If you were to put together a Mount Rushmore of the best current professional Denver athletes, who would you pick? Certainly there are a few players who are the toast of the town in their respective sports. Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki, and Todd Helton make up a solid trio of beloved Rockies on the baseball diamond. Matt Duchene made the NHL All-Star game this season and is one of the brightest young stars in the sport. On the basketball court we have Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups Birdman. The Broncos have a handful of players who are fan favorites and sell jerseys around the region, but there is one player in particular who holds a special place in the fan’s hearts.
Champ Bailey would not only be on the Mount Rushmore of Denver athletes, he would be the George Washington of the group. Bailey has been one of the best players in the NFL since he was drafted in the 1st round of the 1999 draft by the Washington Redskins. The University of Georgia product was traded to the Denver Broncos for Clinton Portis prior to the 2004 season. In 181 games played, he has intercepted 48 passes and forced 6 fumbles. Bailey has made the Pro Bowl 10 times in 12 seasons, and he has been named a 1st or 2nd team All-Pro 6 times. He has been known as one of the best cornerbacks in the game for the better part of the last decade. Bailey will eventually retire as one of the best cornerbacks in league history, and he is absolutely a lock to wear the Broncos colors in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Earlier this week, Bailey signed a 4-year contract worth $43 million with the Denver Broncos. This was great news for weary Broncos fans who have suffered through some tough times lately. With the likes of Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall (Not to mention Carmelo Anthony) asking to be traded away over the past few years, it is refreshing to see a player stick with an organization and a fan base who has invested so much in him.
What sets Bailey apart is not only his success on the field and his involvement in the community, but also the way he carries himself and represents the Broncos. He has been with the Broncos through the firing of 2 head coaches and has seen a new defensive coordinator almost every season since he’s arrived. He hasn’t experienced a winning season since 2006 or played in a playoff game since 2005. But through all of that, he never complained publicly. He never embarrassed himself by throwing a fit in practice like Marshall. He never got his feelings hurt and asked to be traded like Cutler. Instead, he took the high road and supported the organization. He let it be known that he wanted things at Dove Valley to stabilize, but everyone wanted that. He wanted to be a part of the group that turns things around for this organization. When the Broncos finally put together a decent offer for Bailey, he stepped up, signed it, and sent a message to the rest of the organization that it’s time to get to work.
This is a major victory for John Fox and John Elway, and it allows the Broncos faithful to breathe easy for a while. In their short time at the helm, they already have produced more good feelings amongst the fans than Josh McDaniels could manage in almost 2 years. But this wasn’t just a public relations move. The task of revamping the defense would be much harder if they couldn’t have managed to retain Bailey. If Champ would have left via free agency, it would have left a gaping hole in an already aging secondary. Now the Broncos can focus on upgrading the rest of the defense during the draft knowing they have a Pro Bowl anchor already in place.