126 former NFL players were nominated for the 2014 Hall of Fame class. On Wednesday night 25 semifinalists were selected and four of them were former Denver Broncos – running back Terrell Davis, linebacker Karl Mecklenburg, and safeties Steve Atwater and John Lynch. While only five of the 25 will actually don the gold jacket in 2014, with the Broncos back atop the NFL and making their own mark on the history books the Hall of Fame nominations mark a perfect time to look back at the previous eras of Broncos football and not only recognize how lucky we as the Broncos’ faithful are to have a team of this caliber, but also what a terrific franchise it has been over the last 33 years.
Perhaps the most notable nomination and one of the most beloved Broncos of all-time, Terrell Davis, or TD as he was so fittingly known, made rushing for 200 yards a game look easy. With speed, power, grace, and a relentless motor, he was the ideal running back during his era of football. With two Super Bowl rings, a Super Bowl MVP, a league MVP, a 2,000-yard rushing season, and a 21-touchdown season it would appear Davis should easily make the cut for the HOF. However, some argue that his career was simply too short — only seven years, three of which were as a shell of the original player due to torn knee ligaments in1999. As a result, Davis’ career stats may not be as impressive as some of the other HOF running backs (Curtis Martin, Marshall Faulk, and Emmit Smith), but nobody can deny his sheer dominance before the injury and his place within NFL history.
Another great Bronco nominated for the 2014 HOF class is the incomparable Steve Atwater. He owns perhaps the most iconic Broncos’ moment in franchise history when he knocked out Green Bay Packers receiver Robert Brooks, Broncos’ cornerback Randy Hillard, and himself in Super Bowl XXXII. While Atwater lacks elite career numbers he was as feared a safety as there ever was or ever will be. He brought a physical mentality as well as an aggressive attitude to a defense that, in today’s game, would result in fines, suspensions, or even possibly exile, but during his era he simply wreaked havoc. Atwater played football the way it should be, tough, fast, physical, and with no regrets. Though his stats are not as impressive as some of the other HOF safeties, he was a true gladiator and a player that will never be forgotten — especially here in Denver.
The other Broncos’ safety nominated for next year’s HOF class is John Lynch. Though he played most of his illustrious career — and most importantly his Super Bowl season — with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, his time spent in Denver was at perhaps the peak of his individual playing career. Moreover, his constant presence around the Broncos franchise as well as the Denver community makes him a Bronco for life. If anyone is deserving of a bust in Hall of Fame it is without a doubt John Lynch. Not only was he only of the most dominating safeties of his era being selected to nine Pro Bowls, but he did so while helping to build the Bucs defense (one of the best in NFL history) from the ground up. He is a consummate pro, an NFL icon, and just a downright good guy — give him a jacket!
The last player on the Broncos’ 2014 HOF nominees list is a player that has long waited to hear his name called. Linebacker Karl Mecklenburg was an integral part of the Broncos’ Super Bowl teams in the 1980s and a dominating force in the NFL. During an era when the running game reigned supreme, Mecklenburg led one of the toughest run defenses in NFL history — the orange crush. With numbers similar to the Steel Curtain in Pittsburgh and the Doomsday Defense in Dallas, the lack of a Super Bowl victory should not be the sole reason the linebacker is kept out of the HOF.
The politics of the HOF selection process are often skewed in favor of teams like the Dallas Cowboys, the Green Bay Packers, the New York Giants, and the Pittsburgh Steelers, but there is still a good chance one of these four former Broncos’ greats will be honored in 2014. If not, with players like Champ Bailey and Peyton Manning the Broncos’ HOF number will be increasing soon.
Written by John Spina. Follow him on Facebook or on Twitter @jsspina24.