The Denver Broncos will see two franchise legends enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame this Summer in owner Pat Bowlen and cornerback Champ Bailey. The latter will now also join the teams Ring of Fame in October. Champ will be honored on October 13, 2019 during the Broncos Week 6 matchup with the Tennessee Titans.
Bailey is easily one of the greatest Broncos of all-time and we all knew this moment would come.
“I was excited,” Bailey said of being select to the Ring of Fame. “I have to be honest, I expected it at some point, maybe. But at the same time, that’s just my objective thinking. But at the same time, it’s out of my hands. I never dwell on things I can’t control or worry about them. It’s like, when it happens, it still catches me off guard. I’m just so grateful that the Broncos consider me part of the family and [are] willing to put my name all over the stadium. It means the world to me, and it makes me feel good inside.”
Champ played 15 seasons in the NFL, with his last 10 coming with the Broncos after a blockbuster trade in 2004 sent him from the Washington Redskins to Denver in exchange for running back Clinton Portis.
He instantly became a mega superstar in Denver. He peaked in 2005-2006 where he snagged 18 interceptions for 301 yards and 3 touchdowns in a mere 20 game span. From that moment on until he retired in 2013, quarterbacks did their best to avoid his side of the field. Champ was a true shutdown corner of his generation.
He will also become the first player ever to be elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and into the Broncos Ring of Fame in the same year.
“I don’t even know how that’s possible,” Bailey said of being the first. “With all the Hall of Famers and all the Ring of Famers that we have, I’m a little surprised and taken aback. I would’ve thought [John] Elway (he was put in the Ring of Fame before the customary five-year waiting period). We all know Floyd Little should’ve had it like that. I’m just grateful. It’s one of those years. Like you said, it’s all at once. It’s overwhelming, but I’ll tell you what, these are great issues to have. Just being overwhelmed and patted on the back by everybody that you played in front of and saw you play. I’m so grateful.”
He is right that John Elway would have been the first, but owner Pat Bowlen made an exception to induct Elway the same year he retired as the only player ever to skip the standard post-retirement waiting period.
In a way, it feels right that Bailey is the first to receive this distinction. He was the face of the franchise for a decade.
It was a decade filled with good memories too.
“My favorite? I have a few.” Bailey said of his favorite memories as a Bronco. “You know, it’s funny, a couple weeks ago I was watching [Denver’s 2011 Wild Card Playoff Game] vs. Pittsburgh when we beat them in overtime on the first play. I was just thinking about the moment when D.T. (WR Demaryius Thomas) ran through the back of the end zone and I met him in the tunnel and it was like, ‘Man, I hadn’t felt like that since maybe ’06 when we beat the Patriots.’ Those are moments you just don’t forget. I could go on and on about a lot of different things that happened while I was there, but it’s really not one that stands out.”
There were not a whole lot of playoff wins in Bailey’s career, but the two he mentions stand out as the highlights of the 10+ years of the post-Elway era. The first came against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots during the 2005 playoffs when Champ stemmed the tide of a comeback by the Patriots with a near pick-six of Brady to seal the deal. It would be Brady’s first playoff loss.
That was likely Champ’s greatest personal moment as a player, but his fondest memory might be the one he referenced where he met the young second-year wide receiver Demaryius Thomas after an incredible 80-yard catch and run for the win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2011 AFC Divisional Playoffs.
That was a pretty incredible moment for all of us too.
As for Champ, he’ll enter the Ring of Fame as a once in a generation type of franchise player. His contributions are felt to this day with Von Miller and Chris Harris Jr. carrying on the great tradition of defense in Denver.
It’s going to be fun Summer and a great moment in October. Can’t wait to see it happen!
Denver Broncos Ring of Fame
|Name||Pos.||Yrs. w/Broncos||Year Inducted|
|Name||Pos.||Yrs. w/Broncos||Year Inducted|
|Shannon Sharpe||TE||1990-99, 2002-03||2009|
|Gerald H. Phipps||Owner||1961-81||1985|
|Austin “Goose” Gonsoulin||S||1960-66||1984|