While most of us were enjoying our weekend, ex-Bronco linebacker Randy Gradishar was hopefully celebrating his 60th birthday (March 3, 1952)! Happy belated birthday Randy from Broncos fans everywhere! To celebrate Randy’s six decades of life, below is a brief look back at his football career.
Before attending Ohio State to play football, Gradishar earned letters three years in a row in both football and basketball at Champion High School in Champion, Ohio. Additional football highlights from high school include All-League honors, All-County honors, and the Star Helmet award. In addition to the gridiron, Randy excelled on the hardwood too. In basketball he was the leading rebounder for three years and the second leading scorer for two years, receiving All-League and All-County honors. Randy holds the high school records for most blocked shots (44), single game rebounds (26), and most career rebounds (817). Randy was inducted into the Champion High School Hall of Fame for Athletics in 2004.
From 1971-1973 Randy was a starting linebacker for the Ohio State Buckeyes. During this three year stint the Buckeyes were 25-6-1 and earned two Big Ten championships. During Randy’s senior year he lead the team with 134 tackles; 60, of which, were solo. His last season as a Buckeye also included a unanimous first-team selection and a sixth place finish in voting for the Heisman Trophy. In 1983 Gradishar was inducted into the Ohio State Varsity O Hall of Fame. The College Football Hall of Fame received another member in 1998 when Gradishar added this accomplishment to his resume. Gradishar’s legacy at Ohio State is evident in the fact that the most outstanding linebacker at OSU receives the Randy Gradishar Award at the end of each season.
Football turned into a profession for Gradishar when the Denver Broncos drafted him in the fourteenth round of the 1974 NFL Draft. Gradishar went on to play for the Broncos for ten seasons. During Gradishar’s career in Denver, he was a member of the famous Orange Crush defense that lead the Broncos to their first conference championship and Super Bowl. Gradishar earned a number of league honors as a professional linebacker – 1978 Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year, UPI Defensive of the Year, NEA Defensive MVP, and Football Digests Linebacker of the Year (1978 & 1979). Gradishar was named the Broncos MVP following the 1980 season – his second time to receive this award in three years. Gradishar ended his Bronco career in 1983 by being named to his seventh Pro-Bowl. Gradishar’s final statistics as a pro include 2,049 tackles, twenty interceptions for 335 yards and three touchdowns, thirteen fumble recoveries for 72 yards and one touchdown, and twenty quarterback sacks.
Gradishar, despite not being inducted to the NFL Hall of Fame, has been enshrined in the Broncos Ring of Fame (1989) and the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame (1987). Given Gradishar’s long list of accomplishments at the pro level, combined with the recognition that Bronco players are getting these days with regards to the Hall of Fame, let’s hope that one day we will get to see #53 on the stage at Canton. Until that day comes, Bronco fans can look back on his career and know that he was one of the initial players that helped kick start Broncomania.
Happy belated birthday Randy Gradishar – may you have many, many more!