle Alzado

Lyle Alzado was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 4th round (79th overall) of the 1971 NFL Draft. He played 8 seasons with the Broncos from 1971-78. Lyle started 98 of 99 games at Defensive End and Tackle, recovering 14 Fumbles and recording a Safety. Those are the official NFL numbers. Now for the rest of the story.

When starting Right Defensive End Pete Duranko (I believe) was injured in 1971, Lyle stepped in and never gave up the position. He made various All-rookie teams for his 60 Tackles and 8 Sacks. In 1972, Alzado began to get national attention for his intense and intimidating style of play as he produced 10.5 Sacks to go with 91 Tackles. In 1973, Lyle posted another great season and the Broncos had a winning record for the 1st time in franchise history with a 7–5–2 mark.

1974 saw Alzado gaining significantly more notice as one media source named him All-AFC, with 13 Sacks and 80 Tackles (8 for a loss). His name  was being mentioned among the NFL's top Defensive Ends -- Elvin Bethea, Jack Youngblood, L. C. Greenwood, Claude Humphrey, and Carl Eller. The Denver Broncos posted their 2nd consecutive winning season, going 7–6–1. The 1975 season brought about a change and Alzado moved to the Defensive Tackle spot. He responded with 91 Tackles and 7 Sacks, but the team regressed with a 6–8 record.

On the 1st play of the 1976 season, Lyle blew out a knee and missed the entire campaign. This forced Defensive Coordinator Joe Collier to switch to a 3-4 Base Defensive scheme and the "Orange Crush" was born. The Broncos went 9–5 but it was reported that the players lost confidence in coach John Ralston. Ralston was dismissed and Red Miller came on board in 1977.

The 1977 campaign, up to that point, was the most successful in franchise history. The Broncos had one of the NFL's best defenses, went 12–2 and then beat the Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders en route to Super Bowl XII. They were stomped by the Dallas Cowboys 27–10. The season was still a big success for Alzado, who was voted consensus All-Pro and consensus All-AFC as well as winning the UPI AFC Defensive Player of the Year. He also led the Broncos in Sacks with 8, while making 80 Tackles.

The Broncos went to the AFC playoffs again in 1978, losing in the 1st round to the eventual champion Steelers. Alzado had 77 Tackles and 9 Sacks and recorded his 1st NFL safety. He was 2nd team All-Pro and a consensus All-AFC pick.

After making the Pro Bowl for the 2nd consecutive year, Alzado - who had led the team in Sacks in 5 of the last 7 years - and the Broncos had a contract dispute. He flirted with the idea of becoming a pro boxer and in July 1979, he went 8 rounds with heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali in an exhibition. A month later, Alzado walked out of Training Camp. The Broncos Front Office responded by trading him to Cleveland for draft picks.

He played 3 seasons in Cleveland and went to the Pro Bowl in 1980. In 1982, Lyle became an Oakland Raider and finally achieved a Super Bowl Ring in 1983. Alzado retired at the end of the 1985 season.

His nicknames included "Rainbow" and "Three Mile Lyle." The former referred to Alzado's mood swings and the latter to his volcanic temper. Lyle was famous for his intense and intimidating style of play, which could have been due to his admitted Steroid and HgH use. According to some reports, he was using natural growth hormone, harvested from human corpses, as opposed to synthetic growth hormones. However, shortly before his death, Alzado recounted his steroid abuse in an article in Sports Illustrated.

"I started taking anabolic steroids in 1969 and never stopped. It was addicting, mentally addicting. Now I'm sick, and I'm scared. 90% of the athletes I know are on the stuff. We're not born to be 300 lbs. or jump 30 feet. But all the time I was taking steroids, I knew they were making me play better. I became very violent on the field and off it. I did things only crazy people do. Once a guy sideswiped my car and I beat the hell out of him. Now look at me. My hair's gone, I wobble when I walk and have to hold on to someone for support, and I have trouble remembering things. My last wish? That no one else ever dies this way."

Alzado died a very ugly and public death after a battle with brain cancer in 1992 at the age of 43.

Unofficially, Lyle amassed 479 Tackles and 64.5 Sacks, but the NFL did not recognize Tackles and Sacks as recordable statistics until later on. He even inspired the league rule against throwing a helmet after having done so himself to an opponent's helmet.

  • 1972 - Led the NFL in Fumbles Recovered (5)
  • 2-Time Pro Bowler (1977, 1978)
  • 1st-Team All-Pro (1977)
  • Byron "Whizzer" White NFL Man of the Year Award (1977)

Now I'm going to let you decide the winner, but my vote for the Greatest Bronco to wear #77 is...

Karl Mecklenburg

Karl Mecklenburg was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 12th round (310th overall) of the 1983 NFL Draft and the Chicago Blitz in the 21st round of the USFL Draft in 1983. Karl opted for Denver and it was a wise choice. He played his entire 12 season career in a Bronco uniform. The "Snow Goose" or "Albino Rhino" was an essential component of the Broncos' Super Bowl teams of the 1980s, playing above and beyond his draft selection. He helped Denver to 7 postseason appearances (1983-84, ‘86-87, ‘89, ‘91, ‘93), 5 division titles (1984, ‘86-87, ‘89, ‘91) and 3 Super Bowl berths (XXI in 1986, XXII in ‘87, XXIV in ‘89). Karl started 141 of 180 total games in Denver. He is listed as Defensive End, Left Inside Linebacker and Middle Linebacker, but the fact is, Mecklenburg played all 7 defensive front positions, sometimes all 7 in one game. He played standing up and with his hand in the dirt, wherever a mismatch could be found. Karl harassed many NFL quarterbacks as witnessed by his 79 career Sacks. His season high 13 Sacks were a franchise record at the time. He recorded 11 multiple-sack games and is the only player in team annals to record 4 Sacks in a game twice in his career. Karl registered 1,118 Tackles, including a career and team-high 143 stops in 1989. He also made 5 interceptions, Forced 16 Fumbles, Recovered 14 Fumbles (returning 2 for touchdowns) and recorded one Safety in his time as a Bronco.

Since retiring from pro football in 1995, Karl divides his time between motivational speaking and his ongoing charity involvements.

  • 6-Time Pro Bowler (1985-87, 1989, 1991, 1993)
  • 4-Time Newspaper Enterprise Assn. (NEA) 1st-team All-Pro (1985, 1986, 1987, 1989)
  • 3-Time 1st-Team All-Pro (1985, 1986, 1989)
  • 1-Time 2nd-Team All-Pro (1987)
  • 5 consecutive 100+ Tackle seasons (6 total)
  • 8 seasons with 7 or more Quarterback Sacks
  • Broncos Ring of Fame (2001)
He is also in the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame and serves on the Broncos Alumni Council.

Like I said, you get to choose this one folks. You've seen the evidence presented. I submit three choices for you to select from. I've made mine, so what do you say MHR?

Go Broncos!