Announced on Thursday night at the annual NFL Honors awards ceremony, former Denver Broncos linebacker Randy Gradishar was chosen as part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2024.
For most in Broncos Country, only one word comes to mind... finally.
Gradishar, a first-round pick of the Broncos in 1974, spent his entire 10-year career in the Mile High City. But his playing career ended 40 years ago, so the wait to get to where he always rightfully belonged has been tough for him and many of his fans.
But as the old saying goes, it's better late than never.
Gradishar was truly one of the best linebackers of his era, racking up an astounding 2,049 tackles, 19. 5 sacks and 20 interceptions. He was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1978 and he was selected to seven Pro Bowls.
Of course, what he is best remembered for is his time within the Orange Crush defense, a unit that included Tom Jackson, Lyle Alzado, Louis Wright and Steve Foley, among others. But it was Gradishar who was the anchor.
The fact that no one from that great defensive group is in the Hall of Fame has long been a very real complaint from Broncos Country but now, that can finally be put to bed.
The rest of this year's class looks like this:
Dwight Freeney, DE, Indianapolis Colts
Andre Johnson, WR, Houston Texans
Patrick Willis, LB, San Francisco 49ers
Steve "Mongo" McMichael, DL, Chicago Bears
Devin Hester, WR/KR, Chicago Bears
Julius Peppers, DE, Carolina Panthers
It's hard to quantify what Gradishar meant to the game and how good of a player he was because so much time has passed and the game has changed so much. But from 1974-1983, if you called him the best linebacker in the NFL, you had a very legitimate case of being correct.
For what a team needed from a middle linebacker in that era, there was no weakness in Gradishar's game. He didn't even come close to having a weakness. He was a sure tackler, one who could drop back and cover tight ends and running backs in the passing game and he was exactly what you wanted from a leader both on and off the field.
This has been a painfully long time coming and it has rarely felt better to say this than right now. Congratulations to Mr. Gradishar on being forever enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.