Ten players wore #97 for the Denver Broncos in team history. With one exception. All-Pro Defensive End/Linebacker Karl Mecklenburg wore the number for a single game. During week 12 in Los Angeles. The Raiders shut out the Broncos 24-0. Legend has it that the number was cursed and the Bronco organization reversed the Mojo by changing their uniform design. It obviously worked because the team promptly won two Super Bowls. They also brought in a Lucky Charm to get them back to the Big Game. His name? Well, you'll have to read through the article, because he is the Greatest Bronco to wear #97. The rest of the lineup goes like this.
Simeon Rice was drafted by the Cardinals in the 1st round (3rd overall) of the 1996 NFL Draft. He played 5 seasons in Arizona winning Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. Simeon signed with Tampa Bay as a Free Agent prior to the 2001 season and earned a Super Bowl Ring in 2002. Halfway through the 2006 campaign, the Bucs placed him on Injured Reserve with a shoulder ailment. After he refused to take a pay cut, the Buccaneers released him. On September 3, 2007, Rice signed a 1-year deal with the Broncos. Unhappy with his lack of playing time, he asked to be released. Simeon started 1 of 6 games, with 8 Tackles and 2 pass deflections. Rice made the Pro Bowl 3-times and 1st-Team All-Pro once in his career.
Rodney "Boss" Bailey was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the 2nd round (34th overall) of the 2003 NFL Draft. He played 4 years in the Motor City. In 2008, he had the chance to join older brother Champ in Denver and signed a 5-year, $17.5 million contract. He started 6 games at Outside Linebacker in 2008, with 40 Tackles, 1 Forced Fumble and one Fumble recovery. Boss suffered a season-ending knee injury on Oct. 20th. He underwent micro-fracture surgery and spent the entire offseason rehabbing in Denver with team doctors and trainers. Bailey didn't get healthy enough to go through OTA's and he was released on June 17, 2009.
Le Kevin Smith was drafted by the Patriots in the 6th round (206th overall) of the 2006 NFL Draft. He played 3 seasons in New England through 2008. Le Kevin (le-KEE-van) was acquired by the Broncos on August 17, 2009 along with a 7th-round pick (from Philadelphia) in the 2010 NFL Draft for the Broncos' 5th-round pick in the 2010 draft. That pick turned into Cam Thomas for the San Diego Chargers. Le Kevin made his first 2 career starts and notched his 1st career sack in 2009. Smith started 2 of 14 games as a Bronco, with 10 Tackles, 1 Sack and one pass deflection. He was released on September 7, 2010, resigned in late October before being cut once and for all on November 9th.
Demetrin Veal was drafted by the Falcons in the 7th round (238th overall) of the 2003 NFL Draft. He spent his rookie year in Atlanta, playing 3 games. Veal missed most of training camp in 2004 with a hamstring pull and was released on September 5th. 3 weeks later, the Baltimore Ravens signed him to their Practice Squad. In December of 2004, the Broncos poached Demetrin from the Ravens Practice Squad and he stayed with Denver through 2006. Veal started 1 of 35 games, with 57 Tackles, 2 passes deflected and one Forced Fumble as a Bronco. He last played in the NFL for the Tennessee Titans in 2007. Demetrin resurfaced in the United Football League with the Florida Tuskers in 2009. He currently plays for the Omaha Nighthawks.
This isn't a difficult choice as there is not much competition. I think that is because of the dearth of drafting Defensive Linemen to develop. Only two out of these nine players were drafted by Denver. Anyway, the Greatest Bronco to wear #97 is...
MHR gives a Mile High Salute to Mike Lodish as the Greatest Bronco to wear #97.