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Denver Broncos Greats... By The Numbers: #97

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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.

Justin Bannan DE 2010
Le Kevin Smith DL 2009
Boss Bailey LB 2008
Kenny Peterson DE 2007
Simeon Rice DE 2007
Demetrin Veal DT 2004-06
Keith Washington DE 2001-02
Mike Lodish DE 1995-2000
Darren Drozdov DT 1993-94
Bruce Klostermann LB 1987-89

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.

Darren Drozdov was signed by the Broncos as an Undrafted Free Agent in 1993 out of Maryland. He started 2 of 6 games that season and remained on the team without seeing any action during 1994. Drozdov gained notoriety, and also the nickname "Puke", when he vomited on Monday Night Football. Darren hurled all over the football before the center could snap it. It was later reported that he threw almost every game and saw a psychiatrist for chronic vomiting. Apparently, the stage was set for a career with the World Wrestling Federation. Darren competed as a professional wrestler in 1998 and 1999 under the ring names Puke and Droz. On October 5th, 1999, Drozdov broke his neck during a match against D. Lo Brown and was paralyzed from the neck down. He has since regained the use of his upper body and arms. More can be read about his wrestling career here.

Kenny Peterson was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the 3rd round (79th overall) of the 2003 NFL Draft. He spent 3 seasons with the Pack and became a Bronco in 2006. Although he stayed with Denver through 2009, Kenny wore #90 in 3 of those 4 seasons. In 2007, he wore #96. Peterson played in 7 games, with 10 Tackles, 1 Sack and 2 pass deflections.

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.

Bruce Klosterman was drafted by the Broncos in the 8th round (217th overall) of the 1986 NFL Draft. He played 3 seasons in Denver from 1987-89, starting 5 of 37 games. In 2009, Klosterman played for the St. Louis Rams.

Keith Washington was signed by the Detroit Lions as an Undrafted Free Agent in 1996 out of UNLV. The following year, he signed with the Ravens and spent 1997-2000 in Baltimore, winning a Ring in Super Bowl XXXV. Keith joined the Broncos in 2001 and played 2 seasons in Denver. He started 16 of 26 games, with 45 Tackles, 4 Sacks, one interception, one Forced Fumble and one Fumble Recovery. Washington played for the New York Giants in 2003-04.

Justin Bannan was drafted by the Bills in the 5th round (139th overall) of the 2002 NFL Draft. He spent 4 years in Buffalo from 2002-05 mostly as a versatile backup. Bannan joined the Baltimore Ravens in 2006 and played for them until 2009. In the 2008 season, he set a personal-best with 56 Tackles, one Sack and 3 interceptions. On March 5th, 2010, Justin signed a 5-year, $22 million contract with the Denver Broncos. The deal contained $10.5 million guaranteed, including a $6.245 million signing bonus. 2011: $3.5 million (+ $500,000 roster bonus), 2012: $3.5 million, 2013-2014: $3 million, 2015: Free Agent. Bannan notched 35 tackles, four passes defensed, one Sack and a Forced Fumble while starting all 16 games at Right Defensive End last year. On March 3rd, 2011, in a cost-cutting measure, the Broncos released Bannan making him a Free Agent. He loved being in Colorado, since playing college at CU, but after being spurned by the Broncos, Justin would love to return to Baltimore in 2011.

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...

Mike Lodish

Mike Lodish was drafted by the Bills in the 10th round (265th overall) of the 1990 NFL Draft. He spent 5 seasons in Buffalo from 1990-1994. After joining the Broncos via Free Agency in 1995, Mike started 19 of 92 games over a 6 year career as a Bronco through 2000. He made 76 Tackles, 4.5 Sacks and one Fumble recovery. Not bad for a guy who had only been a full-time starter once (1996) and never been to a Pro Bowl.

Lodish's biggest claim to fame is the fact that he is the only player in NFL history to play in 6 Super Bowls during an NFL career -- 4 in a row with the Buffalo Bills and 2 winners with the Broncos. If that wasn't a Lucky Charm, I don't know what is.

Mike also ranks 33rd All-Time with 21 Career Playoff games played.

Played in Super Bowls XXV, XXVI, XXVII, XXVIII, XXXII and XXXIII
Super Bowl Champions XXXII and XXXIII

Lodish now works as an NFL player agent at Ethos Sports Management. He is representing TVS Studios in Troy, Michigan as a Communication Consultant.

MHR gives a Mile High Salute to Mike Lodish as the Greatest Bronco to wear #97.

Go Broncos!