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Tom Nalen: Mum's the Word

After spending an entire career in a self imposed media blackout (along with his offensive line com-padres) Tom Nalen offered up some thoughts on being elected to the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame. His name now joins 23 other souls--Goose Gonsoulin, Rich Jackson, Floyd Little, Lionel Taylor...Charley Johnson, Paul Smith, Frank Tripucka, Billy Thompson, Craig Morton, Haven Moses, Jim Turner, Randy Gradishar, Tom Jackson, Louis Wright, John Elway, Karl Mecklenburg, Dennis Smith, Gary Zimmerman, Steve Atwater, Terrell Davis, Shannon Sharpe, Rod Smith, Gerald Phipps--who have been bestowed this honor.

For a guy that didn't talk all that much during his career, he had a lot to say at his Ring of Fame press conference. What comes across most is he's just a regular guy. Humble, witty, down to earth--definitely someone you'd like to have a beer and hang out with. The Ring of Fame seems like a paradox to him. On one hand he realizes what an amazing honor it is, on the other he isn't sure quite how to process it yet. It truly is a surprise to the former 14-year vet. But rather than put words in his mouth, I'll let Mr. Nalen speak for himself.

On being inducted

"It comes from the team, I spent 15 years here and they felt like I was worthy of the 23 other guys that are in the ring of fame, and that means a lot because they knew everything about be included in that group is pretty awesome"

"I'm hoping there won't be 76,000 fans there, hopefully they'll be getting a beer when I'm speaking for 12 seconds or so, I'm not looking forward to that at all no-I think I'll put my helmet on and feel much more comfortable."

"...There are a lot of guys who aren't in the ring of fame, Barney Chavous who coached me here, Simon Fletcher a guy who I played with, pretty good players within the Broncos organization that aren't in the ring of realistically I didn't think so (on whether he thought he would be inducted) obviously I did something-I stuck around long enough to garner this attention."

"Kids don't really know what parents do, my kids know what I did, but this gives them some sort of tangible evidence that daddy did his job well and was honored for it, I think it's pretty cool, in my back pocket "Daddy's names gonna be on the stadium so DO YOUR DAMN HOMEWORK."

On Alex Gibbs and Zone Blocking

" Alex Gibbs didn't mind the fact that I was 280 lbs, you look at Dallas at that time, I couldn't have played for that team. I fit the ideology of the coaching staff."

"the whole ZB thing is kind of crazy to me because every teams run it...obviously Alex had a big imprint to how many times we'd run it during a game, but to be honest we ran the same play over and over until teams stopped it."

On Pat Bowlen: Billionaire Badass

"Oh he's a cool dude, man. You think of these owners as billionaire guys, but he was pretty down to earth as far as an owner goes, just a cool guy. An owner that spends the money and doesn't get involved which is basically what you want out of an owner, I think Mike appreciated that, I'm sure John Fox appreciates that, and it was great to see him honored last night."

Ring of Fame v. Hall of Fame

"I think there's no true way to evaluate an Olinemen unless you have offensive linemen or OL coaches on that panel, you're talking about writers in different cities that can look at a C and say "how many pro bowls he'd make or this or that" that's basically all they have because A) they're not going to remember you playing B) they're not going to know what they're watching...that's why this means so much more because this team knew me, knew how I played, and despite my personality let me into this exclusive club."

On the difference between playing clean and playing dirty

"Probably penalties, if you get called for it-right (chuckles)? No I played clean football, I wasn't a cut blocker, I wasn't like the other 4 guys next to me, those were the dirty ones...I know people bring up the Igor Olshansky play in 2006 but if people would look at the play before that and realize why I did what I did-definitely I wanted to blow his knee out on that play because of what happened the play before-is that dirty? I don't know, it's revenge."

On his career/best moments

"SB are obvious especially that 97' season, we were 11-4 just lost to San Francisco on a Monday night ...the town was doubting us even though we were 11-4, the Chiefs were #1 in our division. We win the last game and then we get to go and play JAX, KC, PITTS teams that beat us that year and JAX the year before in the playoffs and the fact we played GB who beat us the year before pretty bad-they kind of were cocky, it was a great season, a great ending to the season. But more than that maybe the friendships I've made over the years with teammates, I think that means more than any win or loss."

"I don't think of my career any differently now, it's just a cool honor and I get a sweet ring out of's cool that the team would recognize me in this way."

"It sucks, I didn't realize that when I was young how good I had it, I think it was my 4th or 5th year we won the SB and I spent the next 10 years kind of chasing that and it sucked, it sucks....2005 was just as painful as 1996 losing because I had that taste of winning and we were so close."

"I was intimidated by John, and not any part on his part, he was intimidating to me. Even his last year in 98 it was my 5th year and I still couldn't get the strength to go up and ask the guy for an autograph...he was just an intimidating guy. But for a guy that was at his level just across the country he was pretty damn cool to be around."

"I don't know I guess the way they describe concussions now I've had a bunch, but that's in the past it would be fatalistic to think about what could happen to me"

"I was done I was old, I was 37 years old...I was ready to retire, I was done."

On life after football and Coaching

"Yes you mean on Les and Tom Nalen---102.3 ESPN, 12-3 everyday? it's enjoyable in the fact that it challenges me, it's May 23rd what the hell do we have to talk about? I'm a sports fan I love every sport, for 3.5 yrs I did nothing more than drive my kids around to crappy sporting events and coach HS football, so it's been interesting, but challenging."

"It's a Bronco town. You cannot talk enough Broncos despite not much to talk about you take any morsel of information and create a half hour segment out of it, it's crazy, it's Broncos Brocnos Brocnos, and a little Nuggets a little bit of Rockies, and a little scooch of Avs talk."

"I've tried, I did the highschool thing, I spent three years at Denver South, last year at Aurora Central. I've tried I put resumes out to 50 different colleges, I tried through the NFL to get a job....I talked to John a couple of years ago and he said he'd put me on the list but that list must be pretty long-I'd like to coach football, it's in my blood. I don't think it's going to happen, I'm cool with it now, I mean I was putting out resumes to division III schools in NE that you never even heard of and got no reply so I took that as a pretty resounding "No".

"As far as relationships go I feel like a stranger here, I don't really know many people anymore...Yeah! I'm not going to step on guys toes they have an OL coach, they have Alex Gibbs now. I'd love it man, I love football, I'd love to just work with the C and just hang out and go and drink beers after too."

Something he brought up about the Hall of Fame--he's right. Linemen especially interior linemen don't often get their due. I looked up a list of HOF centers and in the modern era, I count 7 inductees. The last one was Dermontti Dawson who finished his playing career in 2000.

Well, since stats seem to be what the writers are after, here is an account of 11 of 14 seasons Tom Nalen anchored the offensive line (includes stats for featured backs only--combined numbers when two backs were more or less equal in production):











Terrell Davis








Terrell Davis








Terrell Davis








Terrell Davis








Olandis Gary








Mike Anderson
















Clinton Portis








Reuben Droughns
















T. Bell/M. Bell








7 different 1000 yd rushers





AVG Rank:


7 different 1000 yd rushers, an average per carry of 4.7 and an average rushing offense rank of 4th in the NFL. Only once were the Broncos not a top 10 rushing team during this span--cracking the top 5 a total of nine times. It also makes you kind of sick to think "what if" TD had stayed healthy. He would be the 2nd all time leading rusher in NFL history with those numbers. Simply put, both Tom and Zone Blocking helped make the Denver Broncos the premiere rushing team in the NFL during that time. If that isn't HOF worthy, I'm not sure what is.

There's a lot to be said about blue collar guys that show up for work and do their job, day after day whether they are appreciated by fans or not. Many times our eyes are stuck on the ball and where it travels over the course of a drive. I'm sure a guy like Tom Nalen is a bit embarrassed by all the attention he received, so I'll wrap this post up with a fitting tribute.

Just a man doing his job, blasting that NT out of the running lane to pave the way for TD to put the game away.

The NFL Hall of Fame has been so biased against Denver Broncos for so long. I bet Tom will make it someday. Even when he does, it will be down the pecking order as far as importance. As he said himself, the Ring of Fame is so special because he was chosen by the team that knew him. Like so many other great Broncos, Tom came into this league and earned his way, it wasn't handed to him---things are never handed to 7th round draft picks.

So on behalf of Broncos fans everywhere: Thank you for your contributions Tom Nalen, a Mile High Salute to you--you EARNED it!


Check out this photo gallery of Tom Nalen's career