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Sacco Sez: Bob Smith and the history of Mic'd Up features


Denver Broncos fans love all things Broncos, and one of the things that has brought them closer to the action is the wiring of players and coaches.

But it was not always so, and it began even before NFL Films was founded in 1962.

The concept began with the 1960 TV production of "The Violent World of Sam Huff," a CBS program narrated by Walter Cronkite.

"We wired him for sound with a tiny transistorized radio transmitter," Cronkite said. "It's not allowed in regular league play, and it's the first time it's been done on television. The transmitter is embedded in his pads, the microphone goes in front. You're on the receiving end, and you're going to be closer to pro football than you've ever been before."

Later, NFL Films brought the concept to the bright lights of NFL games, starting in 1967 with Steelers linebacker Bill Saul.

Bob Smith, the retired Emmy-Award winning videographer for NFL Films, eventually did vastly more wirings than anyone else, including all of them in his last 15 years with Films. That includes many of the Broncos, including players and coaches.

"The guy who was most instrumental was Pat Bowlen and the general manager," Smith told me. "We got more access from the Broncos than any other team in the 1980s and 1990s. The Broncos trusted us, trusted me, and were the most wiring friendly team in the NFL. By far."

In fact, head coach Mike Shanahan was the first head coach to be wired for seven straight playoff games, all wins, on the way to consecutive world championships.

"Print the legend," says Smith. "That is what wirings do. They make legends that last forever."

Some of Smith's best and favorite Broncos wirings included John Elway, Dennis Smith, Steve Atwater, Shanahan, nose tackle Greg Kragen and center Keith Kartz.

"While he was playing in that Super Bowl [against the 49ers]," Smith said of Kragen, "I still think that was one of the best wirings we ever had in a losing cause. He was great, so dedicated."

Smith started wiring players as early as the early 1970s, but it became full time for him in 1995, and his last was the wiring of Peyton Manning 20 years later.

"It was our last game, and a great way to go out for both of us," Smith said.

Smith and his wife, Kennie, who also worked for Films, are both retired and living in Florida now, but I can assure readers that his influence on the present game was almost immeasurable. Bob Smith is on the list, along with Hall of Famers Ed and Steve Sabol, of the guys who made the NFL.

He was trusted by coaches like Shanahan, and players like Elway and Manning, and had some of the most legendary sound bites ever seen or heard. Included among these is the famous Steve Atwater hit on Christian Okoye on "Monday Night Football."

He was also a great videographer and had the NFL shot of the year in 1981: "The Catch" by Dwight Clark for the 49ers in their first NFC Championship victory. His achievement is commemorated on a plaque in his home.

Now, wirings are commonplace, by Films and by NFL teams alike. Once upon a time there were none. Then, gradually, they came to be part of the NFL landscape.

Bob would always send his final wiring to us and others for team approval. There was no higher compliment than me asking Shanahan if he wanted to see it, with him saying, "No. I don't need to. If Bob Smith shot it, and you approve it, that is good enough for me."

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