There's no end to the snubbery the Denver Broncos receive from the Pro Football Hall of Fame year after year, and even though their continued and pathetic passing over of our outstanding players was not the reason for starting the MHR Hall of Fame, it has suddenly become the best justification.
If the NFL cannot recognize our team's greatness, we will. We'll just keep acknowledging it on our own while admiring our trophy case, and the rest of the NFL can kiss our...um, Lombardis (and a few other things). And then we'll quietly keep applauding the accomplishments of some of the greatest football players to play the game.
Our previous two HOF classes have given us the following greats: Floyd Little, Randy Gradishar, John Elway, Terrell Davis, Karl Mecklenburg, Steve Atwater, Shannon Sharpe and Rod Smith.
Tom Jackson was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 4th round (88th overall) of the 1973 NFL Draft. He played 14 seasons for the Broncos (13 seasons wearing #57) and started every possible game in a season 7 times for his career.
T.J. played in Super Bowls XII and XXI for the Broncos and held Denver team records for most seasons (14) and games played (191) for many years after his retirement until both marks were broken by Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway.
He helped the Broncos to 6 playoff berths (1977-79,‘83-84, ‘86), four division titles (1977-78, ‘84, ‘86) and two Super Bowls (XII in 1977, XXI in 1986). Jackson was one of only four players to play for the Broncos in both of the aforementioned Super Bowls, played 9 years apart.
He finished his career with 20 interceptions (returned for 340 yards and three touchdowns), eight fumble recoveries (returned for 104 yards), 13 sacks (season high was 5.5) as a weak-side blitzer in Denver's 3-4 defense.
In addition, Jackson was seen as Enemy No. 1 by the then hated rival Oakland Raiders - so that's justification right there for putting him in our Hall of Fame.
Upon his retirement in 1987, Tommy immediately joined ESPN as its NFL studio analyst for the launch of the network's NFL game coverage. Decades later, he retired as one of sports television's foremost pro football analysts.
3-time Pro Bowler (1977, 1978, 1979)
1-time 1st-Team All-Pro (1977)
Broncos' Most Inspirational Player six consecutive seasons (1981-86)
Team Defensive MVP (1974, 1976, 1977)
2nd (Tie) most games started by a Bronco (177)
1 of 5 Broncos to wear a Denver uniform for at least 14 seasons.
Denver Broncos Ring of Fame (1992)
Lionel Taylor was an undrafted rookie signed by the Chicago Bears out of New Mexico Highlands University in 1959. He played eight games with the NFL Bears before moving to the Denver Broncos of the AFL in 1960 (which means he wore those crazy Broncos helmets - and that is cool).
Taylor worked his way from fourth-string wide receiver to the most dangerous receiving threat in the AFL. He would lead the AFL in receptions through the first six seasons of its existence, setting a record for most receptions in a six-year span that would not be broken until Sterling Sharpe in the 1990s. Often triple-teamed by opposing defense as the only offensive threat a woeful Denver Broncos team.
Lionel was the Broncos' MVP three times (1963, 1964, and 1965). He played 96 games in 7 seasons as a split end for the Broncos from 1960-66. He caught 543 passes for 6,872 yards, a 12.7 average, 44 touchdowns and rushed four times for 20 yards.
And as Tim Lynch said in his nomination, "Dude was a beast."
4-time 1st Team All-Pro (1960, 1961, 1962, 1965)
First player to catch 100 passes (1961)
AFL's all-time reception leader (567)
A member of the AFL Hall of Fame
Denver Broncos Ring of Fame (Inaugural member)
Colorado Sports Hall Of Fame
New Mexico Highlands Hall Of Fame
Drafted by the Broncos in the fourth round (95th overall) of the 1975 NFL Draft, he appeared in 119 games with 69 starts. Upchurch caught 267 passes for 4,369 yards with 24 touchdowns. He had 49 rushing attempts for 349 yards with 3 touchdowns.
He returned 248 punts for 3008 yards with 8 touchdowns. Upchurch returned 95 kicks for 2,355 yards. He fumbled 27 times and recovered 9 fumbles.
Upchurch appeared in four Pro Bowls (1976, 1978, 1979, 1982) and was named to the 1st Team All-Pro three times (1976, 1978, 1982). He appeared in six postseason games (2 Wildcard, 2 Divisional, 1 AFC Championship, Super Bowl XII).
In Super Bowl XII, No. 80 recorded 94 kickoff return yards, 22 punt return yards and 9 receiving yards.
