While the Broncos have watched many of the franchise's legends inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in the past two decades, there's been a handful of former greats that Broncos Country would love to see receive gold jackets of their own.
Arguably no one fits that bill more than Ring of Fame linebacker Randy Gradishar, who was the centerpiece of the famed "Orange Crush" defense that led Denver to its first Super Bowl appearance.
Recently, Gradishar was named one of 31 semifinalists for the Hall of Fame's Class of 2024 in the Senior category. He's made it to the finalist stage three times but is still waiting to get his well-deserved call to the Hall. The Seniors Committee will narrow the list to 12 on July 27, and as many as three Seniors will be selected from that group in August to be sent on for final voting for the Class of 2024.
In anticipation of that first vote, the Talk of Fame Two's Clark Judge put together a panel of four football historians and one former league executive to get a look at which former standouts might be the favorites for selection. Judge asked each of them to pick a top-12 group and then their top five Senior candidates.
Gradishar was an overwhelming pick, selected by each panelist in their top-12 groups, and four of the five panelists had Gradishar in their top five picks.
"Denver linebacker Randy Gradishar is the people's choice," Judge wrote. "He was a Top 12 pick for every voter and appeared on four of five Top Five ballots. No surprise there. He was a Defensive MVP (1978) who made a zillion tackles and was the heart and soul of an Orange Crush defense that yet to have a member enshrined."
A Pro Bowler in seven of his 10 NFL seasons and a two-time first-team All-Pro, Gradishar led the Broncos in tackles in all but one season in his career. He was also the 1978 AP Defensive Player of the Year.
Could this be Gradishar's year, at long last?
"Gradishar should gain support from Hall voters, too," Judge wrote. "He was among the top six on this year's Hall-of-Fame ballot and is widely expected to be chosen to the Class of 2024."