As soon as Shannon Sharpe puts on the distinctive gold jacket and rubs his newly unveiled bronze bust, the Denver Broncos will officially have four members from the franchise enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The former tight end and current CBS Sports commentator will join quarterback John Elway, running back Floyd Little, and offensive lineman Gary Zimmerman as past members of the Broncos who have made it into the Hall of Fame. All of these men are quality representatives for the Broncos, but when you compare the amount of members from Denver in the Hall of Fame to the amount of members other teams have, it seems the historic franchise from the Mile High City should have a higher quantity of members in Canton.
The Chicago Bears have 27 members in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The Green Bay Packers have 21. Several other teams have more than ten. To have only four members represent the Denver Broncos in the Hall is pretty lopsided. Add to that the fact that it took 41 classes of inductees before the first Broncos player in Elway was enshrined, it makes it almost insulting. Granted, the Broncos’ history books aren’t packed with a lot of big name coaches or superstar players that are household names, but they still have men that are deserving of at least being considered for the Hall of Fame. Case in point…
Steve Atwater – The All-American safety out of Arkansas was drafted by the Broncos in 1989 with the 20th overall selection in the NFL Draft. In his rookie season, Atwater led the team in tackles with 129 and finished second in the Defensive Rookie of the Year voting. In his ten year career as a Bronco, Atwater was elected to eight Pro Bowls and was a two-time Super Bowl champion. He is a member of the NFL 1990s All-Decade Team and was enshrined into the Broncos Ring of Fame in 2005. And who can forget those hard hits? If anyone does, Christian Okoye will remind you.
Unfortunately for Atwater, he played from the safety spot, which is a position that doesn’t boast many members in the Hall of Fame. In addition, most of the players that have made it into the Hall from that spot have 40 or more career interceptions, while Atwater only has 24. Add to that the fact that tackles were not officially counted as statistics for several years is just another hindrance to Atwater’s chances of making it in. Nonetheless, Steve Atwater should be in the Hall of Fame.
Terrell Davis – The Georgia running back was drafted by the Broncos in the sixth round with the 196th overall pick of the 1995 NFL Draft. After narrowly escaping being cut from the team his rookie year, Davis went on to have an illustrious career, which included three Pro Bowl selections and two Super Bowl championships. He became the third player in NFL history to rush for over 2,000 yards in a season and was named the league’s Most Valuable Player in 1998. He is a member of the NFL 1990s All-Decade Team and was enshrined into the Broncos Ring of Fame in 2007.
Although Davis was named a semi-finalist for the Hall of Fame in 2007-2010, he has yet to make the cut for the finalist list. It doesn’t help his chances that he played a shortened career (seven years) due to injuries, but it shouldn’t be the deciding factor. He may not have been in the league as long as others, but look at what he did in that short amount of time. Terrell Davis should be in the Hall of Fame.
Randy Gradishar – The Denver Broncos drafted the All-American linebacker out of Ohio State with the 14th overall pick of the 1974 NFL Draft. He earned All-Rookie honors his first season and would go on to help lead the “Orange Crush” defense to their first AFC Championship. In his ten year career with the Broncos, Gradishar was elected to seven Pro Bowls and was named the 1978 Defensive Player of the Year. He is a member of the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame and was enshrined into the Broncos Ring of Fame in 1989.
Gradishar has come close to making it into the Hall of Fame. He was a semi-finalist from 2004 to 2007 and was a finalist in 2003 and 2008. However, the fact that he has not been on the list the last couple of years is troubling. It’s been argued that Gradishar should have been the first Bronco elected into the hall, before John Elway. He will more than likely make it into the Hall of Fame eventually, but much like Floyd Little in 2010, Gradishar may have to rely on the “old-fogie” vote to get in. Randy Gradishar should have been in the Hall of Fame a long time ago.
It can be said that additional Broncos greats like Karl Mecklenburg, Louis Wright, Rod Smith, Tom Nalen, Jason Elam and others should be considered for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but the three men listed above are arguably more deserving than any other former player in the franchise’s history based on stats, accomplishments, and their overall contribution to the team. This is just a small article that shows only a tiny bit of what makes up those players and their accolades. Each player has many awards to boast of, but there should be one more honor bestowed upon these men. The members of the Board of Selectors should forgive any possible longstanding grudges toward players and do away with what is perceived to be an East Coast bias. We are appreciative of the players who are and who will soon be enshrined, but the Broncos deserve to have more members in the Hall, if not for any other reason besides the fact that they have earned it. The fans of the Denver Broncos don’t have a say in who is elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but maybe, just maybe, someone will read this that does.
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