ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — When Champ Bailey was in the midst of his Pro Football Hall of Fame and Ring of Fame career, putting on a show at Broncos Stadium at Mile High was easy.
The three-time first-team All-Pro would shut down opposing wide receivers, pick off opposing quarterbacks and — occasionally — run interceptions back for touchdowns.
The more than 76,000 fans in attendance would erupt — and Bailey felt comfortable in that position.
But on Oct. 13, when Bailey returns to Denver to be inducted as the 33rd member of the Broncos Ring of Fame, being the center of attention will feel a little different.
“You know the first thing I thought about was I’ve got to stand in front of that crowd in the stadium, and the last time I actually did something like that and speak and be honored for what I’m doing was when I played,” Bailey said Monday after being elected to the Ring of Fame. “It’s going to be a little surreal. I think the Hall of Fame [induction ceremony] will get me warmed up for it, but I believe being in front of those fans means more than anything.
“To be able to do it where I played for 10 years, I’m looking forward to it, man. It’s going to be surreal.”
Bailey, who was given the honor Monday by the team’s selection committee, said he thought he would be chosen for the Ring of Fame at some point. He just didn’t know it would be now.
“I have to be honest, I expected it at some point, maybe,” Bailey said. “But at the same time, that’s just my objective thinking. But at the same time, it’s out of my hands. I never dwell on things I can’t control or worry about them. It’s like, when it happens, it still catches me off guard. I’m just so grateful that the Broncos consider me part of the family and [are] willing to put my name all over the stadium. It means the world to me, and it makes me feel good inside.”
Broncos Head Coach Vic Fangio said Monday that it was “no-brainer” for Bailey to be elected and that the former cornerback is “very deserving.”
“Well, No. 1, the first thing you have to be able to admire about a corner is he’s got to be able to cover,” Fangio said. “And he could do that. He had the size and speed combination that most guys don’t have. He had some really good instincts and ball intuitiveness and … knowledge for the game.”
Bailey is the first Bronco to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Ring of Fame in the same year.
John Elway, like Bailey, was also a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but the Broncos waived Elway’s waiting period and inducted him into the Ring of Fame immediately upon his retirement.
“I’m just grateful,” Bailey said. “It’s one of those years. Like you said, it’s all at once. It’s overwhelming, but I’ll tell you what, these are great issues to have. Just being overwhelmed and patted on the back by everybody that you played in front of and saw you play. I’m so grateful.”