Paul Howard, one of the longest-tenured Broncos in franchise history and a member of the Broncos 100 Team, has passed away.
He was 70 years old.
Howard spent 13 seasons in Denver as he manned the right guard position for two distinct eras of Broncos football. Only five players in Broncos history spent more time with the franchise than Howard, and he appeared in 187 games during his tenure in Denver.
A third-round draft pick in the 1973 NFL Draft, Howard appeared in 14 games as a rookie as the Broncos continued their transition to the NFL. He became a part-time starter at right guard in 1974 before manning the position full time in 1975. After missing the 1976 season due to injury, Howard returned in 1977 as the Broncos posted the best season in franchise history en route to a Super Bowl XII appearance.
"Paul was a great guy," said Billy Thompson, who was Howard's teammate from 1973-81. "… He was just really, really a genuine, good guy. I got to know him playing here and living here. He will definitely be missed. Kind of a soft-spoken guy, but a true, true teammate and worked hard. Just a mountain of a guy that wants to win."
A California native, Howard remained with the Broncos for the early years of John Elway's career and spent four seasons protecting the future Hall of Fame quarterback. Howard's final season came in 1986, as the Broncos marched to their second Super Bowl appearance in team history. Though Howard did not appear in Super Bowl XXI, he appeared in six different postseasons and played eight playoff games during his career.
"Paul Howard was a really good player," former Broncos public relations vice president Jim Saccomano said. "A lot of guys play a year, play two years, play four years, play eight years. He played almost double the eight years. That's a long time."
Howard started 147 of a potential 187 games at right guard during his 13 seasons in Denver.
Being tough is a requirement to play on the offensive line, Thompson said, and Howard was a shining example of the character needed to succeed in the trenches.
"When you're playing on the offensive line, you've got to be tough automatically," Thompson said. "You're always clashing. You're always trying to stand your ground and move and work. He was really an old-fashioned guy. He really came to work; he brought his lunchbox with him. But funny too. He'd come up with jokes and I really got to know him. He was a good friend and we're going to miss him."
In a 1997 article, the Denver Post compared members of the future Super Bowl champions to great players in Broncos history. The Post selected Howard as the top right guard in the team's history.
"Paul Howard was a nasty, nasty player," former Broncos QB and head coach Gary Kubiak told the Post. "He was an old-school type of guy."
Kubiak played four seasons with Howard in the 1980s.
In 2019, Howard was selected to the Broncos Top 100 Team, which was designed to honor the top 100 players in franchise history. Broncos Country helped select the team via an online vote, and Howard was one of 16 offensive linemen selected to the group. Howard was also named to the second-team offense for the Broncos' 50th Anniversary Team in 2009.
"In our 61-year history of the Denver Broncos, only one player has played more for the Broncos on the offensive line or started more games, and that would be Tom Nalen," Saccomano said. "[Howard] was a very, very good solid player."
Howard returned to Denver for last year's matchup against the Titans as members of the Broncos Top 100 Team were honored.
Howard was born on Sept. 12, 1950 in San Jose, California.