On Thursday, team owner Pat Bowlen and the Denver Broncos announced that retired receiver Rod Smith would be added to the elite group of players enshrined on the team’s Ring of Fame.
Perhaps the Broncos should have allowed Smith to wear a yellow safety vest and bring a metal lunch pail and Thermos full of black coffee to Dove Valley when he was signed as a college free agent out of Missouri Southern State University. His effort on the field was that much of a craft, that much of a workman-like performance.
Players who go undrafted aren’t supposed to go to three Pro Bowls. They aren’t supposed to lead a franchise in total receptions (898), receiving yards (12,249), and touchdown catches (74). Undrafted players certainly aren’t supposed to be mentioned with greats like Reggie Wayne, Art Monk, and Michael Irvin. Some, like Smith, just have to earn that right.
That’s when he set the standard, when he provided the reality check, when he showed all those younger players what it took. And he did it day in and day out — spring, summer, fall and winter. When he finally added it up last year, he had sweated his way through 600-plus offseason workouts without missing a single session.
Smith burst onto the scene in the Broncos’ Super Bowl winning season posting his first of eight 1,000 yard seasons. Teamed with fellow wideout Ed McCaffrey, running back Terrell Davis, and an exceptional offensive line, John Elway had all the tools he would need to guide the team to back-to-back championships.
He was a favorite deep-threat for Broncos quarterbacks from Elway to Brian Griese to Jake Plummer, having 140 of his catches going for 20 or more yards. Fans will no doubt distinctly remember his 80-yard catch during Super Bowl XXXIII, the 85-yard catch-and-run from Plummer in a driving snow, and perhaps even his forced fumble on a Julius Peppers interception after he ran down Peppers after a 100-yard chase. That play more than any other described his unselfish style of play.
And the reason is I knew those other 10 guys had more to do with (the success) than I did. I was just the end result.
As if Broncos fans needed another reason to attend an early fall game in Denver, Smith will be officially added to the team’s Ring of Fame at halftime on September 23 versus the Houston Texans.
Any person who thinks they are entitled, whether football player or business man, mechanic or cubicle dweller, will forever be able to look below the fifth level at Sports Authority Field at Mile High to the name of a person who truly earned his success: Rod Smith.