Welcome to “Remembering the Broncos”. In this series, we’ll go back in time and spotlight former players in Denver Broncos history who may not have been Hall of Famers but who were perhaps underrated and more than left their mark in the Bronco canon.
You have to go back a long ways to remember watching Sammy Winder play for the Broncos in person. I happen to be old enough to have such memories.
Other than Floyd Little, many fans believe that Sammy Winder is the best running back to ever play for the Orange and Blue pre-Mike Shanahan.
Winder came to the Broncos via the 5th round of the 1982 NFL Draft out of Southern Miss. When you look at Winder’s stats on paper, only one season really jumps out as being prolific.
1984. Winder carried the ball 296 times, for 1,153 yards and 4 TDs. He also caught 44 balls, for 288 yards and 2 TDs. That’s almost 1,500 yards of total offense. It was enough to earn Winder is first trip to the Pro Bowl.
That year was John Elway’s 2nd in the NFL. He started 14 games and led the Broncos to a 13-3 record and a Division title.
Elway and Winder accounted for the vast majority of the Broncos’ offensive production that year. Unfortunately, the Broncos lost in the Divisional Round to the Pittsburgh Steelers and what was a remarkable season came to a crushingly disappointing end.
But two young stars came alive that year and went on to be the cornerstones of the Broncos’ domination of the AFC in the late 1980s.
Winder made it to his 2nd career Pro Bowl in 1986. That year, he rushed for 789 yards and 9 TDs, with 26 receptions, 171 receiving yards and 5 TDs. He was a major contributor to the Broncos becoming the AFC champs, only to be dismantled in the 1st of three epic Super Bowl beatdowns in the ’80s.
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Over the course of Winder’s 9 seasons as a Bronco, he rushed for 5,427 yards, and 39 TDs. What set him apart in his day and age, was the fact that he was a bona fide dual threat RB. He could gash the opposition on the ground and he had very soft hands and could make big plays down the field in the passing game. His career receiving stats of 197 receptions, 1,302 yards and 9 TDs, are a testament to that.
Winder’s single-season stats don’t measure up all that well to some of the Broncos’ modern day backs like Terrell Davis, Mike Anderson, Clinton Portis, Olandis Gary, Knowshon Moreno and Reuben Droughns, but for his day and age, playing in a power-running scheme in the ’80s, he more than earned his place at the table of the team’s all-time greats.
If you’re old enough to remember Sammy Winder, hit us in the comments!