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Horse Tracks: Mile High Report's 'Greatest to Wear' series revisited: #29-31

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During the lockout of 2011, Mile High Report delved into the history books and declared, by jersey number, the greatest Denver Broncos to wear their number. Since then, the Broncos traded for Peyton Manning, set a ton of records, won two AFC Championships, won a Super Bowl, and put together one of the most dominant defenses the NFL has ever known. With such an action packed six years, now is the time to see what, if any, changes should be made to this list.

Here's what is going to happen. [MHR is] going to break down the Greatest Broncos to ever wear a certain number. Starting with #0 (yep, someone wore #0 for the Broncos) and going all the way to #99, [we'll] give you who [we] think was the best player to ever wear a certain number.

That's what former MHR 'Guru' John Bena said in his article introducing the 'Greatest to Wear' series. During the labor dispute and lockout of 2011, the MHR staff, with nothing better to do, did just what Bena set forth. Six seasons later, Broncos history has beefed out considerably and it's time to reexamine this list. For those that are curious or for those that want a refresher, here is the complete list of the greatest to wear, #0-99.

Many greats will remain unchanged. Some have already been changed with #0-10, #11-15, #16-20, #21-25, and #26-28 examined last off season. What's in store for #29-31?

#29

Howard Griffith FB 1997-2001

Appeared in 59 games with 56 starts. Rushed 35 times for 117 yards with 1 touchdown. Caught 68 times for 445 yards with 6 touchdowns. Did not have a single fumble. Recovered 3 fumbles. Was nicknamed "The Human Plow" as a tribute to his powerful blocking for Terrell Davis. Was part of both of Denver's Super Bowl winning teams. Was a major contributor in SB XXXIII, scoring 2 rushing touchdowns and catching a key pass in the fourth quarter to set up Denver's final touchdown.

In 2011 the Broncos picked up cornerback Jonathan Wilhite as a free agent from the Patriots. During his one season in Denver, he played in 15-games, starting in 2 of them. He had an interception and 2-sacks.

Late in the 2013 season the Baltimore Ravens released Michael Huff. The safety who had played with the Raiders for most of his career was on the street for just under three weeks before the Denver Broncos picked him up. He played in 3-regular season games and had 2-tackles. During the ill-fated 2013 Super Bowl run, Huff played in all playoff games and had just 1-tackle.

With the 31st pick in the 2014 draft, the Denver Broncos selected cornerback Bradley Roby. Roby has played in every Broncos game since he was drafted and was part of the Super Bowl 50 championship team. He’s had 5-interceptions (2 for touchdowns), 4-forced fumbles, 3-fumble recoveries (1 for a touchdown), and 2-sacks.

I have to say that winning a Super Bowl and being durable enough to play in every game since he was drafted is a huge deal. However, Howard Griffith is just that much better. Perhaps time will reflect differently on Bradley Roby’s young career, but for now we just can’t upend Howard’s claim to this number. Denver Broncos Greats... By The Numbers #29

#30

Terrell Davis was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 6th round (196th overall) of the 1995 NFL Draft. He entered training camp as the 6th string tailback and was a long shot to even make the team. Terrell was able to impress the Broncos coaching staff after his 2nd pre-season game with an impressive hit on special teams. Davis improved with each pre-season game and by the time the season began, he was promoted to starting Running Back. T.D. gave the Broncos something they had lacked to balance John Elway--a good running game. Davis started 14 games during the 1995 season, with 1,117 yards and 8 touchdowns on 237 carries, averaging 4.7 yards. He became the lowest drafted player to ever gain over 1,000 yards rushing in his rookie season.

If Super Bowl XXXII was for John, 1998 was Terrell's year. He rushed for 2,008 yards, the 3rd highest total in NFL history. This time he earned league MVP honors, his 3rd straight AFC rushing title, his 1st NFL rushing title, and his 2nd time being named NFL Offensive Player of the Year by the Associated Press. The Broncos beat the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl XXXIII, and Davis had 102 yards rushing and 50 receiving yards.

