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Broncos great Otis Armstrong dead at 70

The former first round pick has passed away.

Houston Oilers v Denver Broncos Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Former Denver Broncos running back Otis Armstrong has passed away.

In 2011, MHR writer Brian Shrout detailed Armstrong’s statistics in our Denver Broncos Greats... By the Numbers series.

Otis Armstrong RB 1973-80
Appeared in 96 games with 58 starts. Rushed 1,023 times for 4,453 yards with 25 touchdowns. Had a career 4.4 yards per carry average. Caught 131 passes for 1,302 yards with 7 touchdowns. Had only 19 fumbles. Recovered 3 fumbles. Returned 37 kickoffs for 879 yards. Appeared in 2 Pro Bowls (1974 & 1976). Was 1 time 1st Team All-Pro (1974). In 1974, led the NFL in: Rushing Yards (1,407), Yards/Rushing Attempt (5.1), Rushing Yards/Game (100.5). In 6 postseason games, rushed 38 times for 141 yards with 1 touchdown and caught 3 passes for 31 yards.

While the stats of the 1970’s look odd through the lens of the modern game, Armstrong was integral to legitimizing the Denver Broncos in the eyes of the NFL. Selected out of Purdue in the the 1st round of the 1973 draft, 9th overall, Otis was a 2-time Pro Bowler and 1-time First Team All-Pro. In 1974, Otis led the NFL rushing yards, yards per rushing attempt, and rushing yards per game.

In 2013, MHR writer Bronco Mike took a moment in this article to detail some of that 1974 season:

1974 marked Armstrong’s 2nd season as a Denver Broncos RB/FB/KR. It would be a season that still stands in the Broncos record book as one of the greatest of all time. In a 14 game season, Armstrong rushed for 1407 yards, averaging just a shade over 100 yards per game. Otis was the first RB in Broncos history to achieve that milestone. In fact, that per game average ranks 4th on the all time Broncos list behind Terrell Davis’ 1997 and 1998 campaigns (116.7 and 125.5 yards per game respectively) as well as Clinton Portis’ 2003 season where he averaged 122.4 yards per game. These three are the only Broncos RB’s to accomplish that feat.

His 5.3 average per carry in 1974 only trails Clinton Portis’ 5.5 yards per carry both in 2002-2003, Tim Tebow’s 5.4 yards per carry in 2011 and Correll Buckhalter’s 5.4 yards per carry in 2009.

The team that had been regarded as imposters that didn’t belong in the NFL, Armstrong and the Denver Broncos sent a message to the rest of the league by upending the 70’s powerhouses Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders to advance to their first Super Bowl in 1977.

Otis Armstrong was 70-years old.