LAS VEGAS — The heart of the Broncos' "Orange Crush" defense is headed for pro football immortality.
Randy Gradishar has officially been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2024, the Hall of Fame announced Thursday during NFL Honors.
Gradishar was chosen as a Senior finalist for the Hall of Fame in August, and he has now officially earned entry into pro football's most exclusive club. He will be enshrined into the Hall of Fame in August as the first representative from the Broncos' "Orange Crush" defense that led Denver to its first playoff and Super Bowl appearance.
The 1978 Defensive Player of the Year and the Broncos' all-time leading tackler learned of the news in recent days during a surprise announcement that included representatives from the Hall of Fame, Hall of Famer Steve Atwater, Ring of Famers and "Orange Crush" teammates Tom Jackson and Billy Thompson, Broncos Owner & CEO Greg Penner and Owner Carrie Walton Penner, among several others.
"We join all of Broncos Country in congratulating Randy Gradishar on becoming the newest Denver Bronco elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame," Greg Penner said in a statement. "Without question, Randy is one of the most impactful figures in Broncos history and one of the greatest linebackers of all time. The iconic 'Orange Crush' will now finally have its first Hall of Famer, and there could not be a better representative of our first Super Bowl team and this organization than Randy.
"Carrie and I were honored to be part of Randy's 'Knock on the Door' surprise a few weeks ago. He has waited nearly 40 years for this moment, and we are excited to celebrate Randy this summer as he takes his well-deserved place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame."
Gradishar earns election after his fourth opportunity as a Hall of Fame finalist. He was a Modern-Era finalist in 2003 and 2008 and a Seniors finalist for the Centennial Slate in 2020.
During his 10-year career from 1974-83, Gradishar became one of the most dominant linebackers in NFL history. A seven-time Pro Bowler and two-time first-team All-Pro, Gradishar posted a franchise-high 2,049 tackles. He also recorded 19.5 sacks, 20 interceptions, 13 fumble recoveries and four defensive touchdowns.
Gradishar is one of just 10 linebackers in NFL history with at least seven Pro Bowls, 20 interceptions and 13 fumble recoveries — and he will now join the other nine players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
A 1989 inductee into the Broncos' Ring of Fame, the Ohio State product will become the 14th Bronco — and seventh Broncos defender — in the Hall of Fame, joining Willie Brown, John Elway, Gary Zimmerman, Floyd Little, Shannon Sharpe, Terrell Davis, Brian Dawkins, Champ Bailey, Pat Bowlen, Steve Atwater, John Lynch, Peyton Manning and DeMarcus Ware.