Dec 12, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; General view of pillars of former Denver Broncos players at the Ring of Fame at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
When people talk about the franchises that honor their past, one is always absent.
Is it a surprise it is the Denver Broncos?
It is when it happens in the Mile High City.
That was the case this summer when a lunchtime radio show was discussing the topic. In particular, the three hosts were talking about the Pittsburgh Steelers and how they are unmatched in the NFL in how they pay respect to their history. They went on and on. This is a site for the Broncos, so you know our allegiance is caked in orange.
But short of the New Yankees with Monument Park, no one in professional sports does it like Denver. If you haven’t taken the time to walk by the Broncos’ version of Monument Park on the south side of Mile High, you need to. Each member of the Ring of Fame has a bronze bust with a plaque to commemorate that player.
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From John Elway and Randy Gradishar to Shannon Sharpe and Floyd Little, the legends and icons are immortalized there. Three more get inducted into the Ring of Fame Sunday (Sept. 14) against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Broncos unveiled the new plaques for Gene Mingo, Rich Upchurch and Dan Reeves on Friday.
It’s a special place known as Memorial Plaza. It shows how serious owner Pat Bowlen takes honoring the past of this great franchise. He will go to any expense to do so. Don’t take my word for it.
“Broncos Ring of Fame Plaza is matched only by Monument Park in Yankee Stadium, truly,” longtime press guru for the Broncos Jim Saccomano said on Twitter earlier this summer. “Mr. B fist class once again.”
Bronze artist Brian Hanlon of New Jersey is noted in his field as one of the best. He’s the official bronze artist of the Basketball Hall of Fame, and he did the first 24 Ring of Fame bronzes. Hanlon did the busts for Mingo, Upchurch and Reeves. He also did the one for Saccomano that is in the press box.
Aug 20, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; General view of the historical monument pillars of former Denver Broncos players at the Ring of Fame plaza at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. From left: Dennis Smith (49), Karl Mecklenberg (77), John Elway (7) and Louis Wright (20). Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
That’s just the start of how the Broncos honor their past.
Dove Valley has an open door policy for former players. The players are encouraged to make appearances. On Saturday after the walkthrough, Hall of Fame left tackle Gary Zimmerman spoke to the team.
If you walk around the complex, you see a mix of current and old photos on the walls. When the remodel of Dove Valley is complete, on display will be the two Lombardi Trophies and seven AFC championship trophies.
Yet no mention of that on a local radio station by three guys who know better. One of them did Broncos games in the past.
Denver is and always will be the nation’s stepchild when it comes to the NFL. How else can you explain the hapless Minnesota Vikings with 12, and soon to be 13, Hall of Famers and the Broncos with four?
When it happens in Denver, that’s beyond the pale. To rave on and on and on and on about the Steelers is enough to make one sick.
Yes, mention Pittsburgh. Mention the Green Bay Packers. Talk about the New York Giants, Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers and whoever else.
Just realize that not one team in the NFL honors its past and does it as well as the Broncos.
Aug 20, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; General view of the historical monument pillars of former Denver Broncos players at the Ring of Fame plaza at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. From left: Tom Nalen (66), Rod Smith (80), Shannon Sharpe (84), Terrell Davis (30), Steve Atwater (27), Gary Zimmerman (65), Dennis Smith (49), Karl Mecklenberg (77), John Elway (7), Louis Wright (20), Tom Jackson (57) and Randy Gradishar (53). Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports