NOSE TACKLE : Rubin Carter
Rubin was drafted in the 5th round by the Broncos in 1975. The Broncos were using the 4-3 defense then, and Rubin started 8 games at DT his rookie year. The Broncos started to switch over to the 3-4 defense the next year, and Rubin would start at Nose Tackle until 1986. As a key member of the famous "Orange Crush" defense, his specialty was controlling the line of scrimmage, and stopping the run. In 1979, he scored the only touchdown of his career off of a fumble recovery. Rubin started just 2 of the 5 games he played in 1986, then retired. Though he was never named to the Pro Bowl, Rubin Carter was one of the best Nose Tackles in the NFL during his time. He probably is the best the Broncos ever had. Greg Kragen deserves mention as well.
DEFENSIVE TACKLE : Bud McFadin
Bud was the Los Angelos Rams 1st round draft pick in 1951. He did not actually play for the Rams until 1953, when he appeared in 7 games. He was starting the next year, and made the Pro Bowl in 1955 and 1956. He even kicked 2 field goals on 9 attempts for the Rams. Bud was then out of football until 1960, when he joined the expansion Broncos in the AFL. In his 4 years with the Broncos, Bud was named to the AFL All Star Team each year. He also was named to The Sporting News All Star Team in his first 3 years. Then Bud joined the Houston Oilers in 1964 and retired after the 1965 season. Paul Smith, a Broncos Ring Of Honor member, Dave Costa, and Trevor Price all deserve mention. Bud McFadin has appeared in more Pro Bowls than any other Defensive Tackle in Broncos history, and is one of their best ever.
DEFENSIVE END : Rulon Jones
Rulon was drafted in the 2nd round of the 1980 draft by the Broncos. He was spotted mostly in his rookie year, and started 2 games. He also recorded the first safety of his career that season. Jones was starting the next season, and would remain as such until the final year of his career. In the strike shortened season of 1982, the NFL began keeping sacks as an official statistic. Rulon had 2 in the 9 games played that year. He missed 4 games the following year, but did record 4 sacks and a safety. 1984 was one of his better years, and he had 11 sacks, and scored his only touchdown off of a fumble recovery. Jones had 10 sacks the next year, as well as a career best 3 fumble recoveries. He was named to his first All Pro Team that year, and would achieve that honor for the final time of his career the next season after recording a career high 13.5 sacks and the final safety of his career. Rulon was named the UPI AFL-AFC Player of the Year on defense for his efforts. 1987 was his final season as a starter, and Jones had 7 sacks. Now used as a pass rush specialist, Jones recorded 5 sacks and retired at the end of the season with 52.5 sacks, 3 safeties, and a touchdown. Noted for his length and toughness, Rulon Jones is one of the best Defensive End's in Broncos history.
DEFENSIVE END : Rich Jackson
Rich "Tombstone" Jackson was signed by the Oakland Raiders as a free agent in 1966. He played in 5 games as a rookie before joining the Broncos the following year. After playing as a reserve that year, and recording a safety, Jackson earned the starting job in 1968. He would be named an All Star that year, then the next 2 seasons. Jackson suffered a knee injury in the 7th game of 1970, and was out the rest of the year. After playing in 4 games in 1971, the Broncos traded hom to the Cleveland Browns. He retired at the end of that year because of his knee woes. Rich was a fierce pass rusher with a wide variet of moves. He was also ferocious and strong, and once broke a helmet with one of his famous headslaps. He is a member of the Broncos Ring Of Honor, and is in the Colorado Sports Hall Of Fame. He is also on the AFL's All Time Team. Some think Rich Jackson was the best Defensive End to have ever played the game, and he is probably the best the Broncos have ever had. Barney Chavous surely deserves mention.
