Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, there are only three teams with more wins than the Denver Broncos, who have accumulated a 385-291 record since then. Long considered a model franchise with solid ownership, consistent winning and a committed, fanatical fan base, the Broncos have seen some of this league’s all-time greats roam the confines of the Mile High city. Today, one of the most improbable careers of one of the finest men to play the game will be recognized as WR Rod Smith is inducted into the Broncos Ring of Fame at halftime against the Houston Texans. The ring was first established in 1984 by Owner Pat Bowlen to acknowledge the Broncos greats that paved the way.
On this Sunday, Smith will become one of 23 greats that have donned a Broncos uniform and performed above and beyond all others to enter the level 5 facade of Sports Authority Field at Mile High that holds their Ring of Fame. He will join the likes of FS Steve Atwater, RB Terrell Davis, QB John Elway, S Austin Gonsoulin, LB Randy Gradishar, DE Richard Jackson, LB Tom Jackson, QB Charles Johnson, RB Floyd Little, LB Karl Mecklenburg, QB “Craig” Morton, WR Haven Moses, Owner Gerald Phipps, TE Shannon Sharpe, S Dennis Smith, DT Paul Smith, WR Lionel Taylor, DB William Thompson, QB Frank Tripucka, K James Turner, CB Louis Wright and T Gary Zimmerman. To be added to this list of individuals is quite an accomplishment for an undrafted WR out of Missouri Southern.
Smith officially retired in 2008 after a complete hip replacement was needed due to an injury in 2006. Above all else on the playing field, Smith is regarded as one of the best men of the game, and his trouble-free career was witness to that. I always enjoyed watching Smith run the post and haul in the missiles that were thrown his way by one of the hardest throwing QBs in the NFL, John Elway. Smith left the Broncos as the only undrafted free agent in history to not only eclipse the 10,000 yard mark, but to have the most receptions(849), TDs(68) and receiving yards(11,389). Those marks also are the most in Broncos team history and may never be challenged. Smith was a workhorse for the Broncos, no pun intended, as he played 15 or more games in every year except 1996 when he started 10 games.
The most amazing stat that should stand out though is the fact that Smith eclipsed 1,000 yards a season eight times, while only catching more than 100 passes twice. The only year that he did not reach double digit averages per catch was 2006, his final year. Smith could run the routes flawlessly, make defenders miss tackles and catch everything that came his way. And consider the fact that his only two seasons with 100 catches came in 2000 and 2001, when Brian Griese and Gus Frerotte were tossing the ball.
There is no question that Rod Smith deserves this call to the Broncos Ring of Fame, and there should never be the question whether he deserves to enter Canton one day. He lies somewhere in between Michael Irvin and Art Monk when evaluating WRs and in that company alone he should get the call. So today belongs to one of the Broncos greats and what better game to do it at with old offensive coordinator and ex-Bronco Gary Kubiak on the Texans sideline as their Head Coach and the slew of other Texans coaches that have either played for or coached the Broncos at one time or another. So here is the ultimate Mile High Salute to a fine man and football player that kept his focus against all odds and proved that with hard work and determination, anything is possible in the NFL.
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