The wide receiver/kick returner set a Super Bowl record with a 67-yard kickoff return in the third quarter, which set up Denver's only touchdown in the game. After football, Upchurch coached at the college and high school levels. He was inducted into the Broncos' Ring of Fame in 2014.
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
Louis Wright was drafted by the Broncos with the 17th overall pick in the 1975 NFL Draft. He played his entire 12-year NFL career for the Denver Broncos. It didn't take him long to break into the starting lineup. He started 11 games as a rookie, making two interceptions and recovering a fumble. He followed that up with a breakout year (1977), intercepting three passes for 128 yards and a touchdown and helping lead the Broncos to their first Super Bowl (XII).
In his NFL career, Wright finished with 26 interceptions for 360 yards and one touchdown. He also recovered 11 fumbles and returned two for touchdowns. In addition to his cover skills, Wright was also one of the best run supporting Cornerbacks of his era. His feats eventually earned him the nickname "Lou-dini."
Here is a sample of Wright's accomplishments:
1977 Football Digest NFL Defensive Back of the Year.
NFL 1970s All-Decade Team.
One of nine players in franchise history to be selected to at least 5 Pro Bowls (1977, 1978, 1979, 1983 and 1985).
Made his 1st pick-six in 1977 against the Raiders in Week 5.
Named 1st-Team All-Pro in both 1978 and 1979.
Named 2nd-Team All-Conference in 1980 and 1981.
Had a career-high 6 passes interceptions in 1983.
Had 2 career Fumble returns for a touchdown (82 yards in 1979 and 27 yards in 1984).
Blocked a Field Goal in 1985 during the Week 11 game against the Chargers, running it back 60 yards for his 4th and final career touchdown. That block won the game (in OT) for the Broncos.
Played in two Super Bowls (XII, XXI).
Named to the Broncos 50th Anniversary Team.
- He was inducted to the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame in 1993.
1986 - Louis Wright in his final season. pic.twitter.com/tr7BI2IRix— Broncos History (@BroncosHistory) June 20, 2015
Drafted by the Broncos in the seventh round (218th overall) of the 1994 NFL Draft, Nalen appeared in 194 games with 188 starts. He started 13 playoff games and was part of an offensive line that helped six different running backs have 1,000-yard seasons.
A five-time Pro-Bowler, Nalen was the starting center in both Super Bowl XXXII and XXXIII. He spent the 2007 season on the injured reserve list after tearing his right biceps muscle in a game against the Chargers and then retired in January 2009. At the time of his retirement, Nalen was the last remaining player from the Broncos Super Bowl-winning teams.
To understand just exactly why Nalen belongs, take a look at this impressive list from oldcoachB in the nomination last year:
- 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
Simon Fletcher was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the second round of the 1985 NFL Draft. He spent his entire 11-year career in Denver, playing both outside linebacker and defensive end. Fletcher was the premier pass rusher for the Broncos, recording a franchise record 97.5 sacks. His 16 sacks in 1992 were a team record until Elvis Dumervil's 17 in 2009. Fletcher also had a sack in 10 straight games, an NFL record shared with DeMarcus Ware.
Simon started 143 of 172 games during that 11-year career, accumulating 828 tackles, 97.5 sacks, two interceptions, 20 forced fumbles, 10 fumbles recovered and one safety. Between Nov. 15, 1992, and Sept. 20, 1993, Fletcher had 15.5 sacks.
- Team leader in sacks 7 consecutive years (1988-1994)
- 11+ sacks 5 consecutive seasons (1989-1993)
- 20 career multi-sack games
- 172 consecutive games played
- 140 consecutive starts-2nd (Billy Thompson 156)
- Starter on three AFC Championship teams (1986, 1987, 1989)
Despite these numbers, Simon was never selected to a single Pro Bowl. Even his career year in 1992 when he had 16 sacks, 5 forced fumbles and 99 tackles, he was snubbed for Derrick Thomas (14.5) and Bryan Cox (14 Sacks).
#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
Dennis Smith was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the first round (15th overall) of the 1981 draft. MHR's John Bena said it best in this 2009 article:
"A ferocious hitter, Smith was voted to play in six Pro Bowls, named All- NFL four times, named All-AFC four times and played on three Broncos Super Bowl teams (XXI, XXII, XXIV).
He was also named the club's Most Inspirational Player in 1992. Smith ranks fourth all-time in games played by a Bronco (184), fifth in games started (170) and sixth in both career interceptions (30) and interception return yards (431).
