And boy is this an outstanding list. So good, in fact, you're going to hate choosing. Trust me.
It is no easy task selecting just a few Broncos to induct into our Hall of Fame every year since so many greats belong here. But the following 15 made the top of the list, and you get to vote for your top seven here. Click on the name for career stats, but read the nomination for why we all believe in these guys.
"The Smiling Assasin" may always be known for his smackdown on Christian Okoye, but it was the fact that he brought those hits every time he played that makes him a strong candidate.
"Do I really need to explain?" - stay22 said in his nomination.
Um, no. This will do it:
"I never saw him play, but he bleeds orange and blue and I believe was a staple of the Orange Crush defense." - Scotty Payne.
Plus, "TJ" told John Madden in 1977: "It's all over, fat man" - so he deserves inclusion in the Hall of Fame just for that.
"Out of the three heart breakers, Mecklenburg never gave up, was always tough, and never was dirty. The same can't be said for Bill Romanowski, who I nominate for hall of shame (but that's a different list)." - Mark Wallace
To understand just exactly why Nalen belongs, take a look at this impressive list from oldcoachB:
- Five-time Pro Bowl (1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2003)
- Three-time All-Pro (1999, 2000, 2003)
- Two-time Super Bowl champion (XXXII, XXXIII)
- NFL Alumni Offensive Lineman of the Year (2003)
- Denver Broncos' 50th Anniversary Team
- Denver Broncos Ring of Fame
9/22/96 - #66 Tom Nalen blocks Keith Traylor. pic.twitter.com/O7qK5CJYdx— Broncos History (@BroncosHistory) May 10, 2015
"Eight years as a player, 14 years as various positional coaches and on going. He helped the Broncos to five Super Bowls, including two wins, and helping them once again to another! Because of these reasons, he is the greatest Bronco to wear No. 55 in his professional career! And did I mention he was undrafted?" - Broncs55
9/29/85 - Jim Ryan & Rick Dennison close in on Tony Nathan. pic.twitter.com/XQJ6fdpsby— Broncos History (@BroncosHistory) June 20, 2015
"First to hit 100 catches in a season. Switched from linebacker to wide receiver and immediately led the AFL in receptions for the next six years." - MNBroncoFan
Ring of Famers Goose Gonsoulin and Lionel Taylor with Miss Denver Bronco 1967, Susan Kay Hawkins (& later Miss AFL) pic.twitter.com/oovTttw6gu— Broncos History (@BroncosHistory) May 11, 2015
"Leading sack man for our Broncos. Tough Player." - Elkhunter330
#73 Simon Fletcher - OLB/DE 1985-1995, Broncos all-time leader in sacks (97.5), most consecutive gms w/ a sack (10) pic.twitter.com/OSgmzoawZP— Broncos History (@BroncosHistory) February 3, 2015
"Would be in the real HoF if not for injuries that prematurely ended his career." - MNBroncoFan
9/21/69 - Rich "Tombstone" Jackson sacks Joe Namath. pic.twitter.com/TirKRsuFaC— Broncos History (@BroncosHistory) May 11, 2015
"Six-time Pro Bowler, Dennis Smith played in three Super Bowls and played his entire 14-year career with the Broncos. Three-time second team All Pro. Second-most games played by defender (7 behind Tom Jackson) for the Broncos. 30 career picks. Master of the safety blitz (had 5 sacks in 1983). Arguably the top safety in franchise history." - poopchalupa
"Rick Upchurch is the greatest return specialist in Broncos history. He was also a constant deep threat as a receiver. Overall, Upchurch gained 10,081 total yards and scored 35 touchdowns (eight returning punts, 24 receiving, and three rushing.) He was also selected All-Pro five times. At the time of his retirement, Upchurch was the NFL's career leader in punt return yards. No. 80 is ranked the sixth-greatest return specialist in NFL history on NFL Network's NFL Top 10 Return Aces." - Floyd44
WR-RET Rick Upchurch 1975-1983 • Drafted 4th Round (Broncos) • ROF, 4 Pro Bowls, 3 All-Pros • 248 PR, 3008 Yds, 8 TD pic.twitter.com/1u56JqLRE7— Broncos History (@BroncosHistory) July 8, 2015
"The best receiving tight end in the game! And became a great blocker for TD and others! Hands down, the top candidate that isn't already in!" - Robert Gafford.
And the best trash-talker in the NFL!
Possibly every Broncos' fan's favorite undrafted player, Rod Smith proved being a drafted player means nothing in the NFL if you can play. Smith's first NFL catch was a last-minute 43-yard touchdown from John Elway in a 38-31 win against the Washington Redskins.
In 14 seasons as an NFL player, Smith had eight of at least 1,000 receiving yards. He had two seasons of at least 100 receptions. In 2001, Smith led the league with total receptions at 113. A starting wide receiver for the Broncos' back-to-back Super Bowl championships, Smith had five receptions for 152 yards (the fourth highest total in Super Bowl history at that point), including an 80-yard touchdown reception in SB XXXIII. He was a finalist for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in 2004.
"Because he's Eddie Mac. Please, some of you stats guys out there back me up on this. Plus I still like his mustard." - GrafVyndaK
Who needs stats when we've got this to remember:
Before there was Manning in No. 18, there was Frank Tripucka. And the fact that the predecessor allowed his number to come "out of retirement" for Manning to wear when he joined the Broncos speaks both to Tripucka's talent as well as his character.
"He was the Broncos first starting quarterback in the 1960 regular season and played with the team for four seasons. He was the first U.S. pro quarterback to throw for 3,000 yards in a season, and his 59-yard pass to Al Carmichael was the first touchdown pass in the history of the AFL. He wore No. 18, which was retired until he gave it to Peyton F. Manning." - OrangeAndBluesBros
The original #18: Frank Tripucka. pic.twitter.com/w7YDI4LT94— Broncos History (@BroncosHistory) May 10, 2015
"Possibly the very first "shutdown corner" in the NFL. So good during his prime that teams might not throw to his side of the field a single time during the entire game. He was so consistently dominating that the Orange Crush defense worried about the other 10 guys on offense. Wright made his guy disappear. And like Bailey would demonstrate after him, Wright was a complete corner - often punishing RBs that tried to run to his side of the field." - shasta77
Well said, shasta.
1986 - Louis Wright in his final season. pic.twitter.com/tr7BI2IRix— Broncos History (@BroncosHistory) June 20, 2015
One of the Broncos' few representatives in the NFL Hall of Fame, Gary Zimmerman gets a nod from MHR's own offensive line guru:
"Zimmerman brought the nasty to a Denver Broncos offensive line as a leader of the vaunted Orange Hush, an offensive line that paved the way for the Broncos' championships in Super Bowls XXXII and XXXIII.
Zimmerman already has a bust in Canton, and he definitely deserves to be enshrined in the MHR Hall of Fame." - CH74
Plus, there's this:
And if you were able to limit it to seven, let us know who you chose!