LINEBACKER : Karl Mecklenberg
Karl was drafted in the 12th round of the 1983 draft by the Broncos. He was used as a pass rush specialist his first 2 seasons, and had 9 sacks over that time. He also had 2 interceptions for 105 yards. The Broncos moved Karl to ILB in 1985, and the move paid off big. He had a career high 13 sacks, and was named to his first All Pro Team. He would get this honor over the next 2 years, as he had 16.5 sacks and 3 interceptions over that time. He returned to the Pro Bowl in 1989 after getting 7.5 sacks and a career best 143 tackles. He then got a safety in the next season. 1991 saw Karl get 9 sacks and 130 tackles, garnering another Pro Bowl nod. He was named to his final All Pro Team in 1993 after getting 9 sacks. He retired after the 1994 season with 79 sacks, 5 interceptions, and 1,104 tackles. Karl Mecklenburg is in the Broncos Ring Of Honor, and the Colorado Sports Hall Of Fame. He is one of the best the Broncos have ever had. Randy Gradishar is a future CCC profilee, but deserves mention.
LINEBACKER : Tom Jackson
Tom was drafted in the 4th round of the 1973 draft by the Broncos. He started half of the 8 games he played in his rookie year, and would remain a starter for the rest of his career. 1976 might of been his best season, when he had a career best 7 interceptions for 136 yards. He also scored off of a 46 yard interception return. Tom scored off of one of his 4 interceptions the next year, going 76 yards. He would be named to his first All Pro Team that year, helping the Broncos reach Super Bowl XII. Tom scored the last touchdown of his career the next year off of one of his 3 interceptions. He made the Pro Bowl again that year as well. Tom made his last Pro Bowl Team in 1979. He retired after the 1986 season with 20 interceptions for 340 yards and 3 scores. He was officially credited with 13 sacks because the NFL didn't start recognizing the stat until 1982, but he was known as a complete linebacker with the ability to rush the passer or cover any receiver. Jackson also 3rd in Broncos history in games played. Tom Jackson is a member of the Broncos Hall Of Fame, and may be the best all around Linebacker in Denver Broncos history.
LINEBACKER : Al Wilson
Al was the Broncos 1st round draft pick in 1999. He quickly earned the starting job, and got his first sack that year. He had a career high 5 sacks and 3 interceptions the next year. In 2001, Al was named to his first All Pro Team, and would achieve that honor the next 2 seasons as well. He had a career high 100 tackles in 2002. Wilson returned the the Bro Bowl in 2003, then scored his only touchdown, off of an interception, the next year. Al made the Pro Bowl the next 2 seasons, but suffered a neck injury at the end of 2006. He tried to rehabilitate the injury, but ultimately had to retire. Though his career was cut short, Al Wilson is one of the best Linebackers to have ever played for the Broncos.
LINEBACKER : Bob Swenson
Bob was signed as a free agent rookie by the Broncos in 1975. Though he was a reserve in his rookie year, he did manage an interception. He swiped 2 more the next year after starting in 6 games. By 1977, he was an important starting member of the "Orange Crush" defense that went to Super Bowl XII. In 1979, Bob scooped up a fumble and returned it 93 yards for a touchdown. He made his only Pro Bowl Team the next year, but got hurt in the 4th game of 1982. He did play in 2 games the next year, but retired at seasons end. John Mobley, Michael Brooks, Bill Romanowski, Ian Gold, and John Bramlett are just a few others who deserve mention. Bob Swenson was the ultimate team player who is an important ingredient in Broncos history.
STRONG SAFETY : Dennis Smith
Dennis was the Broncos 1st round draft of the Broncos in 1981. Dennis started just 2 games in his rookie season, but did pick off a pass and return it a career long 65 yards. Firmly entrenched as a starter the next year, and for the rest of his career, Dennis had 2 sacks and an interception. 1983 saw Dennis get a career high 5 sacks, and 4 interceptions. Dennis had 3 interceptions, and returned a fumble for the only touchdown of his career the next season. Dennis made his first All Pro Team in 1985 after getting 4 sacks and 3 interceptions. Dennis made the Pro Bowl Team the next year, an honor he would not attain again until 1989. He would keep making the Pro Bowl Team until 1991, where he had a career high 5 interceptions. Smith had a career best 120 tackles the next year, and returned the Pro Bowl for the final time of his career in 1993. He retired after the 1994 year with 30 interceptions, 3 sacks, and 1,152 tackles. He is a member of the Broncos Ring Of Fame, and the Colorado Hall Of Fame, making Dennis Smith the best Strong Safety in Broncos history.
