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Remembering when the media made Broncos draft picks

Before the Broncos emerged as consistent contender in the late '70s, they built the foundation with a number of great draft picks. (Stats via Broncos' media guide unless noted)

The 2018 draft is over and every team is happy about its selections.

This is especially true in Denver, where John Elway and the Broncos picked the best defensive player in this year's draft, Bradley Chubb of North Carolina State.

All around the NFL the choices are made in as clandestine an atmosphere as possible.

No team wants anyone else to know their thinking, which is entirely logical.

But there was a time in Broncos history when the press literally, honestly and truly, made one draft selection each year for the Broncos.

Only two individuals remain active from that group of media members — Woody Paige of The Gazette and myself.

The years were 1972 through 1976, and the Broncos' head coach and general manager was John Ralston.


"JR" was both an astute judge of talent — he had one of the great drafts in Denver history in 1973 and also drafted first rounders such as Randy Gradishar, Louis Wright and Riley Odoms — but he was also great with the press.

During that period, the draft was 17 rounds long, a far cry from the seven of today.

So by the last few rounds, teams were more or less rolling dice and throwing darts, hoping to find a gem among players who today would be free agents.

So in each of those five years, when it came to the 17th round, John would allow the remaining press (and just a few of us hard-core types stayed till the end) into the war room for the pick.

But we did not just get to watch it.

We got to make it.

John would have the potential future Broncos down to three possibilities, and he told us the strengths and weaknesses of each player.

Then we press members (I was a radio reporter before my long PR career) got to vote, and the player with the most votes by the press had his name turned in and was the 17th-round selection of the Broncos.

For the record, here are the players we selected.

In 1972, it was Lou Harris, a running back from USC who ultimately did not make the team.

In 1973, it was tight end Kenneth Morgan from Elon, who also did not make the team.

In 1974, it was tight end Boyd Brown from Alcorn State. Brown made the team and played three years for the Broncos on special teams and as a reserve tight end. He never started but played in 40 games.


In 1975, the choice was running back Lester Sherman from Albany State, and in 1976, it was linebacker Randy Cozens of Pittsburgh. Neither player made the final roster.

That was Ralston's last season in Denver. And so ended the unusual and intriguing five-year tradition of the Denver press making one draft selection for the Broncos each year.

Ralston believed in teamwork and in having everyone be a part of the organization, and he obviously was using the press in that way as well. But it was still very flattering to have that kind of a relationship with the head coach. It was a memorable moment for me, at least.

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