When the current Denver Broncos are taking a 15-minute break at halftime during the Chiefs game Sunday, two former Broncos players and a former head coach will get some longtime-coming and well-deserved recognition at Mile High.
The three former Broncos icons - halfback/kicker Gene Mingo (1960-64), wide receiver/returner Rick Upchurch (1975-83) and Head Coach Dan Reeves (1981-92) - will be inducted into the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame, an honor Pat Bowlen inaugurated in 1984 when he took over ownership of the team.
The three honorees represent the most Ring of Fame inductions in a single year since 1988 when quarterback Craig Morton, wide receiver Haven Moses and kicker Jim Turner were elected. Mile High Report will have individual posts honoring each of the inductees.
The @Broncos #RingofFame is shining even brighter tonight with new inductees Gene Mingo, Rick Upchurch & Dan Reeves. pic.twitter.com/Q20E1RG2Pf— Laurie Volkmann (@docllv) September 13, 2014
"It means the world. It really does," said Upchurch on Friday. "Not so much for myself. It shows the type of team that we had. When you have guys that are working awfully hard for you, and then this happens for you...all I have to say is every guy that ever blocked for me, all the guys that ever helped me out, all the coaches that put together game plans, all of them are Ring of Famers, and I represent them."
Reeves was also complimentary of those who provided the opportunity for his success.
"It's unbelievable. First of all, for a coach, unlike a player, you get this award because of an awful lot of people," Reeves said, naming Bowlen and owner Edward Kaiser who hired Reeves. "Usually in your first coaching job, you don't have a real good football team. I had a great football team. We won - I think - 10 games that year because we had a lot of great players.
In fact, Reeves pointed out that seven of the players he inherited were in the Ring of Fame, including now Upchurch.
"I've been fortunate to have a lot of great players, a lot of great coaches, a good front office, owners and all those people," he said.
After Sunday's induction ceremony, there will be 27 players and coaches in the Ring of Fame. These latest three are among several players fans have been asking to be included for years.
Gene Mingo, one of four players in the Ring of Fame to have come from the original Denver Broncos team, said he'd get calls from fans every time an inductee would be named and it wouldn't be him. When President Joe Ellis called him last spring to say he had been voted in, Mingo said he "lost it."
"I lost it for I don't know how many seconds, but I couldn't say anything. All I could do was shed tears," Mingo said on Friday, adding that even after he played on other teams, the Broncos were always his team. "When I was playing with other teams, I would always look in Monday morning's paper to see what the Broncos did - if they'd won or lost. I was very happy for them."
Fifty years later, @Broncos' Gene Mingo is getting some well-deserved recognition - "I'm in a cloud." #RingOfFame pic.twitter.com/3zytvaVH2V— Laurie Volkmann (@docllv) September 13, 2014
Now that he's finally going in, Mingo could care less how long it took.
"But all I have to say is I'm very, very proud and happy to be going in now," Mingo said. "I am in a cloud."
Upchurch and Reeves would also hear rumblings from fans when they would get passed over for the ROF.
But the former coach wisely noted that he learned long ago not to worry about what he could not control. And the standout wide receiver/kick returner added that he never really thought about it.
"If it happened, then that was fine. If not, that's OK, too," Upchurch said. "I do know what we did here as a football team. We did some positive things, and I was a part of that."
Although Mingo played in a different stadium that no longer exists, he has fond memories of scoring the first points in the original stadium, running 82 yards, and even enduring extra conditioning with coach Chuck Gavin.
"He would work me out worse than any coach I've ever had," Mingo recalled. "I wanted to fight him some days. That was Chuck Gavin. Chuck wanted me to get into the Ring of Fame."
Reeves, too, reflected on some of his favorite memories while coaching the Orange and Blue.
Not wanting to pick his "favorite team he ever coached," Reeves did mention going to the Super Bowl via John Elway's "The Drive" as a top contender.
"To do it in the circumstances of playing on the road, in a tough environment, doing it the way we did it - driving 98 yards - you don't ever forget those things," Reeves said Friday. "That's a special memory. Just coaching is such a joy. To have had the opportunity to do that here for 12 years is great."
Congratulations to the newest members of the Ring of Fame.
Which former Denver Bronco deserves to be in the Ring of Fame next?
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Coach Red Miller