Welcome in to another edition of ‘Where are they now?’ in which we look back at some past Denver Broncos who left a lasting impact on the franchise but perhaps are not as widely remembered by fans as Ring-of-Honor type legends
In this first edition, we’ll check in on former QB from the bayou Bubby Brister.
Prior to joining the Broncos, Bubby Brister was a textbook good ol’ boy from Alexandria, Louisiana with a thick southern accent drafted in the third round of the 1986 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
He spent four seasons as the team’s starter (1988-1991) before becoming on-again, off-again starter in a battle with Neil O’Donnell. Brister southern mannerisms made him quite the quoteworthy player, including an incident in 1991 in which he was asked to supplant O’Donnell (who had been starting while Brister recovered from injury) in a blowout loss to the Houston Oilers where Brister responded with, “I don’t mop up for anybody.”
The Steelers would ultimately choose to move forward with O’Donnell as the team’s starter, and Brister would spend the next several seasons as a journeyman back up/spot starter for the New York Jets and Philadelphia Eagles. It was his time with the Eagles, where he earned the respect of teammate Bill Romanowski, that would create his path to Denver.
When Romanowski signed with the Broncos in 1997, he encouraged coach Mike Shanahan to take a look at Brister, which led to the QB joining the team.
It was in 1998, however, where Brister would earn his place in the annals of Broncos history.
An aging John Elway caught the injury bug early and more often than he’d have liked during the ‘98 season. He would leave week three with an injury and would miss weeks four and five as well as nine and 10 as well. Brister, who had been elevated from third string to primary backup before the season, was asked to step in, and step in he did.
After filling in admirably in a winning effort in week three, Brister would start the remaining games Elway missed, and threw for 792 yards on 65 of 109 passing to go along with eight touchdowns to just three interceptions. He would go 4-0 in his stretch as a starter, and his passer rating that season of 99 was actually better than that of Elway’s (93).
The Broncos were a loaded team in 1998, but losing Elway could’ve been a crucial blow to the team regardless of the talent elsewhere. Had Brister not stepped in so effectively, the Broncos postseason could’ve looked drastically different.
Elway retired following the team’s 1998 Super Bowl run, and the team elected to go with youth over experience in choosing his successor, opting to move forward with Brian Griese over Brister.
He would finish his career with just shy of 15,000 yards passing to go along with 81 touchdowns and a pair of Super Bowl rings courtesy of his time with the Broncos.
Interestingly enough, he recently spoke with Tony Reid of Sports Collector Daily just this month and discussed his time backing up Elway. Here’s what he had to say:
“It would be like backing up Terry Bradshaw. There is only one John Elway. You get there and you understand that. Could I still play and maybe start for some other teams? Probably. You check your ego at the door and do whatever you can to help the team. I was ready in case John went down and he did go down. I studied more then and was more prepared than ever. I would wake up in the middle of the night at the hotel and slip through my playbook. I did not want to be the weak link on the team and let John Elway down. I will play my ass off and see if we could get these wins and then give him time to heal and be ready for the playoffs. It worked out. He was 100% healthy and we won all the playoff games. He was getting older and beat up. He didn’t miss many games at all and he was getting the heck beat out of him. It was a great run there and I treasure my time in Denver. Being a part of the Super Bowls was another dream come true. You don’t know if you will ever be on a team with a chance to win a Super Bowl. I was blessed to be at the right place at the right time with a great group of guys. John was phenomenal.”
What has Bubby Brister been up to?
Since his playing days, Brister has dipped his feet into several different endeavors.
He briefly worked as an analyst for Fox Sports Rocky Mountain in Denver, and as an avid outdoorsman, was the host of a hunting and fishing show in 2003 called Louisiana Outdoor Adventures featured on The Outdoors Channel.
Nowadays, he has been more on the business side of things, as he spent a little under two years as the vice president of sales and marketing for a company called CECO Pipeline Services and now serves as VP of Corporate Development at Empire Group, a custom access matting and services company.
He is married with two children, one of whom played football at Louisiana Tech (and was tragically involved in a fatal hit-and-run accident last fall).
Brister should always be looked back upon fondly by Broncos Country for his contributions during the 1998 Super Bowl run filling in for Elway, and for those who want to remember him even more fondly due to his mannerisms, please enjoy this video of him at the roast of his former teammate Merril Hoge.