ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- On the heels of a career in which he set every major receiving record with the Broncos, was part of 126 total wins and two Super Bowl titles, wide receiver Rod Smith is headed into the Broncos Ring of Fame.
On Thursday, Owner/CEO Pat Bowlen announced that Smith was elected the 23rd member of the illustrious group.
“Players like Rod don’t come through your door very often, but he came through ours every day with a purpose and hunger to be great,” Bowlen said in a statement. “Rod’s production and numbers -- as outstanding as they were -- paled in comparison to his commitment to winning and the respect he commanded from each and every one of his teammates throughout his career. Emerging from an undrafted player to one of the best to ever play his position, Rod has truly earned his place among the greatest Broncos of all time.
“I am thankful for everything Rod contributed to this franchise during his time with the Broncos, and I congratulate him on his well-deserved election to the Ring of Fame.”
The induction ceremony will take place on Sunday, Sept. 23, at halftime of the Broncos' home game against the Houston Texans at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
The Ring of Fame was created by Bowlen in 1984 to recognize former players and administrators that played significant roles in the franchise's history.
Smith is the first former Bronco elected to the group since tight end Shannon Sharpe joined in 2009. He's the third receiver in the Ring of Fame, joining Lionel Taylor and Haven Moses.
Originally signed by the Broncos as a college free agent, Smith played 183 regular-season games -- starting 158 -- over 12 seasons. The three-time Pro Bowler set franchise records in receptions (898), receiving yards (12,249) and receiving touchdowns (74). He owns the club's postseason records for catches (49), yards (860) and touchdowns (six) as well.
He eclipsed the 1,000-yard receiving mark in six consecutive seasons from 1997-2002 and a club-record eight seasons overall. He also notched a franchise-best 30 100-yard receiving games in the regular season.
The first catch of Smith's career came from John Elway, now excutive vice president of football operations with the team.
“You couldn’t ask for a better teammate than Rod Smith," Elway said in a statement. "His work ethic, the way he competed and the positive influence he had on others were all qualities that made him one of the best. What a great Bronco who is so deserving of being honored as a member of the Ring of Fame.
“Although he had plenty of catches and touchdowns in his career, the only things that mattered to Rod were winning and competing for Super Bowls. That’s what was most important to him, and it showed in everything he did. Whether it was in the passing game or running game, you always knew Rod would give 100 percent on every play and do whatever it took to help his team win.
“Rod brought his lunch pail to work each day, took nothing for granted and made himself into an elite player. He’s a true pro. In addition to being one of the greatest undrafted players of all time, he’s one of the greatest wide receivers to ever play the position.
“I’m thrilled Rod has been elected to the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame, and I look forward to celebrating his induction this season.”
Smith, a career Bronco, retired before the start of the 2008 season.
"The Broncos fans are special to me, and I appreciate all you guys really supporting me," a teary-eyed Smith said at the time. "I love when I see little kids running around the mall and they have on a No. 80 jersey -- it just makes me smile. They don’t know how much that means to me. I’m letting you know, if I don’t come up to you personally, I appreciate you, every single one of you."
"Fate put me (in Denver)," he said, "and I'm glad."