Three of our four inductees for 2014-15 MHR "Broncos" Hall of Fame are also nominees this year for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The fourth on our list is already in Canton.
Not only does that prove that our members and voters have excellent taste in Hall-of-Fame talent, it shows what a top-notch franchise the Denver Broncos have been for decades - no matter what the Pro Football Hall of Fame says.
Congratulations HOF Class of 2014-15 - it is an honor to call each of you Broncos.
Karl Mecklenburg, 1983-94
Karl Mecklenburg was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 12th-round (310th overall) of the 1983 NFL Draft. His entire 12-season career was spent wearing Broncos orange.
"The Meck" - aka "Albino Rhino" and "Snow Goose" - helped catapult the Broncos to seven postseason appearances (1983-84, ‘86-87, ‘89, ‘91, ‘93), five division titles (1984, ‘86-87, ‘89, ‘91) and three Super Bowl berths (XXI in 1986, XXII in ‘87, XXIV in ‘89).
Mecklenburg started 141 of 180 total games in Denver. He is listed as defensive end, left inside linebacker and middle linebacker, but the fact is, Mecklenburg played all seven defensive front positions, wherever a mismatch could be found. The Albino Rhino harassed NFL quarterbacks, racking up 79 career sacks. In 1985, his season-high 13 sacks was a franchise record. Mecklenburg recorded 11 multiple-sack games and is the only player in team annals to record four sacks in a game twice in his career.
Mecklenburg registered 1,118 tackles, including a career and team-high 143 stops in 1989. He also made 5 interceptions, forced 16 fumbles, recovered 14 fumbles (returning 2 for touchdowns) and recorded one safety in his time as a Bronco.
- 6-Time Pro Bowler (1985-87, 1989, 1991, 1993)
- 4-Time Newspaper Enterprise Assn. (NEA) 1st-team All-Pro (1985, 1986, 1987, 1989)
- 3-Time 1st-Team All-Pro (1985, 1986, 1989)
- 1-Time 2nd-Team All-Pro (1987)
- 5 consecutive 100+ Tackle seasons (6 total)
- 8 seasons with 7 or more Quarterback Sacks
- Broncos Ring of Fame (2001)
- Colorado Sports Hall of Fame (2001)
Steve Atwater, 1989-99
Steve Atwater was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the first round (20th overall) of the 1989 NFL Draft. He spent 10 of his 11-year career as the free safety opposite Dennis Smith in one of the most ferocious safety tandems in the history of the NFL.
The "Smiling Assassin" started every game (155) he played in Denver. He was voted to a franchise-record seven consecutive Pro Bowls from 1990-96 and trails only quarterback John Elway for most Pro Bowls (9) as a Bronco. Atwater, who retired after signing a one-day contract with the Broncos following his year with the Jets, ranked eighth in team history with 24 career interceptions. He twice led Denver in tackles ('93 and '95) and posted 1,301 tackles (818 solo), five sacks (39 yards), 89 pass breakups, 12 forced fumbles and nine fumble recoveries as a Bronco. Atwater averaged 130 tackles per season as a Bronco.
But what most Broncos fans remember is Monday Night Football, Sept. 18, 1990, at Mile High Stadium. Against theKansas City Chiefs, Atwater floored Chiefs' 253-pound "Nigerian Nightmare" Christian Okoye, a running back notorious for running over defenders.
It was one of the greatest (nastiest) hits in NFL history. This thunderous hit put Steve Atwater on the national map.
- Football Digest NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year
- 4-Time all-Pro
- Consensus All-NFL (1991, 1992)
- 3-Time Super Bowl starter (XXIV, XXXII and XXXIII)
- 2-Time Super Bowl Champion (XXXII and XXXIII)
- NFL 1990s All-Decade Team
- Denver Broncos Ring of Fame (2005)
- Colorado Sports Hall of Fame (2013)
Rod Smith, 1992-98
Rod Smith was not drafted in the 1994 NFL Draft. After initially being signed by the Patriots, he was released and picked up by the Broncos. His first NFL catch was a 43-yard, game-winning touchdown pass from John Elway against the Washington Redskins in 1995.
Appearing in 183 games with 158 starts, Smith caught 849 passes for 11,389-yards with 68 touchdowns. In those games, he had eight 1,000+ receiving yard seasons and two 100+ receptions seasons. He is the only undrafted player to ever surpass 10,000 receiving yards. Smith also ran the ball 44 times for 348-yards and returned 53 punts for 647 yards. He also threw the ball a few times, going 2 of 5 for 86-yards.
Smith played in 13 post-season games, including the Broncos back-to-back Super Bowl victories in Super Bowls XXXI and XXXII. In Super Bowl XXXII, he set the record for the fourth-highest receiving total (5 catches for 152 yards with 1 touchdown via an 80-yard pass from Elway).
He has the most catches, receiving yards and touchdown receptions of any undrafted wide receiver in NFL history. At the time of retirement, he was the sixth player in NFL history to have 100+ receptions against three different teams (Kansas City, San Diego, Oakland). He was selected to the Pro Bowl three times (2000, 2001, 2005) and retired in July 2008. He will long be remembered among Broncos fans as the gold standard example of hard work and professionalism.
- Only undrafted player to reach 10,000 receiving yards, and the 24th in history to eclipse that figure.
- Has the most receiving yards (11,389) and touchdown receptions (68) of any undrafted player in NFL history.
- Ranks second on the most receptions (849) by any undrafted player in NFL history, behind former Bronco Wes Welker.
- Holds Broncos franchise records in career receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches.
- Ranks first on Denver's all-time yards from scrimmage list.
- Only the sixth player in NFL history to have 100 receptions against at least 3 teams (Kansas City Chiefs, San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders).
- AFC Offensive Player of the Week (week 15; 12/17/05 against the Buffalo Bills at Buffalo).
- Associated Press second-team All-Pro (2000, 2001).
- Football Digest first-team All-Pro (2000, 2001).
- USA Today first-team All-Pro (2000).
- College and Pro Newsweekly first-team All-Pro (2000).
- Pro Football Weekly All-AFC (2000, 2001).
- Denver Broncos Ring of Fame (Inducted in 2012)
- Colorado Sports Hall of Fame (2009)
Shannon Sharpe, 1990-2003
Shannon Sharpe was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the seventh round (192nd overall) of the 1990 NFL Draft. He played wide receiver at Savannah State. When he reported to training camp, Broncos coaches saw how big he was and converted him to tight end. Sharpe played 12 seasons for the Broncos (1990-99, 2002-03) with two years as a Raven (2000-01) in between. He won two Super Bowl (XXXII, XXXIII) rings with the Broncos and another with the Ravens. Sharpe finished his career as the NFL's all-time leader in receptions (815), receiving yards (10,060) and receiving touchdowns (62) by a tight end. Sharpe holds the distinction of being the first tight end to amass more than 10,000 receiving yards.
Sharpe managed to top 1,000 receiving yards in three different seasons and once had a streak of 60 consecutive games with a reception. In a 1993 playoff game against the Los Angeles Raiders, he tied a postseason record with 13 receptions for 156 yards and a touchdown. In the Ravens 2000 AFC title game against the Raiders, he caught a short pass on third-and-18 from his own four-yard line and took it 96 yards for a touchdown, helping the Ravens to a 16-3 win.
In his 12 seasons with the Broncos, Sharpe made 139 starts in 172 games, caught 675 passes for 8,439 yards, a 12.5 average, 55 touchdowns, had three rushing attempts for nine yards, seven fumbles, three recoveries and one onside kick recovery. In 2011, Shannon Sharpe was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He owns more receptions, receiving yards, receiving touchdowns, Super Bowl wins and Pro Bowl selections than any of the seven tight ends enshrined before him.
- 8-Time Pro Bowl selection (1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2001)
- 4-Time 1st-team All-Pro selection (1993, 1996, 1997, 1998)
- 1-Time 2nd-team All-Pro selection (1995)
- 3-Time Super Bowl champion (XXXII, XXXIII, XXXV)
- NFL 1990s All-Decade Team
- Denver Broncos Ring of Fame (2009)
- Colorado Sports Hall of Fame (2005)
- NFL Hall of Fame (2011)
And we all know that Sharpe was the best trash-talker in the NFL!
Stay tuned for more Class of 2014 Hall of Fame announcements in the days ahead...
Sportspersons of the Year
Pat Bowlen (2013)
Peyton Manning (2014)
Kaptain Kirk (2013)
Class of 2013
Class of 2013
Class of 2014