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Ring of Famers React to ROF Plaza

Posted Sep 27, 2013

Read what the Ring of Famers and other guests of honor had to say about the opening of the new Ring of Fame Plaza.

DENVER -- Friday night, Ring of Fame Plaza on the south end of Sports Authority Field at Mile High was unveiled.

Below is what many Ring of Famers and other guests of honor in attendance had to say about the ceremony.

JOHN ELWAY
 
On the event
“It’s a great night. Number one, we get to see old pals and guys that we played with and the guys that have been so important in Broncos history. Plus, I think with the unveiling of these heads and these statues, I think – to me I look at it as a tribute to (Broncos Owner and CEO) Pat Bowlen and what he’s done in the 30 years he’s been here. For him to do this for the Ring of Famers, it’s really an honor, so I give him all the credit."
 
On if he’s disappointed that Bowlen is not in the Ring of Fame
“Sure, I think he’s the one that allows us all to be there and make it all happen. I have a feeling that some day he will be there.
 
On his reaction when he initially saw his statue
“I liked it. I thought they did a nice job. I was excited to see it. it was a very nice honor.”
 
On if it’s nice to have a number of the Ring of Famers together
“It’s always a great night, especially with (2013 Inductee and former center) Tommy Nalen who was a tremendous player for the Broncos. I had a chance to play with him for five years and he’s a very deserving next member of the Ring of Fame. But yeah, to be able to see everybody, a lot of camaraderie, be able to talk about old times when we used to play but also be able to honor guys like a Tom Nalen.”
 
On if having the faces on the statues helps fans understand more about these important figures in Broncos history than just a name and a number
“I think it helps. I think it helps remember the past of the Broncos and the history of the Broncos. So as one that’s in there, it’s an honor to be in there, but like you said, I think it’s also great for the old guys. We’re the foundation of this franchise was built on, as far as the players are concerned, and the great players the Broncos have had over the years.”
 
On his reaction to Nalen’s induction
“He was the best center I ever played with, and I think one of the top two or three centers to ever play the game. He’s a guy that was tough, athletic, and physical and very smart. He was a little bit undersized but had the strength to stop the big guys and the quickness to get around them. So, it’s a very well-deserved honor for Tommy and hopefully the first of very many for him because I think he’s very deserving of consideration for the Hall of Fame.”
 
GARY ZIMMERMAN

On being together with the Ring of Famers
“I think this is a great event. Pat brings in all the players and I think it’s a great thing to come back and honor somebody you played with and I wouldn’t miss it for the world. I haven’t missed one since I’ve been in and hopefully I can keep the streak going. To me it’s an honor to come back honor these guys. I enjoy it a lot.”

On being excited about the statue unveiling
“Probably more than the other guys are because I only played here five years so I think I’m the guy with the lowest time in Denver and to be honored with that having only played five years is a great honor. I’m very impressed and Mr. B is the best.”

On Mr. Bowlen
“I’ve said in the past that he changed my life. I played for another team and you got treated like a number, and I came here and I almost thought it was a gag the way he treated people. But you can see – he’s been to the Super Bowl so many times, his style really works where he treats you like a human. He treats you like a man and I think if every team had an owner like Mr. B, there’d be no issues in all of football.”

RANDY GRADISHAR

On Ring of Fame Plaza
“Well looking at it, it’s certainly different than the last time that I saw it. Knowing that there’s going to be a presentation for our Ring of Fame members and having that opportunity to be one of them, its going to be an exciting evening. Knowing what Mr. Bowlen and the Bowlen family does with events like this, it’s going to be really special.”

On having a lot of Ring of Famers together
“All the guys showing up tonight, it’s going to be a great reunion. And all the guys showing up for Tom (Nalen), who is coming in (to the Ring of Fame).”

On Mr. Bowlen
“Mr. Bowlen for the last 30 years – came originally with the idea to keep improving the franchise, winning Super Bowls – he certainly has done that. Not just with the organization, not with just the football side of it winning a couple of Super Bowls and hopefully on his way to winning another one, but what he’s done in the community. I’ve always been very impressed with what he’s done representing the Broncos and the community and helping. To me that been really impressive to see what that has done and certainly what he’s done from a football organization standpoint.”

