When the Denver Broncos secured the services of Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson securities earlier this month, it got me in my mind to think of one of the top lore in team history.
Denver has a tradition of great play at the checkpoint, often by both safeties at the same time, and this has often resulted in winning seasons, playoff seasons and championships.
From general manager George Paton to head coach Vic Fangio to all Broncos Country fans, it feels like all the right moves are being made and we know the team is not. not yet finished.
Jackson is a 12th grade defensive back who has been a solid player throughout his career and has been outstanding in his games with the Broncos the past two seasons. As far as Simmons is concerned, there isn’t much to add to the fact that he is considered by everyone in the game to be one of the best young safeties, a Pro Bowl player whose future is probably better than his excellent past.
But what Broncos Country expects from this duo is nothing new, but actually more of the same, when it comes to what Denver fans have watched in the past.
The Broncos have five safeties in the team’s Ring of Fame, and two of them are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Not in the Ring of Fame, but in the Hall of Fame, is safety buddy Brian Dawkins.
It all started in 1960, before the team even played a game.
The first trade in Broncos history involved two conscripts. Denver sent full-back Jack Spikes (a very good full-fledged player) to the Dallas Texans for Austin “Goose” Gonsoulin.
Goose played here from 1960 to 1966 and was Denver’s first big safety with 43 career steals for the franchise, and he was one of four original Ring of Fame inductees in 1984.
Of course, it’s been well documented that the Broncos weren’t a good team back then, but by the end of that initial decade Denver had drafted Billy Thompson.
“BT” was a 13-year-old here and was inducted into the Ring of Fame in 1987 after Bronco’s magnificent career in both cornerback and safety, with 61 career wins. Thompson was instrumental in the “Orange Crush” defense that led the Broncos to Super Bowl XII.
In the later stages of his career, he teamed up with compatriot Steve Foley, who is the Broncos’ all-time interception leader with 44, a record that I think will never be broken.
Then came the 1980s, a decade in which the Broncos were largely led by Dennis Smith to safety. And for the last six years of his career, he’s teamed up with Steve Atwater to form arguably the best security duo in the franchise. Both players are in the Ring of Fame and, of course, Atwater is in the Hall of Fame. Many Bronco watchers, including myself, think Smith should be in the room as well.
It’s possible that no team in history has had such a tough security tandem, for as many years, as Atwater and Smith.
In the 1980s, Denver was the only AFC team to make it to the Super Bowl three times, and Smith was a huge reason. His shots were full collisions, raging business that made one wonder why a player would venture onto his field again. One of the most feared and fierce hitters in the NFL, Dennis Smith made six Pro Bowls as a Bronco.
This paragraph reads like it’s Atwater, and that’s because the two players were so similar in style. The Broncos won back-to-back Super Bowls in 1997 and 1998, and had a separate defensive player been chosen as the MVP, Atwater would likely have won that honor for Super Bowl XXXII.
He had a brilliant 10-year career with the Broncos which at one point included seven consecutive Pro Bowl selections.
Trying to describe the tandem of Atwater and Smith is mind-boggling.
But it didn’t stop there.
As free agency became a big part of professional football and players moved around more, the Broncos had both John Lynch (Ring of Fame, Hall of Fame) and Brian Dawkins (Hall of Fame), although in separate relays.
Each was a notable player for the Broncos, and while we didn’t win a world championship in their day, it wasn’t because they were missing in any way. Dawkins has made the Pro Bowl twice with Denver, and Lynch is one of three players in Denver history to have made the Pro Bowl in each of his first four years with the team.
Of course, who can forget the “No-Fly Zone” which was the cornerstone of one of the great defenses in NFL history.
Safeties TJ Ward and Darian Stewart were the safeties on this defense, one of the best in the league. Ward and Stewart both won Pro Bowl honors while in Denver.
It’s such an illustrious list, but I don’t want to overlook the “other” security that started next to Atwater in Super Bowls XXXII and XXXIII.
It would be Tyrone Braxton. All he did was win.
Braxton has not only won back-to-back Super Bowls as a Bronco, but he’s also won three national championships at college in North Dakota state. He is part of the Broncos Top 100 All-Time team.
I share the excitement fans are feeling about our signings for 2021. It looks like something very positive is brewing here.
And while our exceptional security makes a big contribution to Denver’s success, as expected, this won’t be the first time Broncos Country has seen this.
No matter how many times and in different ways, success never gets old.