The Denver Broncos’ winningest head coach, Mike Shanahan, was inducted into the team’s Ring of Fame last night.
The ceremony also featured Hall of Fame safety Steve Atwater, whose pillar was updated to include his HOF selection.
Asked about joining some of his former players in the ROF, the former head coach described it as “kind of the highest honor you can have because of how special this group of people is.”
“When you coached them, you knew how well they played, how hard they played and what type of athletes and people they were,” he added, “To be with this type of team is something I’ll always cherish, I’ll always honor.”
Many of his former players, including WR Rod Smith (2012 ROF inductee), attended the ceremony to congratulate him. In Shanahan’s eyes, the relationship he had with those players was the most important thing about the job.
“To be honest with you, that’s why you’re playing the game, is the relationships you’ve had through the years with these guys,” Shanahan said, “To have those private moments and some very tough moments but to work through it and hopefully have a lot of success like the Broncos have had.”
Being the very first coach to lead the team to a championship victory (Super Bowl XXXII, followed by XXXIII), he admitted that he remembers how hard it was to get there. “You can get to those Super Bowls and you can play pretty good teams to get there but you’ve still got to find a way to get it done and win it.”
“When we finally got it done, it was pretty special.”
Another thing that’s special to Shanahan is being part of Denver’s legacy. “What you’re really proud of is probably the people that have gotten you to the spot I’m in now,” he insisted, “Your coaches that you’ve had, both at the collegiate level and the professional level, the players that have given you a chance to be notarized like I am right now. It’s the whole football team that gets it done.”
Shanahan also confessed that he does in fact miss being a coach, but that he’s still involved through watching, following, and even attending practices via zoom. He likes keeping up with everything, including some of the people who used to coach with him or players that he used to coach.
“It’s been a great experience for me,” he added.
He said it makes him glad that the ceremony happened on the same weekend that the Broncos would play the Raiders, and noted that the Raiders were always a team he enjoyed playing.
“Any time you play someone that’s very good, you always want to beat them, and that’s what we were able to do,” he remembers, “We won a lot of games against them when they were good and to continue that through the years, it was something that we were all proud of.”
Now that Shanahan’s pillar is in the Ring of Fame, does he think a Pro Football Hall of Fame induction is in the cards?
“That’s others’ decisions that are made, not mine,” Shanahan said, “Even to be talked about in that vein is a heck of a compliment for me.”