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, and #21-25 examined last off season. What's in store for #26-28?
Clinton Portis was taken by the Denver Broncos in the 2nd round (51st overall) of the 2002 NFL Draft. He ran for 1,500 yards in each of his two seasons with the Broncos, was the NFL AP Offensive Rookie of the Year and made the Pro Bowl in 2003. In the 2 years with Denver, Clinton posted a total of 3,099 yards on 563 carries, a 5.5 average with 29 touchdowns, 8 Fumbles and 3 Fumbles Recovered. Portis also caught 71 passes for 678 yards and 2 touchdowns. December was a good month for C.P. On December 12, 2002, he became the youngest player (21 years, 105 days) to score 4 touchdowns in a game. The next year on December 7th, he became the youngest player (22 years, 97 days) to score 5 touchdowns in a game. Before the 2004 season, the Broncos traded Portis to the Redskins for Champ Bailey and a 2nd-round draft pick in the 2004 NFL Draft which ended up being Tatum Bell.
In the 2nd round of the 2011 draft, the Denver Broncos selected free safety, Rahim Moore. Rahim 'The Dream' played from 2011 through the 2014 season. He appeared in 57 games, starting 48 of them. He notched 8-interceptions, forced a fumble, and recovered 3. He's unfairly known as being the face of the Broncos late-game collapse in the 2013 Divisional Round of the playoffs against the Baltimore Ravens when he went to make an interception instead of defending a pass... and missed. Rarely does a contest come down to one player making one play, but if you had to pick one game in recent memory where this is the case, many Broncos fans would point to that pivotal play from the 2013 post season.
In 2015, the Denver Broncos brought free safety Darian Stewart over from the Batimore Ravens on a two year contract. Stewart quickly proved his worth to the Broncos by instrumentally helping them to and win Super Bowl 50. In November of 2016, Stewart signed a four-year $30 million contract extension and will remain a cornerstone of the vaunted 'No Fly Zone' secondary.
This is a tough one to call. Clinton Portis was an amazing player while he was with Denver and will forever be known as the player that was traded to bring future hall-of-famer Champ Bailey to the Broncos. That said, Darian Stewart's time in Denver has just been too short to unseat Portis as the greatest to wear #26. However, if Stewart continues to play at such a high level, awarding him this honor in a couple years would be a no-brainer. Denver Broncos Greats... By The Numbers: #26
Steve Atwater was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 1st round (20th overall) of the 1989 NFL Draft. He spent 10 of his 11-year career as the Free Safety opposite Dennis Smith in one of the most ferocious Safety tandems in the history of the NFL. The "Smiling Assassin" started every game (155) he played in Denver. He was voted to a franchise-record seven consecutive Pro Bowls from 1990-96 and trails only quarterback John Elway (9) for most Pro Bowls by a Bronco. Atwater, who finished his NFL career in 1999 with the New York Jets, recorded 24 career interceptions with the Broncos to rank 8th in team history. He twice led Denver in tackles (1993 and '95) and posted 1,301 tackles (818 solo), five sacks (39 yds.), 89 pass breakups, 12 forced fumbles and nine fumble recoveries as a Broncos. Steve averaged 130 tackles per season as a Bronco.
Steve finished 2nd to Kansas City's Derrick Thomas in Defensive Rookie of the Year voting in 1989. The following year he made a name for himself on Monday Night Football. On September 18, 1990 at Mile High Stadium against the rival Kansas City Chiefs, Atwater floored Chiefs 253 pound "Nigerian Nightmare" Christian Okoye, a running back that made a living running over defenders. It was one of the greatest hits in NFL history and is still played on NFL Films to this day. This thunderous hit put Steve Atwater on the NFL map and is the most famous hit in Denver Broncos history. Before the game, Atwater was fitted with a wireless microphone to capture the sound of the shot.
Here are his major accomplishments
Football Digest NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year
Consensus All-NFL (1991, 1992)
3-Time Super Bowl starter (XXIV, XXXII and XXXIII)
2-Time Super Bowl Champion (XXXII and XXXIII)
NFL 1990s All-Decade Team
Elected as the 20th member of the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame on October 9, 2005
Sadly, Knowshon Moreno did not live up to his billing as a 1st round draft pick in the 2009 draft. He just couldn't get things going until the Broncos ill-fated, yet historic, Super Bowl run in 2013 where he rushed for 1,038-yards and 10 touchdowns. He also caught 60 passes that year for 548-yards and 3-touchdowns that year. His 3,468-yards and 36 rushing TDs (157 receptions for 1,401-yards and 9-touchdowns) are great, but just don't come close to standard the 'Smiling Assassin' set for the #27 in Denver. It should also never be forgotten that Knowshon once fell off a stationary exercise bike during a game.
In 2014 the Broncos had a fullback by the name of Jeremy Stewart play in 6 games, starting none of them. He had 6-carries for all of 22-yards.
Knowshon will always be a member of that AFC Championship team in 2013 and his crying meme will likely outlive him. However, Steve Atwater and Darrent Williams will always be synonymous with the #27. Denver Broncos Greats... By The Numbers: #27
Kenoy Kennedy was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 2nd round (45th overall) of the 2000 NFL Draft. He played five seasons with the team before becoming a free agent in 2005. During this time, he is best known for obliterating Chris Chambers of the Miami Dolphins - a hit that led to the eventual banning of leading with one's helmet during a hit. Kenoy started 59 of 73 games as the Broncos Strong Safety. He accounted for 289 Tackles, 5 Sacks, 4 interceptions, 3 Forced Fumbles and 2 Recoveries. Kennedy signed with the Detroit Lions in the 2005 offseason. He played 3 years with them before his release in March, 2008.
In 2011, the Denver Broncos selected free safety Quinton Carter in the 4th round. Despite regular off season projections that Carter would eventually produce, his career was cut short due to injury and would appear in 30 games, starting just 10. He notched 1 forced fumble. Carter played from 2011-2012 and in 2014.
I may catch some heat over this, but Kennedy's claim to fame was laying the wood in ways that would get guys suspended. Even when he was selected as the greatest back in 2011, I was kind of 'blah' about it. Personally? For me, Jeremiah Castille is the greatest to wear #28 by virtue of his role in the infamous "The Fumble" game. Our beloved MHR HOF staffer Kaptain Kirk went with Kenoy and we have to respect that. Regardless, as the only player to have work #28 since this series ran in 2011, Carter did not do enough to warrant consideration as the 'Greatest to Wear' this number.
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