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Published on 04/15/2008 at Tue Apr 15 05:00.
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The buzz of the 1983 draft surrounded no other than Denver’s John Elway.  Most Bronco fans have the details memorized.  Elway was drafted #1 overall by the Baltimore Colts, refusing to play for then Baltimore head coach Frank Kush and was traded to Denver in a blockbuster deal.  But the overshadowed great tale of the 83′ draft is that of Karl Mecklenburg.

Karl Mecklenburg’s career could prove there is no exact science to draft day preparation for the scouts and coaches.  After 12 years in the orange and blue Karl’s name is as synonymous to the Broncos as John Elway, who was drafted 309 picks earlier. – NFL Alumni, Rocky Mountain Chapter

Mecklenburg’s rise to the NFL is an unlikely one.  Even though he was an all state selection in high school, he couldn’t get a football scholarship to a Big 10 school.  He proceeded to attend Augustana College in South Dakota.  After two stand out seasons, he started to think about saving enough money to get into medical school, and the pros were his ticket.  Meck transferred to the University of Minnesota and made the squad as a walk on.  He continued his stellar college career, but garnered little interest from the pros even after ranking second in tackles for the conference.

To make matters even worse for Karl, the pro scouting reports out of the combine reported his stats wrong.  They listed him at 6′-1″ not his true 6′-3 1/2″.  They also reported his 40 yard dash as a slow 5.05 seconds.  But of all players taking the league’s intelligence test at the time, Mecklenburg scored the highest of any.  This was the first item of many that brought him to the Broncos attention.

Mecklenburg caught the eye of Denver Broncos scouts his senior year in a game against Northwestern. While going through film of Wildcat Chris Hinton, the scouts saw Mecklenburg get two sacks off the All-American tackle. The Broncos wound up taking Hinton in the first round with the fourth overall pick. In the 12th and final round, with the 310th overall selection, the Broncos took Mecklenburg.  – Monday Night Football: Where Are They Now?

As the MNF article states, the Broncos took Mecklenburg in the 12th round, 310th overall in what is widely considered the greatest draft class of all time.  If you weigh that selection against his acheivements and stats listed below, I would consider that to be one hell of a draft steal.

  • 6 Pro Bowls
  • 3 Time First Team All Pro
  • Named the NFL’s Most Versatile Player by Many Sports Writers
  • Played up to 7 defensive positions within one game
  • 1104 Career Tackles
  • 79 Career Sacks
  • 16 Career Forced Fumbles
  • 14 Career Recovered Fumbles
  • 2 Career Defensive TDs and One Safety

Karl’s own words to prospective low round draft picks:

“Take advantage of the opportunity you have. Be a great special team player. Enjoy playing football and be decisive on the field. No decision or slow decisions are always wrong.”

I’ll leave all you fellow Bronco fans with this last great nugget, again from the NFL Alumni Rocky Mountain Chapter:

If you’re a Bronco fan, you’ll surely remember the day Mecklenburg made his presence felt.  It was his 3rd year and the Broncos were playing against the Raiders.  Jim Plunkett threw a short pass to Marcus Allen who had looped out of the backfield.  Unfortunately for Allen, Karl arrived at the same time.  Within an instant Marcus laid at the feet of number 77, out cold.  Karl said he waited 10 more years for a play like that but it never happened.

  • BC FUNK 77

    Great story! As a kid, I have fond memories watching old Meck tear things up. Elway, the 3 Amigos and Meck… good memories… Thanks for sharing!

  • Kyle

    This was great Josh. Thanks.

  • studbucket

    Great article, I wish I could have watched him play! I was just a few years too young, as he retired when I was 7 or 8. If anyone ever finds any video of any of the old Broncos (Mecklenberg, Dennis Smith, Gradishar, etc) I would love to see it.

  • Josh Temple

    Mecklenburg to this day is still my favorite all time Bronco with TD taking a close second. I got to see him play the first few seasons I started going to games, I was about 10 or 11 at the time. When I played defense growing up I tried to emulate his game. The summer before his last season I found out that his son attended the same summer camp in Bailey that I did and they had an autograph session for a fund raiser. He was a great guy to meet in person and was worth the 3hr drive to meet.

  • dave

    this guy was the best bronco sans elway i have EVER seen. dominant is the only word to describe his play. i’ll never forget in ’94 he and dennis smith came off the farm(retirement)out of football shape, and shored up our depleted defense, due to injuries. he was a terror even then. if you can get any of those yearly highlight tapes from the 80’s, all you see is #77 all over the place. unfortunately, the sb blowouts put a dimmer on his hall of fame hopes, and others. my favorite bronco, long may he live

  • dan

    I remember in 1985 when the national media made such a big deal of him playing of the front 7 positions. He was great and so underrated. I think Braxton and him are the best 12 round selections ever. I just wish he could have stayed around un the end of 1997. To me he is the best #77 in bronco history. More than that traitor Alzado. (In Alzado’s defense he was traded by that incompetent Fred Gerke)

  • hj

    The two most deserving Bronco's not in the hall of fame randy and Karl. what back to back great linebackers. Just begs the question what do you have to do to get into the hall of fame?

  • hj

    The two most deserving Bronco's not in the hall of fame randy and Karl. what back to back great linebackers. Just begs the question what do you have to do to get into the hall of fame?