The official start to Hall of Fame 2021 season has opened, and Peyton Manning might as well go ahead and get his gold jacket fitted.
A first-ballot nominee, there is no way Manning isn’t making his acceptance speech in Canton next summer (well, assuming no more pandemics spring up and cancel events).
Playing for the Broncos from 2012-2016, Manning helped the Broncos win the AFC West each year and become AFC champions twice. The Sheriff was at the center of the 43-8 debacle against the Seahawks in Super Bowl 48. But despite not being at his best physically in Super Bowl 50, No. 18 could still dissect a defense in a split-second and ruin the day of defensive coordinators in a heartbeat.
He finished his career as the NFL’s all-time passing yardage and passing touchdowns leader. Also, he signed my jersey in 2014.
But along with yesterday’s announcement that Manning was among the first-ballot nominees was the fact that 10 - TEN! - former Broncos were also among the names.
Obviously, 10 Broncos aren’t making the final cut. I mean, we are talking about players in Denver after all. And obviously those who were not career players for the Mile High team possibly have a better shot.
But for all the bias that plays into overlooking Broncos every year, it was nice to see that some great players - long shots though they may be - were among the 130 named to the initial list:
Peyton Manning, QB
Rod Smith, WR
Wes Welker, WR
Glyn Milburn, RB/WR/KR/PR
Tom Nalen, C
Michael Dean Perry, DT/DE
Neil Smith, DE
Simeon Rice, DE
John Lynch, S
Jason Elam, K
The number will be pared down to 25 semifinalists in November, and then the Hall of Fame selection committee will name 15 finalists in January. The committee will vote to decide the Class of 2021 the day before the Super Bowl.
Among the former Broncos nominated, three are current Ring of Fame members - Elam, Nalen and Rod Smith.
Smith was a three-time Pro Bowler and two-time Super Bowl champion, catching passes from another Hall-of-Famer, John Elway. Smith, who was an undrafted free agent in 1995, became the Broncos’ all-time leading receiver and a 10-year starter.
But most Broncos fans remember Smith for his 90-yard, wide-open touchdown catch from Elway in Super Bowl XXXIII in which the Broncos hammered the Falcons.
Nalen spent his entire 14-year NFL career in Denver and remains one of the best offensive linemen in team history, playing on both of the Broncos’ Super Bowl champion teams in XXXII and XXXIII. Blocking for Hall-of-Fame running back Terrell Davis, Nalen was named to five Pro Bowls and selected a two-time first-team All-Pro.
Elam is currently the Broncos’ all-time points leader. A three-time Pro Bowler, Elam also holds the team’s record for field goals. For a time he even co-held the record for the NFL’s longest field goal at 63 yards (before another Broncos kicker, Matt Prater, hit 64). Over his 15-year career, Elam made 24 game-winning or game-saving field goals for the Broncos and was also a member of its back-to-back Super Bowl championship teams.
Although Lynch and Neil Smith spent lengthy careers at other teams, both were significant players during their short stints in Denver. Smith, in particular, was a Bronco for just three years after a long career in Kansas City, but he joined in time to help the Broncos to two Super Bowl wins. In his NFL career, Smith nabbed 104.5 career sacks in 191 games over 13 seasons. Fun fact - Smith is responsible for helping me get a SB32 football signed by Shannon Sharpe.
After 11 years at Tampa Bay, Lynch played his final four seasons in Denver. He has been a HOF finalist for the past seven years. A nine-time Pro Bowler, Lynch earned a Pro Bowl selection each of his four years in Denver, which were also his final years in the league. Lynch has been named a two-time first-team All Pro and also helped the Bucs win a Super Bowl in 2002.
Drafted by the Broncos in 1993, Milburn was a return specialist for the Broncos, earning a Pro Bowl spot once while with the team. He also was selected as a member of the Broncos Top 100 Team in 2019.
Perry spent two-and-a-half seasons in Denver and was a six-time Pro Bowler during his career, including once with the Broncos in 1996.
Welker, who was a favorite target of Manning’s, earned five Pro Bowl selections and two first-team All-Pro selections in his 12-year career.
Rice, a three-time Pro Bowler and a 2002 first-team All-Pro, played six games for the Broncos in 2007 at the end of his career.
Beside Manning, which former Bronco SHOULD be in the Hall of Fame?
This poll is closed
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