In his first 4 years, Davis rushed for 6,413 yards (4.8 yards per carry) and 56 touchdowns. Among the 24 modern-era Hall of Fame halfbacks and fullbacks, only Earl Campbell (6,457, 4.6 yards per carry) and Eric Dickerson (6,968, 4.8 yards per carry) had more rushing yards during their first 4 seasons; no member of the Hall of Fame matched Davis’ 1st-four-season 56 rushing touchdowns. Davis was selected for ESPN's All-Time 40-Man Super Bowl roster as a running back for his performances in Super Bowls XXXII & XXXIII.

Overall, T.D. finished his 7 NFL seasons with 7,607 rushing yards, 169 receptions for 1,280 yards, and 65 touchdowns (60 rushing and 5 receiving). He and John Elway are the only two Broncos named league MVP.

When we first did this series, safety David Bruton was beginning to show a lot of promise.

David Bruton was drafted by the Broncos in the 4th round (114th overall) of the 2009 NFL Draft. He made his 1st career start on December 20, 2009 against the Oakland Raiders where he recorded 4 tackles and finished his rookie 2009 season with 14 total tackles, with 9 coming on Special Teams. Last season, David started 2 games, recording 16 Tackles, one pass defensed and he recovered 2 Fumbles. Bruton deflected a punt in the 4th quarter against the St. Louis Rams. Bruton responded well in his two starts, with seven tackles (6 solo) in each game (Week 13 & 14). David has made an impact on Special Teams while he bides his time ascending to a full-time starter, as the Personal Protector and quarterback on the punt coverage unit.

Bruton’s career with the Broncos came to an end following the 2015 Super Bowl season. Although Bruton didn’t play in the game, his impact on the Broncos was profound. He played in 104-games, starting 8. He netted 3-interceptions, 5-forced fumbles, 3-fumble recoveries, and 1-sack. He was a special teams stalwart and a fan favorite.

Sadly, no matter how well you play, it likely won’t matter so long as you’re wearing #30. The legend of Terrell Davis is just too strong. Bruton was great, but Davis was an all-timer and he’s just a couple months away from Canton immortality as a member of the 2017 Pro Football Hall of Fame induction class. Denver Broncos Greats... By The Numbers #30

#31

Mike Harden was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 5th round (131st overall) of the 1980 NFL Draft. He took over as the starting Right Cornerback in '83 and held the job for 5 seasons before spending his last year in Denver at Free Safety. In his 9 seasons as a Bronco, Harden started 98 of 128 games. He made 1 Sack, 33 interceptions, 4 touchdowns and 11 Fumble Recoveries. There are no records for tackles or Pass defenses back then. Harden also returned 7 punts for a 14.6 average including one for a 32-yard touchdown against the Eagles in Week 3 of the 1086 season. On Kickoffs, he had 26 returns for a 15.9 average.

In 2012 safety Omar Boldin came to the Denver Broncos via a 4th round selection in the draft. He appeared in 56 games with just 1 start. He made his mark as a kick returner, returning 44-kicks for 1085 yards and no touchdowns. In 2015 he was released and has yet to resurface.

In the 3rd round of the 2016 draft, the Denver Broncos selected safety Justin Simmons. Justin has been a nice little surprise. His 13 games and 3 starts last season only yielded 2-interceptions and just one sack, but it was the game against New Orleans that made people take notice. Simmons leapt the center when the game was on the line and blocked an extra-point attempt (that was returned for a two-point conversion) sealing a much needed late season Broncos victory.

We keep this one as is based purely on tenure. Omar was a just a guy and Justin Simmons has potential, but isn’t there yet. Mike Harden remains the greatest to wear #31. Denver Broncos Greats... By The Numbers #31

Horse Tracks

It’s Memorial Day! Let’s take a moment to remember all those who fell to protect and uphold the American values of freedom, unalienable rights, and human dignity the world over.

That said, the NFL is on vacation. There’s not much going on, y’all.

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