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The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / Pro Football / Denver Broncos That Belong in the Hall of Fame

Denver Broncos That Belong in the Hall of Fame

The greatest to don orange and blue
Publish Date: 03/30/2022
Fact checked by: Simon Briffa
DENVER, CO - CIRCA 1985: Linebacker Karl Mecklenberg #77 of the Denver Broncos in action during an NFL football game circa 1985 at Mile High Stadium in Denver, Colorado. Mecklenberg played for the Broncos from 1983-94. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

The Denver Broncos have a long list of players that at least deserve to have an argument made for their induction, so here are my top 10 Broncos that deserve consideration, in no particular order. The Broncos are now one of the favorites to go to the Super Bowl and if you want to get the best odds on a future bet on the Broncos going to the Super Bowl check out the best bookmakers to make your bet.

Rich “Tombstone” Jackson

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One of the most feared defensive ends of his generation, Jackson is another Bronco that had his career cut short by a knee injury.  Jackson will have to get in via the seniors committee,  it will take years for him to get his due. Jackson was famous for moves such as the “head slap” and the “halo spinner” which he used to subdue opposing offensive linemen. In the late Lyle Alzado’s book “Mile High” he recalled Rich Jackson as the toughest man he’d ever met and told the story of Jackson breaking the helmet of Green Bay Packer offensive tackle, Bill Hayhoe, with a head slap. He had 10 sacks in both 1968 and 1970 and posted a career-high total of 11 in 1969. He was named 1st Team All-AFL by the AP, Pro Football Weekly and UPI at the conclusion of the 1968 season and by the AP, NEA, NY Daily News, Pro Football Weekly, The Sporting News and UPI at the end of the 1969 season. He was also a unanimous 1st Team All-NFL choice in 1970.

Jackson’s career was cut short by a severe knee injury midway through the 1971 season. He finished with an unofficial total of 43 sacks, 31 of which came during the three-season period of 1968-1970. Despite the shortened career, Sports Illustrated’s football expert, Paul Zimmerman, said that Tombstone Jackson was perhaps the finest overall defensive end and pass rusher he ever saw, a surefire Hall of Famer if he would have had a longer playing career, in a bigger media market. As it was Jackson will be remembered as a great one, only by a handful of football insiders, including those who lined up with and against him.

Tom Nalen

The glue of an offensive line that lead six different backs to 1,000 yard rushing seasons and two Super Bowl wins, Nalen was a five-time Pro Bowler that was the best at his position.  “Silent treatment” of the media, though, will not help him with the selectors where most more personable, and flashy players seem to get more attention. It is a shame that the NFL has become a popularity contest, keeping qualified players out and letting guys like Marv Levy and Tony Dungy in because they personally like them.

Randy Gradishar

The main cog of the Orange Crush defense, Grandishar was one of the best middle linebackers in history against the run and should already be in the Hall.    If Harry Carson is in the Hall, Grandishar should be a slam dunk. Check out the best new sportsbooks!

Lionel Taylor

Taylor first played eight games as a linebacker with the Chicago Bears of the National Football League(NFL) before moving to the Denver Broncos of the AFL for the 1960 season. With the Broncos, he switched positions and became a receiver. Third in all-time receptions (543) and receiving yards (6,872) for the Denver Broncos, Taylor was the Broncos’ team MVP in 1963, 1964 and 1965, and an AFL All-Star in 1960, 1961, 1962 and 1965. An original Bronco, Taylor was part of the team’s inaugural class of Ring of Famers in 1984.

Taylor was the first professional football receiver ever to make 100 catches in a single season, accomplishing the feat in only 14 games (1961). He had four seasons with over 1,000 yards receiving, and averaged 84.7 catches per year from 1960 to 1965, then the highest six-year total in professional football history. Taylor completed his career with the Houston Oilers in 1967 and 1968, his stats blow Lynn Swann out of the water!

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Dennis Smith

Smith established himself as one of the most feared and hardest-hitting safeties in the NFL (a reputation later held by his protégé, Steve Atwater). Smith was voted to play in six Pro Bowls (following the 1985–1986, 1989–1991 and 1993 seasons), was named All-American Football Conference (AFC) in 1984 and 1988.. He played on three Broncos Super Bowl teams (XXI, XXII, XXIV), and was named All-Pro four times.

Smith’s career totals include 1,171 tackles, 30 interceptions and 15 sacks. He posted a career-high five interceptions in 1991. He ranks fourth all-time among Denver Broncos in games played with the franchise. with 184.

Smith was named the Denver Broncos’ most inspirational player in 1992. He was inducted into the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame in 2001 and the Colorado Hall of Fame in 2006.

 

Karl Mecklenberg

Lack of success in the SBs where the Broncos defenses were abused badly will keep Mecklenberg from consideration, but he was one of the best “hybrid” DE/LBs and a pioneer for a position that players like Pittsburgh’s James Harrison and Denver’s own Elvis Dummervil make an integral part of defenses today.

Simon Fletcher

Another hybrid LB/DE excelled, and he averaged almost nine sacks a season for 11 years.  Three Super Bowl losses in blow-outs make him an afterthought instead of getting the recognition he deserves.

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