ROD SMITH

On Ring of Fame Plaza
“Awesome. This is awesome. It’s another way of Mr. Bowlen showing gratitude to the guys that came through here. He’s just an awesome owner. He’s one of the top-notch owners in sports.”

On Mr. Bowlen
“One thing about Mr. Bowlen is that he’s been one of the most consistent owners in sports and for him to come on his 300th win is awesome. He’s done an amazing job, honestly. To take this organization from one that had never won a Super Bowl to all of sudden you get two, back-to-back, you have Hall of Famers now. We have four in the Hall of Fame right now and things are just happening for this organization and we’re excited about the future.”

On what he thinks his bust will look like on the pillar (before it was unveiled)
“I have no idea. Hopefully it looks me. I actually have no idea what it looks like. The beauty of it is, they kind of hide this kind of stuff and all of sudden they call you up, ‘Hey listen we have this event going on. We’re definitely recognizing Tommy (Nalen).’ I’m excited because I got to play with him – we were on the practice squad together a long time ago. He stayed for a minute, I stayed the whole year. So I don’t really like him, plus he got drafted so I don’t really like him (laughing).”

On all the Ring of Famers being together
“You know what, especially because we won Super Bowls together and that right there is what makes it special. When you go out there and you do what your design was from the beginning – which was to win it all – and being a part of this whole entire plaza, a part of this organization is absolutely amazing. I’m really excited for Tom. I really am. His birthday is actually two days before mine, Keith Burns' birthday is one day after mine and we’re always celebrating. Tommy never shows up though for some reason. Hopefully now his wife will let him get out of the house.”

On if he would have thought when they were on the practice squad they’d be Ring of Famers
“No. We were just hungry, we were trying to make the team. Like I said, Tommy got drafted. He was right next to Mr. Irrelevant but he was irrelevant because he got drafted. Our friendship has a flaw. He got drafted and I didn’t but we came in together in '94 and I’m just excited for him. The guy worked very, very hard. Extremely hard. He’s one of those guys that honestly, he played the game the way it’s supposed to be played. He never talked, of course they couldn’t. You know they had this gag rule with the lineman. He just, he played with his heart. I just love the guy, what he meant to this organization and to have both of us now in the Ring of Fame, coming off of the practice squad. Terrell Davis is here, he was a sixth-round pick. So we have a lot of guys from those two Super Bowl teams that are now going to be inducted not only into this place but we are also on the inside as well.”

On how many owners would do something like this
“You know what, I don’t know. I just know Mr. Bowlen would. I haven’t worked for anybody else and I’m so proud of that, thankful for that. He changed my entire family’s life. When I see my grandsons, my grandson’s legacy started with a guy like Mr. Pat Bowlen giving us a chance and the coaches and staff that we had it’s been awesome.”

FLOYD LITTLE

On the unveiling of the Ring of Fame Plaza
“I have to tell you, I was a little bit emotional. I look down at Pat and what he’s done in 30 years he’s owned this franchise is unbelievable. The only disappointment I’ve had tonight is Pat’s name is not in the Ring of Fame. And somehow, for all he’s done for all of us and for our community he deserves to be in the Ring of Fame. There should be a bust of Pat. But I am just so thrilled to come back and be a part of this and when they said I was the first one, that was even more exciting and more enjoyable but its so good to be back home. I may reside someplace else but Denver is truly my home.”

On if it's fun getting everyone together
“It is. To see Haven (Moses) and BT (Billy Thompson), you know we played together and Rod Smith and guys that I’ve admired -- Smith and all of the guys that are here. I played with quite of few of them but to see them all and embrace them and congratulate them for being in the Ring – this has just been an unbelievable opportunity. For players who played, a lot of players play but they don’t get this kind of exposure or excitement or opportunity so what Pat Bowlen has done for the team and players – even players that didn’t play for him. This has been beautiful.”

On his likeness on a pillar
“That thing's going to be there forever when I’m gone. When people walk up that ramp, they’ll see mine first. They’ll have to come down that ramp to see the other guys so I’m happy that they put me first and I’m honored that they would include me in this celebration. I’m just so proud to have been the number one draft choice that ever signed with the Broncos and they certainly treated me well.”

