Number 81 has been worn by nineteen different players in thirty-eight seasons. Eighteen of them were offensive players while one was a defensive end. Eleven of them wore the number for one season or less and only three wore it for more than three seasons. One player -- who wore it briefly -- was recently elected to the NFL's Hall of Fame.
Take a jump and learn who was the best in #81
Bill Jessup TE 1960
Drafted by the 49ers in the 11th round (126th overall) of the 1951 NFL Draft. He appeared in 9 games with 0 starts. He caught 9 passes for 120 yards with 1 touchdown.
Max Leetzow DE 1965-66
Drafted by both the Broncos (5th round, 35th overall in the 1965 AFL Draft) and the Vikings (14th round, 191st overall in the 1965 NFL Draft). He opted to sign with the Broncos. He appeared in 28 games with 0 starts.
Dave Washington TE 1968
Undrafted player. He appeared in 2 games with 1 start. He caught 1 pass for 12 yards.
Billy Masters TE 1970-74
Drafted by the Chiefs in the 3rd round (77th overall) of the 1967 NFL Draft. Interestingly enough, he did not play for the Chiefs until 1975 after playing for the Bills and the Broncos. He appeared in 66 games with 29 starts. He caught 66 passes for 923 yards with 6 touchdowns. He rushed 11 times for 47 yards. He fumbled 3 times and recovered 2 fumbles. His career has been compared to that of Daniel Graham.
Bob Adams TE 1975
Undrafted player. He played for the Steelers and the Patriots before coming to Denver. He appeared in 2 games with 0 starts. He did not amass any official statistics.
Steve Watson WR 1979-87
Undrafted player. He appeared in 126 games with 87 starts. He caught 353 passes for 6112 yards with 36 touchdowns. He rushed 6 times for 19 yards. He fumbled 2 times and recovered 3 fumbles. He returned 1 kick for 5 yards. He was voted to the Pro Bowl in 1981. He had 3 1000+ receiving yards seasons. He had 16 100+ receiving yards games and a streak of 49 games with at least one reception. He played in 9 post-season games (2 Wildcard, 3 Divisional, 2 AFC Championships, 2 Super Bowls (XXI, XXII). After retiring as a player, he served as a Broncos assistant coach. He was a defensive assistant from 2001 to 2002. He moved to the offensive side of the ball as the Broncos wide receivers coach from 2003 to 2006. He was given the title of "associate head coach" from 2007 to 2008. As a coach, he helped three different receivers record 1000+ receiving yards seasons (Rod Smith, 2004 & 2005; Ashley Lelie, 2004; Javon Walker, 2006). He also helped Denver's offense to rank #6 in passing in 2004.
Shannon Sharpe WR 1990-91
Drafted by the Broncos in the 7th round (192nd overall) of the 1990 NFL Draft. It should be noted that he only wore #81 during his first two seasons. The majority of his accomplishments came while wearing #84. The statistics included in this article are drawn only from those first two seasons. He appeared in 32 games with 11 starts. He caught 29 passes for 421 yards with 2 touchdowns. He rushed 1 time for 15 yards. He fumbled 1 time and recovered 1 fumble. He appeared in two playoff games, catching 6 passes for 60 yards.
Kitrick Taylor WR 1993
Drafted by the Chiefs in the 5th round (128th overall) of the 1987 NFL Draft. He played for the Chiefs, Patriots, Chargers and Packers before coming to Denver. He appeared in 2 games with 0 starts. He caught 1 pass for 28 yards.
Barry Rose WR 1993
Drafted by the Bills in the 10th round (279th overall) of the 1992 NFL Draft. There is no record of him ever playing for Buffalo. He appeared in 3 games for the Broncos with 0 starts. He had no official statistics.
Mike Pritchard WR 1994-95
Drafted by the Falcons in the 1st round (13th overall) of the 1991 NFL Draft. He appeared in 18 games with 13 starts. He caught 52 passes for 712 yards with 4 touchdowns.
Todd Kinchen WR 1996
Drafted by the Rams in the 3rd round (60th overall) of the 1992 NFL Draft. He appeared in 7 games with 0 starts. He returned 26 punts for 300 yards. He caught 1 pass for 27 yards. He fumbled 5 times and recovered 1 fumble.
Patrick Jeffers WR 1997
Drafted by the Broncos in the 5th round (159th overall) of the 1996 NFL Draft. He wore #82 in his first season. While wearing #81, he appeared in 10 games with 0 starts. He caught 3 passes for 24 yards.
Andre Cooper WR 1999-2000
Undrafted player. He appeared in 10 games with 1 start. He caught 9 passes for 98 yards.
Scottie Montgomery WR 2000
Undrafted player. He only wore #81 in 2000. The other two years of his Broncos career were played in #83. His statistics for #81 were: 4 games, 0 starts, 1 catch for 10 yards.
Keith Poole WR 2001
Drafted by the Saints in the 4th round (116th overall) of the 1997 NFL Draft. He appeared in 6 games with 3 starts. He caught 5 passes for 38 yards.
Chris Cole WR 2003
Drafted by the Broncos in the 3rd round (70th overall) of the 2000 NFL Draft. He spent his first two seasons wearing #84. His statistics while wearing #81: 11 games, 0 starts, 30 kick returns for 714 yards, 3 catches for 36 yards, 2 rushes for 8 yards, 1 fumble, 1 fumble recovery.
Charlie Adams WR 2004-06
Undrafted player. He first wore #12, then switched to #81. His statistics for #81: 20 games, 2 starts, 18 punt returns for 175 yards, 10 kick returns for 218 yards, 21 catches for 203 yards, 5 rushes for 14 yards and 4 fumbles. He beat out Jerry Rice to make the team in 2004.
Nate Jackson TE 2007-08
Undrafted player. He wore #14 and #89 before donning #81. His statistics while in #81: 15 games, 4 starts, 14 catches for 118 yards with 2 touchdowns.
Richard Quinn TE 2009
Drafted by the Broncos in the 2nd round (64th overall) of the 2009 NFL Draft. He appeared in 29 games with 4 starts. He caught 1 pass for 9 yards. He returned 1 kick for 19 yards.
There are really only three players to have worn #81 who merit consideration of the title "Greatest to Wear #81": Billy Masters, Steve Watson and Shannon Sharpe (though Sharpe's claim lies more in what he did wearing #84, than his performance in #81). And so, we find that the best choice to be: