Tuesday, April 29, 2008

2008 Draft Part 1

All of my posts so far have been about Broncos players of the past. This week, I will look at the newest members of the franchise. Starting today with the first few rounds of this past weekend's draft:

1st Round: Ryan Clady, OT Boise State
I haven't figured out how to move pictures around yet, so Clady is the big guy in the blue pajamas wearing #79. Incredibly light on his feet for such a big man, Clady was drafted to replace the retired Matt Lepsis at left tackle. He should be quick enough to stay with pass rushers off the edge, while also having a lot of knowledge of the Broncos zone blocking scheme, as Boise State used it as well. Drafted to protect Jay Cutler and could start from day 1.
2nd Round: Eddie Royal, WR Virginia Tech
The Broncos have a big need for a return man, and Royal fits the bill. He should be the primary return man from day 1, and also may contribute as a slot receiver. I would imagine he would be dangerous on end-arounds and reverses also. He holds the Virginia Tech career record for all purpose yards and the ACC record for career punt return yards.
4th Round: Kory Lichtensteiger OL Bowling Green
A four year starter for the Falcons, Kory can play both guard and center. Known for solid technique and outstanding blocking ability, but also for a bit of a mean streak. I like this pick for that reason.
4th Round: Jack Williams CB Kent State
This guy can fly - he has great speed. He ran a 4.32 at his Pro Day and also had very impressive numbers in the cone drill and vertical jump. He's got good size for a corner. Given his athleticism, he could be underrated as a prospect and is a great value at this point in the draft.
5th Round: Ryan Torain RB Arizona State
It's hard to fault the Broncos when they take a running back in the later rounds. They have great success at unearthing hidden gems at this position. Torain started the season really well, but was derailed by a foot injury midway through the year. He's a junior college transfer that likes to run between the tackles. Given Denver's traditional success taking RBs in the middle rounds, the Arizona State product has potential to develop.
Tomorrow/Thursday: Part 2

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Ricky Nattiel

The Broncos drafted Ricky Nattiel in the first round of the 1987 NFL Draft out of Florida. As a wide receiver, he wore number 84 with Denver for 6 seasons. His rookie season was his best, with over 600 yards and a couple of touchdowns. A member of the Broncos trio of receivers known as "The Three Amigos." Warning, before watching this video, be prepared for the cheesiest thing you have ever seen. OLE!!

Nattiel caught a Touchdown pass from John Elway in the first quarter of the Superbowl his rookie season. That lead didn't hold up as the Redskins proceeded to score 789 consecutive points to win.

My Dad, older brother, and I met Ricky Nattiel at a mall when we still lived in Denver. I still have the 3 Amigos poster autographed by him in my basement.

Nattiel never did live up to being a first round pick. Most teams expect to get more than 2000 career receiving yards out of a first round pick. He was fun to watch, though.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Bobby Anderson

Bobby Anderson was a number 1 draft choice by the Broncos in 1970. A running back from the U of Colorado, Anderson wore number 11 for Denver for 4 years. He never lived up to his first round draft choice status, with under 1300 yards and 9 TDs in his four years. He was a decent receiver out of the backfield with another 860 yards and 2 TDs. He did throw 1 TD in his career to former first rounder Riley Odoms. He also had a sweet haircut that made him look like John from C.H.i.P.s. He must have been quite the player in college, because he is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Riley Odoms

With the NFL Draft coming up this weekend, I've decided that this week's entries will represent Broncos #1 draft choices from years gone by.

Up first is Riley Odoms. A tight end out of the U of Houston, Riley was picked 5th overall in 1972. Without a doubt the second best tight end in franchise history, Riley was named to 4 Pro Bowls during his 12 year Bronco career. While I am not saying he should be in the Hall of Fame, he has better stats than Charlie Sanders, who was inducted in 2007. I am saying however that Charlie Sanders should not be in the Hall of Fame. Riley wore number 88 during his Broncos career. He certainly lived up to being a number 1 draft choice. Check out the guy trying to tackle him in the first picture. That is none other than current Colts coach Tony Dungy.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Steve Atwater

Today is Steve Atwater. A first round draft choice in 1989, Steve wore number 27 as a safety for the Broncos for 11 seasons. He is the last player inducted into the Ring of Fame. Steve played in 8 Pro Bowls as a Bronco. Nicknamed "The Smiling Assassin" by former secondary coach Charlie Waters (I think), Atwater is famous for his hit on Chiefs running back Christian Okoye on Monday Night Football.

Steve Atwater concludes his brilliant 11-year NFL career as one of the most outstanding and most popular players in the history of the Denver Broncos organization. He joined the Broncos in 1989 as the club’s No. 1 draft choice (20th overall) and went on to earn eight Pro Bowl selections, second-most in team history. His string of seven straight Pro Bowl appearances from 1990-96 ties the franchise record. Atwater started all 155 games he played as a Bronco to tie for seventh in franchise history for games started, and logged 818 tackles (483 solo)—including five sacks (-39)—as well as 24 interceptions, 89 passes defensed, 12 forced fumbles and nine fumble recoveries. In all he was involved in 45 turnovers during his career. Atwater ranks eighth in career interceptions (24) and seventh in interception return yards (388). Atwater also played in 14 postseason contests (all starts), which ties for third most in team history, while his 14 postseason starts rank second. In his postseason career he made 73 tackles (50 solo), including one sack (-1), as well as one interception, 11 passes defensed and two forced fumbles. Atwater turned in one the best performances ever by a safety in a Super Bowl with his stellar play in Denver’s Super Bowl XXXII victory over Green Bay (1/25/98), posting six solo tackles, one sack, two passes defensed and a forced fumble. In addition to the eight Pro Bowls and two World Championships, Atwater will always be remembered for his signature hit on Kansas City running back Christian Okoye on Monday Night Football in 1990, the audio of which was captured by NFL Films and replayed numerous times over the years.
1999: Atwater played in 12 games and started 11 for the New York Jets, posting 55 tackles (36 solo), two passes defended and one forced fumble. He missed four games and was limited in several others because of a hamstring injury.
1998: Atwater started all three playoff games at free safety and ranked second on the team with 16 tackles (10 solo), to go along with three passes defensed and a forced fumble. His 14 career postseason starts rank second in franchise history, and he is tied for third in games played (14). In the AFC Divisional Playoff Game vs. Miami (1/9) he posted four tackles (3 solo) with one pass defensed, and he contributed five more (3 solo) in the AFC Championship Game vs. the Jets (1/17), to go along with a pass defensed and a forced fumble. Atwater knocked the ball loose from Alex Van Dyke early in the 4th qtr., leading to a recovery by Bill Romanowski. Atwater was Denver’s second-leading tackler in Super Bowl XXXIII vs. Atlanta (1/31) with seven (4 solo), as well as a pass defensed. Atwater — selected this season to his eighth Pro Bowl and third as as starter — started all 16 games at free safety and ranked fourth on the team with 85 tackles (55 solo), to go along with one interception and seven passes defensed. He posted his season-high of 9 tackles (5 solo) at Miami (12/21), and posted an 8-tackle performance at Seattle (10/11). His interception also came in the latter contest in the third quarter off Dan Marino. Atwater, selected by his teammates as the Broncos’ defensive captain for 1998, was also named the club’s 1997 Ed Block Courage Award recipient, also voted by his teammates.
An Honor Well Deserved
Broncos TV: Atwater inducted into the Ring of Fame
AUDIO: Pat Bowlen announces Atwater will be inducted to the Ring of Fame on Aug. 1, 2005
AUDIO: Atwater reacts to his Ring of Fame induction announcement, Aug. 1, 2005
Steve Atwater Photo Gallery
1997: Atwater, selected defensive captain by his teammates for the first time in his career, started 15 of the 16 games at free safety and tied for fourth on the team with 83 tackles (61 solo), including one sack (-18), as well as two interceptions, eight passes defensed and two fumble recoveries. His first interception came at San Diego (11/30) and was returned 22 yards for his first professional touchdown, and his next came in the season finale vs. San Diego (12/21) for a 20-yard return. In the regular season opener vs. Kansas City (8/31) he started at free safety and made eight tackles (6 solo), including a crucial stop of Chiefs fullback Kimble Anders at the Broncos 3-yard line late in the third quarter to help keep the Chiefs out of the end zone. The Broncos went on to win 19-3. Two weeks later vs. St. Louis (9/14) he made one solo tackle with two passes defensed, and suffered a partially dislocated right shoulder in the second half, missing considerable playing time. He was declared inactive on Sunday the following week against Cincinnati, breaking his string of 36 consecutive games played dating back to December of 1994. Atwater returned to action the next week at Atlanta (9/28). A week later vs. New England (10/6) Atwater posted six tackles (5 solo) and one fumble recovery in Denver’s Monday Night Football victory. The recovery came after John Mobley stripped the ball from Patriots receiver Terry Glenn to end a game-opening New England drive that had reached the Denver 28-yard line. The Broncos responded with their first touchdown of the game en route to a 34-13 win. At Buffalo (10/26) he made four tackles (2 solo) with one fumble recovery in Denver’s 23-20 overtime win on the weekend that would not end for the Broncos, overcoming a snowstorm in Denver that almost prevented the team’s departure, as well as a furious fourth-quarter rally by the Bills. Atwater’s fumble recovery came after Alex Van Pelt lost the ball with the Bills driving inside the Broncos 10-yard line early in the fourth quarter. He followed that performance with 8-, 7- and 10-tackle efforts against Seattle (11/2), Carolina (11/9) and at Kansas City (11/16). Versus Oakland (11/24), he posted four tackles (3 solo), including his first sack of the season, as Denver defeated the Raiders 31-3 on Monday Night Football, the Broncos’ fourth straight Monday Night win. He dropped Jeff George for an 18-yard loss on the Raiders’ first series of the fourth quarter. Atwater left the game for several plays in the first half because of a hyperextended right elbow, but returned and played the rest of the way. In the preseason Atwater missed the Buffalo (7/26) and Miami (8/4) games because of soreness in his left knee following offseason surgery. Postseason: Atwater started all four games at free safety and played with the brilliance that has distinguished him throughout his nine-year career. He recorded 15 tackles (10 solo), including one sack (-1), a forced fumble and five passes defensed. His four starts moved him into a tie for sixth in career postseason games started by a Bronco (11). He capped a stellar postseason in Super Bowl XXXII vs. Green Bay (1/25/98) by turning in a performance as spectacular as that of any Broncos defender, and any in his career, recording six solo tackles, two passes defensed and a sack of Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre on which he caused a fumble that was recovered by Neil Smith. The sack and fumble came early in the second quarter and set up a 51-yard Jason Elam field goal that gave Denver a 17-7 lead. He later recorded one of the game’s biggest pass breakups on a 3rd-and-8 play from the Broncos’ 39-yard line early in the fourth quarter, knocking away a Favre attempt intended for Robert Brooks that would have given Green Bay a first down inside the Broncos’ 25-yard line with the score tied at 24-24.
1996: Atwater started all 16 regular season games at free safety and earned his franchise-record seventh consecutive Pro Bowl berth while being named second-team Associated Press All-Pro, first-team UPI All-AFC and second-team Pro Football Weekly All-AFC. He ranked third on the team with 116 tackles (89 solo), in addition to three interceptions (11 yards in returns), nine passes defensed and one forced fumble. Atwater also added two tackles on special teams. Versus Tampa Bay (9/15), Atwater started at free safety and made seven tackles (6 solo), while also knocking down two passes in Denver’s 27-23 victory. The following week at Kansas City (9/22) he registered nine stops (7 solo), including several hard hits, one of which unfortunately ended Chiefs’ wide receiver Lake Dawson’s season prematurely with a knee injury in the third quarter. This was the second game of an eight-week stretch in which Atwater had at least six tackles in every game, registering eight at Cincinnati (9/29), seven vs. San Diego (10/6), eight vs. Baltimore (10/20), six against Kansas City (10/27), six at Oakland (11/4) and 12 against Chicago (11/10). He also forced a key fumble against the Bears in the third quarter that prevented Chicago from taking the lead. The next week at New England (11/17) Atwater had five tackles (2 solo), knocked down a pass and registered his first interception of the season (11-yard return). The pickoff came on the first play of the Patriots’ second possession and set up the score that put Denver ahead 14-0 en route to a 34-8 victory. A week later at Minnesota (11/24) he started at free safety and made a game- and season-high 15 tackles (13 solo) in Denver’s 21-17 win. He picked off his second pass of the season at Green Bay (12/8), and notched his third against the Raiders (12/15). In Denver’s AFC Divisional Playoff vs. Jacksonville (1/4/97) Atwater started at free safety and made six solo tackles. He had offseason surgery on his left shoulder and left knee Jan. 15, 1997.
