If history has a way of repeating itself, then Broncos’ Country is in for a real treat.
From 1995 to 2007, the Broncos had one mainstay on their offensive line: Tom Nalen. While we can’t quantify Nalen’s contribution based on personal stats, Mike Klis of the Denver Post puts his presence into perspective.
Davis once rushed for 2,008 yards in a season, but the first time he went down, some guy named Olandis Gary went for 1,159.
Then Gary suffered an injury and a 27 year-old rookie named Mike Anderson went from former Marine to 1,487-yard rusher with 15 touchdowns in 2000.
Clinton Portis was drafted, and through his first two years he looked like the NFL’s next great running back, rushing for an astounding 3,099 yards on 5.5 yards per carry, and 29 touchdowns. Then Portis went to Washington and while he still was good, he was far from great at 4.1 yards per carry over his next seven seasons.
A journeyman named Reuben Droughns and future cellphone salesman named Tatum Bell also enjoyed 1,000-yard seasons while running behind a Nalen-based offensive line.
More proof of Nalen’s value? When he suffered a season-ending torn biceps injury five games into 2007, the 1,000-yard Broncos rusher disappeared that season. In 2008, when Nalen didn’t play at all because of a bum knee, no Broncos running back gained so many as 400 yards. – Mike Klis (Denver Post)
Nalen played 14 seasons for the Broncos. He played in the third-most regular season games (194) in team history, and his 188 starts are second only to John Elway.
Nalen will be inducted into the Broncos’ Ring of Fame on September 29 at halftime when the Broncos host the Philadelphia Eagles.
Nalen spoke to the media on Thursday where he was rather candid with his statements.
“I’m pretty sure—I’m hoping—that there won’t be 76,000 fans there,” Nalen said of whether he’s looking forward to being in front of all the fans at halftime. “Hopefully they’ll be getting a beer when I’m speaking for 12 seconds or so. I’m not looking forward to that at all, no. I think I’ll put my helmet on and feel much more comfortable.”
Public speaking fears aside, Nalen provided more gems from his presser.
On whether he thought his Ring of Fame induction would happen
I didn’t. I think some teammates at the end of my career felt like it would because they all said that they can’t wait to hear my speech. I made lots of promises. I said, ‘You can introduce me.’ I said that to a lot of guys.
On how he played for the Broncos for so long
I was fortunate enough my rookie year, Wade Phillips was the coach and after he got fired, Mike Shanahan got hired. Between Mike and Alex Gibbs, two guys—Mike stayed here the remainder of my career. And Alex Gibbs was here and didn’t mind the fact that I was 280 pounds. I know a lot of teams—you look at Dallas at that time—I wouldn’t have been able to play for that team. I fit the ideology of the coaching staff.
On having most of his success early in his career
We’d end up losing every season after that. And it [stinks]. And I didn’t realize that when I was young—how good I had it. I think it was my fourth and fifth year, we won the Super Bowl. And I spent the next 10 years chasing that. It [stunk]. Two-thousand-and-five was just as painful as 1996 losing, because I had that taste of winning, and we were so close, and just picked a bad day for the whole team to have a bad day.
On the most he every weighed while playing
During the season? [It was] 285. I was 296 pounds at one point in my life. I tried to get to 300. Couldn’t do it.
On the difference between being dirty and being tough
Probably penalties. If you get called for it, right? No, I played clean football. I wasn’t a cut blocker. I wasn’t like those other four guys next to me. Those were the dirty ones.
His opinion of Denver as a sports town now that he’s a radio host rather than a player
It’s the same. It’s a Bronco town, and you cannot talk enough Broncos. Despite not much to talk about, you’ll take any morsel of information and create a half-hour segment out of it. It’s crazy. It’s Broncos, Broncos, Broncos, and a little Nuggets, a little bit of Rockies and just a scooch of Avs talk.
On his relationship with Elway as a player
I was intimidated by John—and not in any part on his part, but kind of the way I’m wired, he was intimidating to me. Even his last year in ‘98 was my fifth year, and I still couldn’t get the strength to go up and ask the guy for an autograph. I was that intimidated. And it wasn’t an autograph for me, I wouldn’t do that, although I should have, because I could have sold that stuff. He was just an intimidating guy. On the field, it wasn’t like that, it was just another guy.
On NFL coaching opportunities
You know, I talked to John [Elway] a couple years ago and he said he was going to put me on a list, but I guess that list must be pretty long. But, I would like to coach football. It is in my blood, it is what I like to do and it is where I am most comfortable.
On how long it took him to get used to not being a player anymore
It was immediate. My last year, 2008, I tried, ‘Greek’ (Head Athletic Trainer Steve Antonopulos) and I tried to do everything we could to get me back on the field throughout training camp. Three weeks into the season they finally put me on IR. Once I went on IR, I was a free agent after the year. The doctors had told me my knee’s not going to get better. So I started losing weight. I was still rehabbing. I was doing cannonballs in the pool in there. By November, Greek’s like, ‘Dude, you don’t even need to come anymore.’ And I was like, ‘Sweet!’ I was done. I was old. I was 37 years old. [LB] D.J. Williams was 22 years old. He was closer in age to my daughter than he was to me, which is scary. But I was ready to retire. I was done.
On the Broncos’ current offensive line
I really don’t have a relationship with the team, but I’ve been out with players. I like the guys they have. They remind me of the lines that we had when we were successful. Kind of a blend of guys, a hodgepodge of different-type draft picks.