FREE SAFETY : Goose Gonsoulin
Goose was a 17th round draft pick of the San Francisco 49ers in the 1960 NFL Draft, and a first round selection of the Broncos in the AFL Draft. He started right away for the Broncos, and set a still standing team record with 11 interceptions in his rookie season. He also had 4 interceptions in one game, which is still tied as a team record. Goose was named to the first of five consecutive Pro Bowl Teams. In 1961, he had 6 more picks, then followed that up with 7 the following year. He also scored his first touchdown that year on a career long 64 yard return. Goose had 6 interceptions the next year, and scored the last touchdown of his career. He followed that up with 7 more swipes in 1964 with 7 more interceptions. Goose had 6 more the following year, but did not make the Pro Bowl Team for the first time in his career. 1966 was the only season where Gonsoulin did not pick off a pass, and his 61 consecutive games played streak ended when he missed 4 games due to injury. Still, he was good enough to be named to his final All Pro Team. Goose joined the 49ers and started just 7 of 14 games in 1967, picking off 3 more passes. He then retired as the AFL's all time interception leader with 43, and is a member of the AFL All Time Team. He is an inaugeral member of the Broncos Ring Of Honor, and is a member of the Colorado Sports Hall Of Fame. In fact, Goose is a fringe member of my CCC profiles, but his only playing 8 seasons has him on the table for consideration. Steve Atwater and his 8 Pro Bowls and 24 interceptions were strongly considered for this nod. There is a chance he may still get inducted into Canton, though many more deserving Safeties await their call as well. One could even mention the Broncos all time interception leader Steve Foley, who played the first 4 years of his career at Cornerback. Goose Gonsoulin ranks second behind Foley with 1 less interception, and is maybe the greatest Safety in the Broncos illustrious history at this position.
CORNERBACK : Louis Wright
Louis was drafted in the first round of the 1975 draft by the Denver Broncos. Wright started all 11 games that he played in his rookie year. He intercepted 2 passes and recovered one fumble. In 1977, he had 3 interceptions for 128 yards. He also scored the first touchdown of his career. Wright was a key member of the "Orange Crush" defense, picking off 3 balls, that went to Super Bowl XII. Wright would garner his first Pro Bowl nod that year as well. Wright would make the Pro Bowl in each of the next 2 seasons as well. In 1979, Wright took a fumble 82 yards for a touchdown. In 1980, Wright was named to the UPI All-Conference Second Team. He ended up missing half on 1981 due to an injury, but still was named to the UPI All-Conference Second Team. Wright came back at full health for 1982 with 2 interceptions. Wright snared a career high 6 interceptions in 1983, and was named to the Pro Bowl team. In 1984, Wright would return a fumble for a touchdown and was named to The Sporting News All-NFL First Team, Pro Football Weekly All-NFL First Team, Pro Football Weekly All-Conference First Team, UPI All-Conference Second Team, and Newspaper Ent. Association All-Conference Second Team. 1985 saw him intercept 5 passes, and score the last touchdown of his career. Wright also made his last Pro Bowl team that year as well. Wright played his last season in 1986. Louis Wright is a member of the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame. Louis was a shutdown Cornerback the day he walked onto an NFL field. Teams would hardly throw the ball to his side of the field. Wright was also a hard hitter, and was one of best run supporting Cornerbacks of his era. The Broncos were #1 in the NFL against the run in 1977. Louis Wright was consistently excellent. His 163 starts rank seventh on All-Time in Broncos history. Opponents feared him. He is the greatest defensive back in the history of the Denver Broncos. Many of his contemporaries feel he was the best Cornerback in the AFC, if not the entire NFL, during his career. He was big, and fast. If you were blessed enough to have seen Louis Wright play, then you would agree he deserves induction into Canton.
CORNERBACK : Bill Thompson
Champ Bailey may get into Canton, so I'm plugging Billy in here. He started out his career as a CB, and played the position for the first 4 years of his career. Thompson was drafted by the Broncos in the 3rd round of the 1969 draft. He started right away, and picked off 3 passes in his rookie year for 92 yards. He took one swipe 57 yards for a touchdown. Billy also was the Broncos return specialist. He led the league with an average of 11.5 yards per return on 25 punt returns. He also led the league with a 28.5 yard per return average on 18 kickoff returns. Billy only returned 25 more kickoffs in his career, but still returned punts on and off in his career. Thompson played 9 games in 1970 because of injury, but still managed 2 more interceptions for 65 yards. 1971 saw Thompson have a career high 5 picks for 83 yards. Billy got hurt after 8 games the next year, but still managed an interception. The Broncos decided to move Thompson to Strong Safety in 1973, and he responded with 3 interceptions for 96 yards. He took one ball for a career long of 59 yards for a score. He also scooped up a fumble and took it 80 yards for another touchdown. He also led the NFL with 366 punt return yards on 30 returns. Billy tied his career high of 5 interceptions the next year, and scored a touchdown off of an interception. He again matched that total in 1977, gaining a career best 122 yards, as the Broncos would reach Super Bowl XII. Thompson was named to his first All Pro Team, an honor he would again garner the following season after picking off 4 passes and returning a fumble for a score. 1979 saw Thompson pick off 4 more balls, and score off another fumble return. Billy scored his last touchdown the following year, off of a fumble, to go with 2 more picks. 1981 was the last year Billy played, and he also made his last All Pro Team when he had 4 interceptions. When he retired, he had 40 interceptions for 784 yards and 3 touchdowns. He also took 4 of his 21 fumble recoveries for touchdowns. Thompson also had a career average of 11.6 yards on 157 punt returns, and a career average of 25.1 yards per return on 46 kickoff returns. To say Bill Thompson was productive, or a game changing player, is a vast understatement. He is a member of the Broncos Ring Of Fame, and is easily one of the greatest defensive backs in Denver Broncos history.
PUNTER : Jim Fraser
Jim was a 21st round draft pick of the Cleveland Browns in the 1959 draft. He didn't make the team and was out of football until 1962. He joined the Broncos then as a Linebacker and Punter. He picked off a pass, and even managed to make the only 2 extra point attempts of his career that season. He also punted the ball 55 times for a 43.6 yard average. He boomed one ball a career best 75 yards, which led the AFL. Jim was named to his first All Pro Team in his rookie year. Fraser made the All Pro Team again the following year, when he led the AFL with a career high 81 punts for 3,596 yards and a 44.4 average. He also had a AFL leading 3 punts blocked. Jim made his final All Pro Team in 1964. He intercepted another pass, and led the AFL with a 44.2 average on 73 punts. Jim joined the Kansas City Chiefs for the 1965 season, but mainly played defense. He attempted only 3 punts the entire season. Fraser then joined the Boston Patriots in 1966. He picked off the final pass of his career, and punted the ball 55 times for a 37.2 yard average. He did not play the next year, but did suit up for 2 games for the New Orleans Saints in 1968 and punted 11 times. He retired after that year. Jim retired with a career average of 42.2 yards per punt on 278 attempts, to go with his 3 interceptions. His 3 All Pro nods are the most by any Punter in Denver Broncos history. Though Broncos like Bob Scarpitto, Mike Horan, and Luke Prestidge deserve mention, Jim Fraser may be the greatest Punter in Broncos history.
HEAD COACH : Dan Reeves
Dan started in the NFL as a Halfback for the Dallas Cowboys from 1965 to 1972. He ran for 1,990 yards, caught 129 balls for 1,693 yards, and scored 42 touchdowns total. He also threw 2 more TD's on 32 passing attempts, completing 14 total. He was a member of the Cowboys Super Bowl VI winning team as well. He then joined the teams coaching staff until 1980. The Broncos named him their Head Coach in 1981, and Reeves helped bring winning back to Denver. He helped lead the Broncos to 3 Super Bowls that decade, though they lost in each game. He left after the 1992 season to join the New York Giants. He stayed there until 1996 before joining the Atlanta Falcons. He helped the Falcons reach the Super Bowl in 1998, and stayed in Atlanta until 2003. Dan won 110 of his 190 total wins with Denver, and is one of the best coaches in Broncos history.
Dan with his mentor Tom Landry
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