1995: Atwater started all 16 games at free safety and led the team with 148 tackles (107 solo), three interceptions and three forced fumbles. His tackle total was his best since 1992, and his interceptions were his most since ‘91. Atwater surpassed the 1,000-tackle mark for his career Dec. 10 vs. Seattle. He earned his Broncos-record sixth-straight Pro Bowl berth, as well as second-team All-Pro honors from College & Pro Football Newsweekly, and was voted by his teammates as the Broncos’ Defensive MVP. Atwater began his outstanding season with a team-leading nine tackles (8 solo) in the opener against Buffalo (9/3), including a big third-quarter, fourth-down stop at the Denver 1/2-yard line to thwart a Buffalo scoring threat. The following week at Dallas (9/10), Atwater registered 13 tackles (7 solo), an interception with an 11-yard return, and a pass defensed. He recorded a team-leading 12 tackles (8 solo) at Seattle (10/1), but had to leave early with a hyperextended elbow. He posted a team-leading 11 tackles (9 solo) at New England (10/8), and forced his first fumble of the year. In Denver’s 27-0 shutout of Oakland (10/16), Atwater made six tackles (2 solo), intercepted a pass and registered one pass defensed. His interception of a Jeff Hostetler pass on the second play from scrimmage set up the Broncos at the Oakland 19-yard line after an 18-yard return, and led to a 3-0 Broncos lead. Atwater had 10 tackles (6 solo) and a forced fumble against Kansas City (10/22), despite missing the end of the first half and the beginning of the second half after going to the locker room for an examination on his right shoulder. Atwater also recorded a team-high 14 stops (9 solo) at Philadelphia (11/12), but suffered a bone bruise that was downgraded from an initial diagnosis of a hyperextension. His third interception came against Seattle (12/10), and was reutrned 25 yards.
1994: Atwater continued his stellar play in the Denver secondary despite a disappointing year for the team. He started 14 of the Broncos 16 games at either free or strong safety and recorded 125 total tackles (72 solo) to earn his fifth straight Pro Bowl appearance. Atwater, who sat out at Los Angeles (12/11) and San Francisco (12/17) with an injured hamstring, also intercepted one pass (24-yard return), recovered two fumbles and forced one while registering eight passes defensed. His two starts at free safety came on opening day against the Chargers (9/4) and at Buffalo (9/26). Atwater registered double-figures in tackles six times and posted his best numbers against the Raiders at home (9/18) with 14 tackles (11 solo). His lone interception came at Seattle (10/9) in perhaps his best overall performance. In addition to his interception that he returned 24 yards to set up Jason Elam for the Broncos’ first points, Atwater recovered a fumble and returned it 17 yards to set up Denver’s only touchdown in a 16-9 win.
1993: Atwater became the first player in franchise history to earn four consecutive Pro Bowl berths, and was named All-AFC (UPI and Football News). He started every game for the Broncos, leading the team in tackles with 141 (80 tackles and 61 assists). Atwater also posted one sack, two interceptions and two forced fumbles on the year. His big game came in a losing effort at San Diego (12/5), where he racked up 14 total tackles (nine solo and five assisted), which was one of six games in which he finished with double figure tackles.
1992: Atwater earned his third consecutive Pro Bowl berth in 1992, and was also named All-NFL (AP, NEA, PFW/PFWA, TSN,) and All-AFC (Football News). He led the secondary and was second on the team with 151 total tackles, (73 tackles and 78 assists), and also posted two interceptions, a sack, 12 passes defensed, two fumble recoveries, and two forced fumbles. Atwater sat out the season opener against the Raiders (9/6) with a sprained ankle but rebounded to post 17 total tackles in week two against the Chargers (9/13), one of nine games in which he recorded double figures in tackles. Atwater had a big game at Buffalo (12/12), recovering a fumble and intercepting a pass.
1991: In 1991 Atwater earned his second straight Pro Bowl berth after a season in which he tied for the team lead with a career-high five interceptions and finished second on Denver’s AFC-leading defense in total tackles with 150. Atwater was also named All-NFL (AP, Pro Football Weekly, College and Pro Football Newsweekly second-team) and All-AFC (Football News, Pro Football Weekly). For the season he registered 83 tackles, 67 assists, 11 passes defensed, a sack, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. Atwater was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance against the Seahawks (9/15) in which he had 10 total tackles, picked off a pass, and recovered a fumble. He was in double figures in total tackles nine times that year, with a high of 14 vs. Phoenix (12/15). In post-season play Atwater had 17 total tackles and three passes defensed, and he intercepted a pass vs. Houston (1/4).
1990: Atwater made his first appearance in the Pro Bowl after a tremendous 1990 campaign in which he finished second on the Broncos’ defense with 173 total tackles, including a team-high 112 solo tackles, despite missing one game due to injury. For his efforts he was also named All-NFL (College and Pro Football Newsweekly 2nd team, Newspaper Editors Association – 2nd team) and All-AFC (UPI, Football News), and was voted by his teammates as Denver’s most valuable defensive player. In addition, Atwater also posted two interceptions, four passes defensed, two forced fumbles, and a quarterback sack, while also registering 10 total tackles on special teams. From his strong safety position Atwater posted five of Denver’s top-10 single-game tackle totals, including a personal high of 18 vs. Pittsburgh (10/14), and had 12 or more total tackles in nine games. He cemented his reputation as a hard hitter after a thunderous collision with Kansas City’s Christian Okoye in a nationally televised Monday night game (9/17). Atwater sat out the game vs. Seattle (9/23) with a rib strain and saw limited action against the Chargers (12/16) after suffering torn rib cartilage early in the first half.
1989: Atwater was named NFL All-Rookie (Pro Football Weekly, College and Pro Football Newsweekly) for a fine campaign. He made an immediate impact as the Broncos’ first-round pick, taking the place of former defensive captain Mike Harden at free safety and combining with strong safety Dennis Smith to form one of the NFL’s most physical safety tandems. Atwater started every regular season game and led the Broncos defense with 86 solos. He was second on the squad with 129 total tackles and also claimed three interceptions, 10 passes defensed and a fumble recovery. Atwater had two interceptions in Week Three against the Raiders (9/24), the second setting up the game-clinching field goal. He had six games with 10 or more total tackles, including a high of 12 vs. San Diego (10/8).COLLEGE: Atwater was a three-time All-Southwest Conference selection and two-time All-American at the University of Arkansas. He became the Razorbacks’ all-time interception leader with 14 over his four active campaigns. He went to the school as a wishbone quarterback but was moved to the secondary as a redshirt freshman. Atwater closed out his college career with an appearance in the Senior Bowl, a game in which he had two interceptions.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Gary Zimmerman

Gary Zimmerman was inducted into the Ring of Fame in 2003. An offensive tackle wearing #65 and protecting John Elway's blind side for 5 seasons, Gary was recently elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He will be inducted in August, 2008. Gary was named to 7 Pro Bowls and was named to the All- Decade Team for both the 1980s and 1990s.

Gary Zimmerman was one of the most respected offensive linemen in the National Football League as he played through several excruciating injuries during his career and helped Denver win it's first Super Bowl in 1997. He played in and started all 184 games in his 12-year career and was a major reason that Denver’s offense was able to post prolific totals over the course of the 1995-96 seasons. He had a streak of 169 consecutive starts before being forced to the sideline at Green Bay (12/8/96) following surgery on his left shoulder. A consummate professional year in and year out, he was been named All-NFL four times (1986-88, 1996), NFL Lineman of the Year in 1987, and second-team All-NFL of the 1980s. The tackle was also named to the All-Decade Teams for the 1980s and 1990s. He is one of only 10 players in the history of the game to have been named to consecutive All-Decade Teams. Zimmerman was originally drafted by the Los Angeles Experss of the United States Football League (2nd round, 36th overall) in 1984, and played two seasons with the club before joining the Minnesota Vikings in 1986. He had been chosen by the New York Giants in the first round of the 1984 supplemental draft, third overall, and then had his rights traded to Minnesota for two second-round picks (CB Mark Collins and S Greg Lasker).
1997: Zimmerman missed the first two games of the season before re-signing with the club Sept. 9. He started at right tackle in the first four games after his return and switched to left tackle before the Oakland game (10/19). In Week 3 vs. St. Louis he started at right tackle and played most of the first half in his first game since re-signing. He also saw some action at left tackle after Tony Jones left the game with an ankle injury.
1997 Postseason: Zimmerman started all four postseason games at left tackle as part of an offensive line that dominated opponents and allowed Denver to control games with its powerful rushing attack. The Broncos averaged 187 yards per game on the ground in the playoffs, and the offensive line was named NFL Offensive Player of the Week for the Wild Card weekend.
1996: Zimmerman started all 14 games in which he played, including the first 13 of the season to run his streak of consecutive starts to 169. That streak was snapped at Green Bay (12/8) when he was declared inactive following surgery on his left shoulder. He played with pain in both shoulders during the course of the season, but was still voted to his seventh Pro Bowl (third as a Bronco) and earned first-team All-Pro honors from the Associated Press, Sports Illustrated, The Sporting News, Pro Football Weekly, Football Digest and College & Pro Football Newsweekly. Zimmerman also earned first-team All-AFC nods from UPI and Football News. His streak of 169 consecutive starts made him the only active player in the NFL to have started every game since the beginning of the 1986 season.
1995: Zimmerman started all 16 games at left tackle, earning his second straight Pro Bowl selection, and the sixth of his career. He suffered a shoulder and biceps injury at Houston (11/26), but started the next week against Jacksonville (12/3) despite not practicing much during the week. He also started with a sore ankle against Washington (9/17) in Denver’s 38-31 last-second victory. Zimmerman had off-season surgery to repair the torn rotator cuff and torn biceps in his right shoulder on January 15, 1996. The surgery was performed by Dr. Richard Hawkins at the Steadman-Hawkins Clinic in Vail, Colo.
1994: Zimmerman did not miss a game as the starter at left tackle, and was one of the few bright spots on an offensive line that struggled at times. He was recognized for his outstanding play with selection to the Pro Bowl, his fifth such selection.
1993: Zimmerman was acquired by the Broncos in a trade with Minnesota prior to the last preseason game in 1993 and was immediately inserted into the starting lineup. He started every game at left tackle for the Broncos, solidifying an offensive line that allowed time for quarterback John Elway to post career numbers. He was a major factor in the success of the Broncos offensive line, and was named an alternate for the Pro Bowl.
1992: Zimmerman was named to the Pro Bowl as a starter, his first trip since 1989.
1991: Zimmerman anchored a Minnesota line that helped the Vikings lead the NFC in rushing.
1990: Zimmerman started all 16 games despite being hampered by various injuries. He underwent surgery on his ankle and elbow at the end of that season.
1987-'89: In 1989 Zimmerman was selected to his third Pro Bowl appearance. The other two appearances were in 1988 and 1987.
1986: Zimmerman earned All-NFL honors for Minnesota in his first season in the league. He was originally obtained by the Giants in the first-round of the 1984 supplemental draft, third overall, and then had his rights traded to Minnesota for two second-round picks (CB Mark Collins and S Greg Lasker) in the 1986 draft.
1984-'85: He began his pro career as a second-round pick, 36th overall, by the Los Angeles Express of the USFL in 1984.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Karl Mecklenburg

Also inducted into the Broncos Ring of Fame in 2001 was Karl Mecklenburg. Karl wore #77 for 12 years in Denver as a defensive lineman and mostly as a linebacker. He was voted to 6 Pro Bowls after being drafted in the 12th round out of the University of Minnesota. I met him at the Broncos parade after they won their first Super Bowl. If I can find the picture, I will post it.

Mecklenburg overcame long odds to achieve greatness after being drafted by the Broncos in the 12th round out of Minnesota in 1983— the 310th player chosen. He became a starter by his third season, 1985, and went on to start 141 of the 180 games he played, which places him seventh on the club’s all- time list for games played. Mecklenburg was voted to play in six Pro Bowls (following the 1985, ’86, ’87, ’89, ’91 and ’93 seasons); was named All- AFC and All- NFL four times (1985- 87 and ’89); was named AFC Player of the Year by Football News in 1986 and played in three Super Bowls as a Bronco: XXI, XXII and XXIV. He finished his career with 1,145 tackles (787 solo) and ranks second in club annals with 79.5 sacks, trailing only Simon Fletcher (97.5). Mecklenburg’s career high of 13 sacks came in 1985 and ties for the fifth most sacks recorded by a Broncos player in a single season. He recorded 11 multi- sack games and is the only player in franchise history to record four sacks in a game twice in his career. He shares the franchise single- game record with four other players. Mecklenburg began his collegiate career at Augustana (S. D.) College before transferring to Minnesota, where he earned second- team All- Big Ten honors as a senior in 1982.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Dennis Smith

Inducted into the Ring of Fame in 2001 was hard hitting safety Dennis Smith. One of my favorite players, #49 was known for his hard hitting style.

A ferocious hitter, Smith was voted to play in six Pro Bowls (following the 1985- 86, 1989- 91 and ’93 seasons), was named All- NFL four times (1985- 86, ’89 and ’93), was named All- AFC four times (1984- 86, ’98) and played on three Broncos Super Bowl teams (XXI, XXII, XXIV). He was also named the club’s Most Inspirational Player in 1992. Smith ranks fourth all- time in games played by a Bronco (184), fifth in games started (170) and sixth in both career interceptions (30) and interception return yards (431). He is one of just three players in the history of the Broncos franchise to play at least 14 seasons with the club, behind John Elway (16) and tied with Tom Jackson. Smith’s career totals include 1,171 tackles (794) and 14 sacks. He posted a career- high five sacks in 1983, a career- high five interceptions in ’91 and a career- high 120 tackles in ’92. Smith was a consensus All- America choice as a senior at USC in 1980, where he lettered four times in football and three times in track. He posted 205 career tackles and 16 interceptions, and played in two Rose Bowls as a Trojan.

Monday, April 14, 2008

John Elway

John Elway was inducted into the Ring of Fame in 1999. He is the only player that didn't have to wait 5 years after retiring to be named. The greatest player in team history. In my unbiased opinion, the greatest player in NFL history. Just ahead of Jim Brown. I will let the Broncos official bio of the man tell the story.

John Elway capped his brilliant career in 1998 by winning Most Valuable Player honors in Super Bowl XXXIII, leading the Denver Broncos to their second straight World Championship. He also posted the highest quarterback rating of his career in his final campaign, with a rating of 93.0. At the close of the 1998 season Elway ranked second among active NFL players for number of appearances with one team (234), trailing only the Oilers' Bruce Matthews (now 264), and retired having played in and started (231) more games in more seasons (16) than any player in Denver Broncos history. Elway, the NFL's all-time winningest starting quarterback (148-82-1; .643), was voted to a franchise-record nine Pro Bowl appearances (1986 season, '87, '89, '91, '93, '94, '96, '97 and '98), tied for the most ever by a quarterback (Marino, Moon), and as a starter six times ('87, '89, '93, '96, '97 and '98). He was the NFL's Most Valuable Player in 1987 and AFC Player of the Year in 1993, and was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week 15 times and AFC Offensive Player of the Month twice. Elway was named the Edge NFL Man of the Year for 1992, and was inducted in to the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame in 1999. He ranks second behind Miami's Dan Marino in most major NFL career passing categories, including passing yards (51,475), attempts (7,250), completions (4,123) and total offense (54,882). He also figures third in total touchdowns with 334 (300 passing/33 rushing/1 receiving); third in passing touchdowns with 300 (behind Marino and Fran Tarkenton) and leads all NFL quarterbacks in career rushing attempts (774), while figuring fourth in rushing yards (3,407). Elway is the only player in NFL history to pass for over 3,000 yards and rush for over 200 yards in the same season for seven straight years (1985-91). He generated 4,771 of the 5,806 points (82.2%) scored by the Broncos during his 16-year tenure with the club. Elway ranks No. 1 in NFL history in fourth-quarter, game-winning or game-saving drives with 47 (46-0-1 record), and had 36 career 300-yard passing games in the regular season, third among active quarterbacks at the time of his retirement (Marino, Warren Moon). He also caught three passes in regular season play for 61 yards, including a touchdown of 23 yards from Steve Sewell in 1986. In 1997 Elway broke his franchise record for consecutive passes without an interception, with the streak reaching 189 attempts. For his career, Elway had 19 games in which he completed 70% or more of his passes (min. 20 att.) and fashioned a 17-2 record in those games. He started 2,595 drives as a pro and was replaced just 10 times due to injury (.039%).
POSTSEASON: Elway played in a franchise-record 22 postseason games (including five Super Bowls), with 21 starts, and produced a 14-7 record (9-2 at home, 3-2 on the road and 2-3 at neutral sites). He is the only player ever to start in five Super Bowls, and has the NFL's all-time best record as a starting quarterback in Conference Championship Games, at 5-1. The others with four Super Bowl starts are Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw, Roger Staubach and Jim Kelly. Elway owns or shares 18 Broncos' postseason records, including most passing yards, most touchdown passes and total offense (combined rushing and passing yards). He completed 355 of 651 passes (54.5%) for 4,964 yards, 27 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. He also rushed 94 times for 461 yards (4.9 avg.) and six touchdowns and caught one pass for 23 yards in postseason play. Elway ranks second in NFL postseason history in passing yardage (trailing only Montana-5,772), third in completions (Montana-460, Marino-385) and pass attempts (Montana-734, Marino-687) and fourth in passing touchdowns (Montana-45, Marino-32 and Bradshaw-30). In Super Bowl games Elway ranks No. 1 in pass attempts (152), No. 3 in completions (76), No. 2 in passing yards (1,128) and tied for second in rushing TDs (4) with Franco Harris and Thurman Thomas (Emmitt Smith has 5). Six of Elway's NFL-record 47 fourth-quarter, game-winning or game-saving drives came in the postseason.
Super Bowl XXXIII: 56K 300K
Elway on his high school and college career: 56K 300K
Elway on the 2-minute drill: 56K 300K
Elway on comeback wins: 56K 300K
1998: Elway was selected to his ninth Pro Bowl (tying Dan Marino and Warren Moon for most by a QB) -- his sixth as a starter and his third straight selection -- while being inducted in the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame with the Class of 1999 after a season in which he played in 13 of the 16 games (12 starts) and showed that he still ranked among the NFL's most dangerous signal-callers, completing 210 of 356 passes (59.0) for 2,806 yards and 22 touchdowns with 10 interceptions. He was sacked 18 times (-135) and his longest completion was a 58-yd. toss to Rod Smith in Week 14 vs. Kansas City, 12/6). Elway also rushed 37 times for 94 yards (2.5) with a long of 16 (at Miami, 12/21) and one touchdown (vs. Dal., 9/13/98), and caught a 14-yd. pass from Smith (vs. Oak., 11/22). Elway ranked second in the AFC (5th NFL) in passer rating (93.0), first in average gain per attempt (7.88; 4th NFL), while also figuring third in completion pct. (11th NFL), fourth in TD passes (9th NFL) and sixth (12th NFL) in passing yards. He was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week and Miller Lite NFL Player of the Week for his 400-yard passing performance Dec. 6 vs. Kansas City, marking the 15th time in his career he has earned the AFC honor chosen by the NFL. Elway started all three playoff games and completed 45 of 86 passes (52.3%) for 691 yards and three touchdowns with one interception and a long of 80 yds. (TD), and was awarded the Pete Rozelle Trophy as Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl XXXIII, the only player ever to win such honors in his final game. Elway's performance, which lifted Denver to its second straight title, was his best performance in a league-record five Super Bowl starts. Setting a record by being the oldest quarterback to start a Super Bowl (38 years, 7 mos.), Elway completed 18 of 29 passes (.621) for 336 yards -- the fourth-highest total in Super Bowl history (third at the time) -- and a touchdown with one interception, en route to becoming the first No. 7 in the championship game's history -- and the oldest player -- to be named MVP. Elway cemented the honor by rushing for a 3-yd. touchdown in the 4th qtr. to give Denver a 31-6 lead, and made Elway the oldest player in Super Bowl history to score a touchdown, adding a year onto the record he set with his rushing TD in Super Bowl XXXII. Elway's passing touchdown was perhaps the play of the game, however, as he found Rod Smith deep down the middle of the field in the 2nd qtr. for an 80-yd. scoring play to put Denver on top 17-3. It tied for the second-longest play from scrimmage in Super Bowl history, and was the longest by a Bronco in a Super Bowl.
1997: Elway enjoyed yet another stellar season, quarterbacking the Broncos to the first World Championship in franchise history with a 31-24 win over Green Bay in Super Bowl XXXII. He was voted to his eighth Pro Bowl (fifth as a starter), and was named to the All-AFC team by Pro Football Weekly and Football News, and was named second-team All-Pro by College and Pro Football Newsweekly. Elway was also the recipient of the NFL Players Association's Mackey Award as the top quarterback in the AFC. For the year he completed 280 of his 502 pass attempts (55.8%) for 3,635 yards, 27 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. The 27 passing touchdowns set a new franchise record, and his 28 total touchdowns (one rushing) were the second-most of his career (30 in 1996). Elway also had 50 carries for 218 yards rushing (4.4 avg.) on the season, posted a quarterback rating of 87.5 (4th-best in the AFC, 7th in the NFL), and was 10th in the AFC in completion percentage. His third-down passer rating of 87.7 ranked 3rd in the AFC (5th NFL), as did his 27 touchdown passes (4th NFL). Elway helped Denver lead the NFL in total offense (second straight season) and in scoring offense for the 1997 season. He was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week for Week 10 (Nov. 2) when he moved into second place all-time in passing yardage and eclipsed 50,000 yards in total offense for his career in a win over Seattle. Elway would later be named AFC Offensive Player of the Month for November (92-149, 61.7%, 1,231 yards, 8 TDs, 0 INT) as the Broncos went 4-1, marking his second such award ever (October 1996). Elway started all four postseason games and engineered the Denver offense on its four-game run to the World Championship, completing 56 of 96 passes (58.3) for 726 yards and three touchdowns, with two interceptions. He was sacked six times (-44) and carried the ball nine times for 25 yards (2.8) with a long of 10 yards and one touchdown.
1996: John Elway put together one of the finest seasons of his phenomenal 14-year career in, being voted to his seventh Pro Bowl (third as a starter); named second-team All-Pro by AP, College & Pro Football Newsweekly and Football Digest and first-team All-AFC by UPI, Pro Football Weekly and Football News; voted second in the AP NFL Most Valuable Player balloting; voted AFC Player of the Year by the Touchdown Club of Columbus; AFC Offensive Player of the Year by the Kansas City 101 Club; Mackey Award winner for highest quarterback rating in the AFC and AFC MVP by the NFL Players Association. He started 15 of the 16 regular season games and completed 287 of 466 pass attempts (61.6) for 3,328 yards and 26 touchdowns with 14 interceptions, and also rushed 50 times for 249 yards (5.0) with a long of 22 and four touchdowns. His 26 touchdowns tied a career high and franchise record set in 1995. Elway led the AFC in quarterback rating (89.2; 4th NFL), was second in completion percentage (61.6; 5th NFL), third in touchdown passes (26; 4th NFL) and fifth in passing yardage (3,328; 7th NFL), completions (287; 8th NFL) and attempts (466; 9th NFL). His start at Seattle (9/8) marked the 192nd game he has played in his career, most by any player in Broncos franchise history, surpassing Tom Jackson who played in 191 games from 1973-86. In Denver's AFC Divisional Playoff loss to Jacksonville (1/4/97), Elway started and completed 25 of 38 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns with a long of 18. He also rushed five times for 30 yards with a long of 19.
1995: Elway started all 16 games, completing 316 of 542 passes (58.3%) for 3,970 yards, a then-career-best 26 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He threw for more than 300 yards on five occasions, also a career best. It was the 10th time in his 13-year NFL career that he had topped the 3,000-yard mark, joining him with Dan Marino (11) as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to accomplish that feat 10 or more times. He also rushed 40 times for 179 yards (4.5) and one touchdown, with a long of 15. He led the AFC (tied for 5th NFL) in passing yards, finished third (8th NFL) in completions and was third (8th NFL) in pass attempts. Meanwhile, his fourth-quarter passer rating of 95.2 ranked third in the AFC and fifth in the NFL.
1994: John Elway earned his sixth AFC Pro Bowl berth, though he missed two of the final three games (at Los Angeles and vs. New Orleans) due to a strained left knee. He finished the season second in the AFC and fourth in the NFL in passer rating with an 85.7, and third in the AFC in passing yards (3,490), attempts (494) and completions (307), with a 2.0 interception percentage. His 62.1 completion percentage was second in the AFC and sixth overall. Elway went over the 3,000-yard passing mark for the ninth time in his career, second only to Dan Marino's 10, and went over the 40,000-yard career total-offense mark. He rushed for 235 yards (second on the team and his ninth 200-yard season), giving him a season total offense figure of 3,725 in the 14 games he played.
1993: Elway was named AFC Most Valuable Player (NFL Players Association), AFC Offensive Player of the Year (UPI, and the Kansas City 101 Club) and AFC Player of the Year (Football News) in 1993. Elway performed at an MVP-pace all year, earning all-AFC (UPI, Football News) and second-team All-NFL (AP, College and Pro Football Newsweekly, and Football Digest), and he was the starting quarterback in the 1994 Pro Bowl (fifth Pro Bowl berth) after a regular season that saw him lead the AFC in all six major quarterback stats categories. Elway's 1993 stats and rankings included a 92.8 rating (first in the AFC, third in the NFL), 551 attempts (first in the entire NFL), 348 completions (first in the entire NFL), a 63.2 completion percentage (first in the AFC and third in the NFL), 25 TD passes (first in the AFC and second in the NFL), 4,030 yards (first in the AFC). Elway's 1.8 interception avoidance percentage was fourth in the AFC, but stands as the best in Denver history for any quarterback with more than 75 single-season attempts. In 1993 he set new personal and Denver records for total yards offensively (4,183), completions (348), passing yards (4,030), TD passes (25), and completion percentage (that 63.2 mark tied the figure set by Norris Weese in 1978). The 1993 season was Elway's first 4,000-yard campaign and his eighth 3,000-yard season. He also rushed for 153 yards. Elway was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week twice and was named by his teammates as Denver's offensive MVP.
1992: Elway completed 174 of 316 passes for 2,242 yards, with 10 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. He gained 94 yards and scored twice on 34 rushing attempts. He missed games 11 through 14 because of a bruised tendon in his right shoulder, suffered while running for a first down against the Giants (11/15). Elway earned two AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors for the year.
1991: Elway completed 242 of 351 passes for 3,253 yards, a total ranked sixth in the AFC and ninth in the NFL, as he was voted to his fourth career Pro Bowl berth. He threw 12 touchdown passes and tied a career low with just 12 interceptions. He had 36 pass completions of 20+ yards, nine of 40+, five of 50+, and four of 60+. Elway was third on the team with 258 yards rushing, and his six TDs led the team and set a new career single season high. He was bothered throughout the second half of the season by a shoulder problem that was corrected by arthroscopic surgery in the 1992 offseason. Elway started both of Denver's playoff contests, completing 30 of 54 passes (55.6%) for 378 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions. He also rushed 10 times for 49 yards (4.9). Elway completed 11 of 21 passes for 121 yards and an interception before leaving the AFC Championship Game in the fourth quarter with a thigh injury.
1990: Elway completed 294 of 502 passes in 1990 (a .586 completion percentage that stood as the highest over the first 10 years of his career) for 3,526 yards, 15 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions. He gained 258 yards on 50 rushing attempts and scored three touchdowns on the ground.
1989: Elway led Denver to its third AFC Championship in four years and earned his third career Pro Bowl invitation. He completed 223 of 416 passes for 3,051 yards, with 18 touchdowns and 18 interceptions, and he rushed for 244 yards on 48 carries, scoring three times. Elway started all three Denver playoff games, including Super Bowl XXIV vs. San Francisco, and completed 42 of 82 passes (51.2%) for 732 yards and four touchdowns with three interceptions, while also rushing for 91 yards on 16 carries (5.7) with a long of 32 and one touchdown.
1988: Elway threw for 3,309 yards and rushed for 234 yards despite being bothered for most of the season by several nagging injuries. He was voted by teammates as Denver's most valuable offensive player for the fourth straight year, sharing the award with running back Sammy Winder, following a campaign in which he completed 274 of 496 passes, with 17 touchdowns and 19 interceptions to earn his second straight Pro Bowl invitation.
1987: Elway was named the NFL's Most Valuable Player (AP) and the AFC's starting quarterback in the Pro Bowl after turning in a tremendous season in 1987, a year in which he became the first AFC signal-caller since Terry Bradshaw (1978-79) to lead his team to consecutive conference crowns. Elway was named All-NFL (The Sporting News, NEA, AP-second team) and All-AFC (UPI, Pro Football Weekly, The Football News), in addition to being tabbed as the AFC MVP (NFLPA), AFC Player of the Year (The Football News), AFC Offensive Player of the Year (UPI, Kansas City 101 Club), and Colorado Pro Athlete of the Year (Colorado Sports Hall of Fame), as well as earning his second Pro Bowl invitation. He was voted the Broncos' offensive MVP for a regular season performance in which he completed 224 of 410 passes for 3,198 yards, an average of 267 yards per game, with 19 TD passes. He led all AFC quarterbacks in rushing for the fourth straight season was second on the team with a career-high 304 yards, scoring four times. Elway started all three of Denver's playoff contests, including Super Bowl XXII vs. Washington, and completed 42 of 89 passes (47.2%) for 797 yards and six touchdowns with five interceptions, while also rushing 18 times for 76 yards (4.2) with a long of 21 and one touchdown. His 56-yard scoring strike to Ricky Nattiel on Denver's first play from scrimmage provided the earliest touchdown in Super Bowl history (elapsed time of 1:57).
1986: Elway led the Broncos to their first AFC Championship in nine seasons in 1986, while earning his first Pro Bowl berth. He was honored with the Seattle Gold Helmet Award (Professional Football Player of the Year) and received the King of the Hill award from the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame, in addition to being named honorable mention All-NFL (AP) and All-AFC (UPl-second team). Along with his 18 TD passes that year, Elway also scored on an 11-yard run and a 23-yard pass reception from Steve Sewell that is the longest TD catch by a full-time starting QB in NFL history. For the year he completed 280 of 504 passes (55.6%) for 3,485 yards and 19 touchdowns with 13 interceptions, while also rushing 52 times for 257 yards (4.9) with a long of 24 and one touchdown. In the postseason he added 805 more yards on 57 of 107 passing efficiency (53.3%), with three touchdowns and four interceptions, while rushing 15 times for 101 yards (6.7) with a long of 34 and two touchdowns. Elway directed one of the greatest drives in NFL postseason history in pacing Denver to a 23-20 overtime win over Cleveland for the AFC title. He completed 22 of 38 passes for 244 yards and a TD, that coming on a five-yard strike to Mark Jackson that capped a 15-play, 98-yard drive that tied the game at the end of regulation. In overtime Elway drove the team 60 yards in nine plays to the winning field goal.
1985: Elway took some spectacular steps forward in 1985, as he re-wrote the Denver record book. Elway set Broncos single season records for attempts (605, which led the NFL and fell just four passes short of the NFL record of 609 held by Dan Fouts), completions (327, second in the NFL), passing yards (3,891, second in the NFL), total rushing and passing plays (656, first in the NFL), and total offense (4,414, also first in the league).
1984: Elway led the Broncos to a 12-2 record in his 14 regular season starts in 1984. He completed 214 of 380 passes for 2,598 yards, with 18 TDs and 15 interceptions. Not only was his passing a factor in his leadership of the offense, but he finished third on the team in rushing with 237 yards.
1983: Elway started 10 games in 1983, including the first five before being replaced by Steve DeBerg, and five more after DeBerg was injured. While Elway did not have impressive stats as a rookie, finishing 17th among AFC passers, he carried a tremendous emotional burden, having come to the NFL as the most publicized college prospect since Joe Namath in 1965. Elway was the first player chosen in the 1983 draft and joined the Broncos by trade with Baltimore on May 2. The Broncos, in return, gave the Colts quarterback Mark Herrmann, the rights to OL Chris Hinton and a first-round pick in the 1984 Draft (G Ron Solt). He was also chosen by the Oakland Invaders in the 1983 USFL territorial draft

