The Denver Broncos Ring of Fame was created in 1984 by team owner Pat Bowlen to honor former players and administrators who played significant roles in the franchise's history.
Mr. Bowlen was inducted into the Ring of Fame in 2015, which would prove to be a historic season that also stands as a testament to the impact Mr. Bowlen has had on the organization. His dedication to making the Broncos a premier NFL organization has been proven since he bought the team in 1984; the most notable statistic that sums up his impact is that the Broncos have had more Super Bowl appearances (seven) than losing seasons (five) in his 32 years of ownership. Mr. Bowlen's influence extends outside of Denver with how he's impacted the NFL's television broadcast expansion and other league committees.
The Denver Broncos Ring of Fame roster grew to 27 in 2014 when halfback/kicker Gene Mingo, wide receiver/returner Rick Upchurch and Head Coach Dan Reeves were elected to join the Ring's distinguished membership. Before that trio, the most recent additions came in 2013 when center Tom Nalen joined, 2012 when wide receiver Rod Smith (1994-2007) made the grade, in 2009 when tight end Shannon Sharpe (1990-99, 2002-03) joined, in 2007 when running back Terrell Davis (1995-2002) was inducted, in 2005 when safety Steve Atwater (1989-98) was honored and in 2003 when tackle Gary Zimmerman (1993-97) was enshrined.
In 2001, linebacker Karl Mecklenburg (1983-94) and safety Dennis Smith (1981-94) were named Broncos Ring of Famers. Quarterback John Elway (1983-98) was inducted into the Ring of Fame in 1999 in a ceremony held at halftime of the Broncos’ season-opening Monday Night Football game vs. Miami on Sept. 13, 1999. As testament to the legend he established during his 16-year career, Elway is the only inductee for whom the customary five-year waiting period was waived.
Elway’s induction was the first since 1993 when cornerback Louis Wright (1975-86) joined the Ring of Fame, a year after linebacker Tom Jackson (1973-86) entered the Ring in 1992.
Linebacker Randy Gradishar (1974-83) was the only 1989 inductee, following the 1988 inductions of quarterback Craig Morton (1977-82), wide receiver Haven Moses (1972-81) and kicker Jim Turner (1971-79).
Former defensive back Bill Thompson (1969-81) was honored in 1987, and three players joined the elite group in 1986: quarterbacks Frank Tripucka (1960-63) and Charley Johnson (1972-75), and defensive end Paul Smith (1968-78).
In 1985, former owner Gerald H. Phipps became the first non-player to have his name placed on the Ring.
The Ring of Fame was established in 1984 with an inaugural class of four members: running back Floyd Little (1967-75), defensive end Rich Jackson (1967-72), wide receiver Lionel Taylor (1960-66) and safety Austin “Goose” Gonsoulin (1960-66).
The Ring of Fame is displayed on the Level 5 facade of Sports Authority Field at Mile High.