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Published on 02/02/2012 at Thu Feb 02 12:00.
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For years, legendary quarterback John Elway was the only player representing the Denver Broncos historic franchise in Pro Football’s Hall of Fame.  That all changed when offensive lineman Gary Zimmerman, running back Floyd Little and tight end Shannon Sharpewere enshrined during a four-year span.

Shannon Sharpe delivers his induction speech during the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremonies at Fawcett Stadium in Canton, Ohio, on August 6, 2011. (Photo courtesy of David Richard/UPI)

The Broncos now have four players in the HOF and that number will grow in the coming years.  Running back Terrell Davis, safety Steve Atwater and linebacker Randy Gradishar are expected to eventually get the nod, preferably sooner rather than later.

Joining Davis, Atwater and Gradishar as eligible (and deserving) HOF candidates over the next two years will be receiver Rod Smith, center Tom Nalen, kicker Jason Elam and safety John Lynch.  There are four players representing the Broncos in Canton, Ohio, and seven more that will all be eligible by the year 2014.

  • Davis is the only running back in NFL history who has won a League MVP, Super Bowl MVP, rushed for 2,000 yards in a single season, won back-t0-back Super Bowls, and rushed for 100 yards in seven consecutive playoff games (winning all seven of them).
  • Atwater started in fourteen postseason games (including two Super Bowls), was selected to seven consecutive Pro Bowls and was the most-feared safety of his time.
  • Gradishar, the 1978 Defensive Player of the Year, helped lead the Broncos to Super Bowl XII, was selected to seven Pro Bowls and was a two-time All American.
  • Smith went undrafted in 1994 and would go on to have eight 1,000-yard seasons in Denver, leading the NFL in receptions in 2001.  A two-time Super Bowl champion, Smith was selected to three Pro Bowls and was on the receiving end of an eighty-yard touchdown catch in Super Bowl XXIII.
  • Nalen helped six different Broncos running backs rushed for 1,000 yards in a single season, and Terrell Davis rushed for over 2,000 yards in 1998.  Taking snaps of Nalen, former Broncos quarterbacks John Elway, Jake Plummer and Brian Griese posted career-highs behind Nalen’s pass protection.  A five-time Pro Bowl selection, Nalen won two Super Bowls.
  • Elam is one of just three players who have ever kicked a 63-yard field goal and was selected to three Pro Bowls during his career.  No player in NFL history has scored more points for one team than Elam did with Denver.  Elam won two Super Bowls with the Broncos.
  • Lynch earned nine Pro Bowl selections during his career and won a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before joining the Broncos.  Lynch was twice named to the All Pro team and was one of the most feared tacklers of his time.
All seven of the players mentioned above are deserving.  Soon, they’ll all be eligible to be voted into the Hall of Fame.  Who do you think is the most deserving on the list? 
  • Paul H

    Atwater and Gradishar are great candidates and should make it.

    Davis, has great credentials, but he had a fairly short career, which might hurt his chances.
    Smith, Nalen, and Lynch are all fine players, but I don’t think they’ve got HOF credentials.

    Elam has two knocks against him: he’s a kicker and he played in Denver. Hall voters haven’t been kind to kickers, and I suspect that some will view his accomplishments with prejudice since he played at altitude.

  • Mike Birtwistle

    If I had to pick 1 from that list, it has to be Rod Smith.  But Davis, Nalen and Elam need to be in too.

    I can’t understand why when someone becomes eligible the committee vote just can’t be a simple yes or no and if that means one year there’s 10 people and the next year there’s 1 then so be it

  • Anonymous

    It’s funny how so many people refer to Davis’ injury shorted career but don’t have a problem with Gale Sayers’ similar career. 

  • Jon

    I could understand if Rod Smith and Tom Nalen don’t get into the Hall of Fame, and maybe even Jason Elam because, like you said, kickers don’t get in.

    But John Lynch is going to the Hall of Fame.

  • Maldonius

    If Rod Smith doesn’t get in, then something is seriously wrong.

  • Anonymous

    Lynch is in. 

    Nails is the only other guy on the list with a shot in hell.  Sorry folks.  

  • Anonymous

    Tell that to Cris Carter

  • Anonymous

    Ronnie Lott wants a word with you, Heath.

  • Paul H

    First, Davis played on an offense with John Elway, so teams couldn’t key against the run the way they did against those late-60s Bears teams. (Quick: name the QBs who handed off to Sayers.)

    The other issue, and I’ll admit this is a personal bias rather than something the voters have expressed, is game planning.

    When Davis was running, defenses planned against the Broncos running game. Shortly after Davis left, Clinton Portis came along and actually had higher averages than Davis.

    When Sayers played, however, defenses planned against him personally, not against a system. No other Bears rushers from the years before or after Sayers was on the team had nearly the success he did.

  • Monty

    TD has a shot and think he’ll get in eventually. Very few have accomplished both League MVP and Super Bowl MVP in their careers, and Davis is the only one not in the HOF.

  • James Owen

    One other stat to look at when considering TD for HOF enshrinement is the fact that in the year he rushed for over 2,000 yards he essentially sat out for 2 games (8 quarters) imagine what his total for that year would have been had he played every down of every game?

  • James Owen

    Rod Smith will definately get in. He holds all records for non-drafted WR’s. His stats are better than 95% of the WR’s who actually were drafted during the years he played.

  • Anonymous

    That is an excellent point.  Maybe the best argument for TD I’ve ever heard.   

  • Nate in Colorado

    Gradishar, Nalen and Atwater are the best bets, with Davis a close fourth.  Gradishar will eventually be nominated by the veterans committee and they get elected 98% of the time.  Nalen and Atwater were pivotal players on the only back to back SB winning team in the last 15 years.  Davis was the key to breaking the Broncis SB losing streak, but his short career will, unjustly, hurt his chances.
    Sorry to tell you, but Rod Smith has virtually no shot at getting in the Hall in his lifetime.  The receiving numbers that will be put up by slot receivers alone in the next ten years will dwarf his stats and that will keep him out.