Friday, April 11, 2008

Louis Wright

Louis Wright wore #20 as a cornerback for the Broncos for 12 years. A five time Pro Bowler, he is right up there with Billy Thompson and Goose Gonsoulin as the best defensive back in team history (Champ Bailey may have something to say about that, but it's too early for him).

Wright enjoyed a stellar career at cornerback for Denver, playing in 166 games (163 starts, seventh on all-time Broncos list), reeling in 26 interceptions -- one of which he returned for a touchdown -- and 11 fumble recoveries. Wright was named to the Pro Bowl five times in his career (1977-79, '83 and '85). He was named All-NFL by The Sporting News and Pro Football Weekly and the NEA in 1977. He also received All-AFC honors from UPI in 1985. Wright also was named Most Valuable Defensive Player by his teammates on two different occasions. Wright played collegiately at San Jose State, where he lettered twice as a defensive back. He also won two letters in track and once ran the 100 in 9.6 seconds.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Tom Jackson

Tom Jackson was inducted into the Ring of Fame in 1992. #57 played linebacker for the Broncos for 14 years; from 1973-1986. He is one of the most popular players in the team's history. Now he works for ESPN.

"TJ" was always one of the most popular players among his teammates, who voted him most inspirational player six consecutive seasons (1981-86). He finished his career having played the most games in Broncos history at 191 and still ranks second on that list behind John Elway. He is also tied for third in games started at 177. Jackson is one of only three Broncos to wear the Denver uniform for 14 seasons, joining Dennis Smith (14) and John Elway (16). He made three consecutive Pro Bowl appearances from 1977-79 and was named first team All-Pro twice (1977-78). He was also named by his teammates as Denver’s defensive MVP in 1974, '76, and '77. Upon his retirement in 1986, Jackson was tied for first with fellow Ring of Famer Randy Gradishar for the most interceptions in Broncos history by a linebacker with 20, and was fifth on the all-time sack list with 44. Jackson was also a standout performer at Louisville, where he was the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year twice -- as a sophomore in 1970 and as a senior in 1972.
Now: Jackson currently is a reporter for ESPN, and co-hosts the award-winning "NFL Countdown" and "NFL PrimeTime" shows every Sunday during the NFL season, as well as occasional appearances on "Monday Night Countdown."