NEIL SMITH

On seeing so many former teammates in the Ring of Fame
“It’s well deserved. Tommy was a great, great guy. He was one of the backbones of our offensive linemen and it’s great to see him get in. There’s a lot of guys on our teams that are deserving and he’s well deserving of it, too. I’m happy for him and his family, and happy to have the opportunity to come back and see it.”

On playing against Nalen and Zimmerman when he was with the Chiefs
“Very tough, very tough. They always had a tough line with Zimmerman and all those guys. They were tough up front. We battled when I was in Kansas City. It was so good to see them on the other side, to come and join them. I knew what I was getting into when I first got here.”

On returning to Denver
“Oh, I love it, man. There’s no weather that’s going to turn (the fans) away. I’m pretty cold today, no doubt about that. Remember playing in it (laughing).”

TOM NALEN

On his Ring of Fame bust
“Pretty fat. I think I used to look like that. Not much you can do about it now.”

On what the honor means to him
“It’s the best honor I could get. It’s your team and people that know you, know how you played football, know how you carried yourself. And they decided that you were good enough to be in this select group, so it’s the highest honor you can get as a football player.”

On whether having all of the Ring of Famers together is a powerful feeling
“Yeah, it’s seeing these guys. I met some of them last year at the Ring of Fame dinner. Seeing these Ring of Fame guys, guys that I have been looking at their names over the years and wondering who they were – and to put a face with that name and what they meant to the franchise is pretty awesome.”

On whether it’s tough to speak in front of the fans after rarely talking to the media during his career
“I don’t think that’s going to be very difficult. It’ll be brief. It shouldn’t be a problem. I don’t have a problem speaking in front of people, I just felt in my career it didn’t really serve a purpose for me. To promote myself, to say dumb things that may come back to haunt me, say things about players on other teams – no, I didn’t really see a point in that.”

KARL MECKLENBURG

On Ring of Fame Plaza
“I was excited and I think it’s a great opportunity for all of us. What a wonderful thing for Mr. Bowlen to do for us.”

On getting together with all of the Ring of Famers
“Oh, yeah. It’s always fun to come back and see the guys, spend a little time with them. Once again, Mr. Bowlen has been unbelievable with the way he has reached out to the alumni guys – even guys that didn’t play under him – and bring them all back once a year for this event.”

On what it will mean when Mr. Bowlen gets his 300th win
“That’s going to be special. It really is. If you think about that, 300 wins in 30 years – that’s huge. That’s a real testament to his dedication of winning football games and his foresight in bringing in the right coaches and the right players.”

On whether it’s nice that the Ring of Fame is outside the stadium and open to the public
“Yeah, that’s great. It really is. I know there are some other organizations that have kind of squares or halls or whatever honoring players and allowing people to come in without having to go in the stadium. So that’s really cool.”

SCULPTOR BRIAN HANLON

On what he thinks of the Ring of Fame Plaza
“I think the entire design is very unique. It has it’s own edge. It’s engaging, and most of all, kudos to the owner [Pat Bowlen] for creating something for the fans. A lot of hall of fames are created and they’re inside the building and they’re not accessible to the fans. This piece is accessible to everyone in the city and I think that makes it unique.
 
On the players’ reactions to the pieces
“I think the players seem to love the pieces. Floyd Little gave a big hug (laughs), which is – that’s a good day for me.”
 
On what the sculptures are made of

“The sculptures are constructed – the pillars are constructed in corten steel, which was the material your original building was made out of, and that’s why it was so loud. So the design was amazingly creative that the architect and the designer came up with the idea that they should be this material that intimidated so many other teams. Because when the fans pounded on that material, it was so loud that the other team couldn’t even hear themselves. So that’s what the pillars are made of. The rest of the features – the portrait, the number, and the information and his name – is all bronze.
 
On which person was the most difficult to sculpt
“We sculpted Rod Smith three times. And he was the last one finished, and in fact, it’s the largest piece now (laughs). Floyd said, ‘Hey! How come his portrait is a little bit bigger than mine?’ But they were messing with each other, it was great fun.”

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