He is one of just three players in the history of the Broncos franchise to play at least 14 seasons with the club, behind John Elway (16) and tied with Tom Jackson. Smith's career totals include 1,171 tackles (794) and 14 sacks. He posted a career-high five sacks in 1983, a career-high five interceptions in '91 and a career-high 120 tackles in '92.
Perhaps my greatest memories of Smith are in regards to the way he passed the torch to another hard-hitting safety - Steve Atwater. That type of leadership has been a huge void for the Broncos and remembering players like Smith reminds us all just how great the Broncos Greats truly are.
In 2001 Smith was inducted into the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame. In 2006 he was welcomed into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame. He's ranked fourth all-time for total games played with the franchise with 184. The amount of passion Smith brought to the game can't be underestimated. In week one of the 1986 season at home against the Raiders, Smith played with a broken bone in his shoulder (kind of puts the 2010 NFC Championship in perspective... ahem).
Ed McCaffrey was drafted by the New York Giants in the third round (83rd overall) of the 1991 NFL Draft. "Easy Ed" played three years before joining the San Francisco 49ers and won the first of his three Super Bowl rings. The following year, McCaffrey shadowed Mike Shanahan all the way to Denver, where he stuck around for nine years.
Considered one of the best route-runners in the game, McCaffrey went over-the-middle, tip-toed on the sideline and out-jumped his way to help the Broncos win back-to-back championships in 1997-98. He had an exceptional performance in Super Bowl XXXIII, grabbing five catches for 72 yards. Also in 1999, McCaffrey and teammate Rod Smith became only the second wide receiver duo from the same team to reach 100 receptions in the same season (Herman Moore and Brett Perriman).
McCaffrey suffered a compound leg fracture in the opening game of the 2001 season, a Monday Night Football game against the Giants. On the play that he sustained the injury, No. 87 made a spectacular catch and did not fumble the ball. He rebounded in the 2002 season with 69 catches and 903 yards. McCaffrey barely played in 2003 because of concussion and quadriceps problems retired in February 2004.
McCaffrey finished his career with the Broncos, starting 105 of 121 games, 462 receptions for 6,200 yards and 46 touchdowns. He had 21 yards on three carries, fumbled three times and recovered two.
- 3× Super Bowl champion (XXIX, XXXII, XXXIII)
- 1× Pro Bowl selection (1998)
- 1× All-Pro selection (1998)
- 2 three-touchdown games
- 18 100-yard games
- 4x 60+ catch seasons
- 3 1,000-yard seasons
- 4th Most Career Receptions (462)
- 4th Most Career Receiving Yards (6,200)
- 4th Most Receiving Yards, Season (1,317)
- 3rd Most Career Touchdown Receptions (46)
- 2nd Most Consecutive Games with a Reception (68)
- Led the team in touchdown catches (1998-2000)
- Led the team in receptions for a then-Bronco record (101). Rod Smith caught 113 the next year (2001), while Ed was recovering from the broken leg.
Eddie Mac will probably be mostly remembered for his peel-back block on Packers linebacker Brian Williams in Super Bowl XXXII where he pointed at him and said some unrepeated words. When asked multiple times what he said to Williams on that play, Ed responds, "I can't say. I'm taking that one to the grave."
But we can still watch again for fun:
When HaleAndHearty nominated Mike Shanahan, Broncos head coach from 1995-2008, he noted that Shanny was "far and away the best head coach the franchise has ever had." And there are many Broncos fans who feel that way about the man who helped John Elway finally get not just one Super Bowl trophies but two, including an MVP in his second win.
Between 1996 and 1998, the Broncos set the NFL record for wins with a 46-10 record over three years. The 1998 Broncos won their first 13 games before finishing 14-2 and and setting an NFL record for first quarter points scored in a season. In 2005, Shanahan passed Dan Reeves as the winningest coach in franchise history.
Applying the West Coast offense he learned under guru Bill Walsh at the 49ers, Shanny was well known for scripting the first 15 offensive plays of the game.
His version of the WCO was run-heavy, and he often found unheralded running backs and turned them into league-leading rushers such as Terrell Davis, Mike Anderson, Olandis Gary, Clinton Portis, Reuben Droughns and Tatum Bell - all of whom have had at least one 1,000-yard season in a Denver uniform.
1995 - Mike Shanahan in his first year as Broncos Head Coach: pic.twitter.com/LrdN1zKJuK— Broncos History (@BroncosHistory) March 14, 2015
Congratulations from Mile High Report
We know there are still so many former players deserving of this HOF selection, but we give a hearty Mile High Salute to all of these Broncos for football careers that have continued to make our fandom well worth the obsession that it is.