The Broncos' Ring of Fame honors those who have most impacted the franchise to be cemented in team history. (All photos from Denver Broncos photo archives unless noted as from AP Images)
Denver Broncos Ring of Fame defensive end Richard Jackson was honored this week, but it was not a tribute that is likely to get a lot of publicity.
Nevertheless, it is a legit honor and should be recognized as such.
In the January/February edition of "The Coffin Corner," the official publication of The Professional Football Researchers Association, the group announced their Hall of Very Good Class of 2015, and Jackson is included in that group.
The other 2015 enshrinees are Alan Ameche (Baltimore Colts fullback), Rick Casares (also a fullback, for Chicago, Washington and Miami), Bill Forester (Green Bay linebacker), Chuck Knox (former head coach for the Rams, Bills and Seahawks), Ted Nesser (lineman and head coach, Columbus Panhandles) and Gene Washington (wide receiver for San Francisco and Detroit).
This is a legitimate honor bestowed annually by the PFRA, which does some of the best research on the history of pro football.
There are now 118 former players and coaches enshrined in the PFRA's Hall of Very Good, of which 13 have gone on to election into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Thirteen is a significant number to have been honored in Canton after the Hall of Very Good enshrinement, which pays tribute both to the players and to their accomplishments.
Jackson was traded from Oakland to Denver in 1967, a move that was always singled out by Hall of Fame owner Al Davis as one of the few big-time personnel mistakes he ever made.
Known as "Tombstone," Jackson played for the Broncos from 1967 through 1972, and before his career was cut short by a bad knee injury, he earned a spot in Denver's Ring of Fame.
One of the best defensive ends in pro football, Jackson not only made All-AFL in 1968 and 1969, and NFL All-Pro in 1971, but he was on the same path when he sustained the knee injury the following year.
When the highly venerated writer Paul Zimmerman, "Dr. Z" of Sports Illustrated fame, selected his all-star team for the first 50 years of NFL history, Jackson was one of his starting defensive ends, a tribute to Jackson as one of the greatest players in history.
While Deacon Jones of the Los Angeles Rams is widely considered the father of the now outlawed "head slap" technique by defensive ends, Jackson employed the move at the same time, albeit in the American Football League, as opposed to the huge media market of Los Angeles in the NFL. The rule change resulted as much from Jackson's affinity for the move as Jones'.
One of the four original inductees into the Broncos' Ring of Fame in 1984, Jackson was the first Bronco to be named first-team All-NFL and not only was an all-star every year from 1968-71, but in 1971 he made the Pro Bowl despite playing in just seven games due to that knee injury.
While sacks were not an official statistic during his era, he was graded by the Broncos coaches as the team's most efficient tackler, making the stop on 97 percent of his opportunities.
Other Broncos (and Denver connections) who have been enshrined in previous classes are Mac Speedie (in the inaugural class of 2003, for his play as an end for the Cleveland Browns), Tobin Rote (class of 2005, a great quarterback in the NFL and with the AFL Chargers who played just one season with the Broncos), Pro Football Hall of Famer Floyd Little (class of 2005), John Hadl (class of 2006, John Elway's first quarterback coach but selected on the basis of his play as an AFL/NFL quarterback), as well as Ring of Famer Randy Gradishar (class of 2008 and the only current Hall of Fame veterans committee candidate with seven Pro Bowls).
Also enshrined are Lou Saban (class of 2011, a legendary coach and linebacker) and Cookie Gilchrist (class of 2013, a fullback who had two stints in Denver and who was a devastating fullback in the AFL and Canadian Football League).
Both Gradishar and Gilchrist have been recognized in the Pro Football Encyclopedia on its list of the 250 greatest players of all time, regardless of Hall of Fame membership.
It is great to see Rich Jackson get this wonderful recognition by the Professional Football Researchers Association.
Congrats to "Tombstone" on his 2015 enshrinement into The Hall of Very Good.