This is Hall of Fame weekend in the National Football League, marking the kickoff of the 97th year of NFL football. There are so many elements connecting the Broncos to this weekend.
Denver Broncos Ring of Fame linebacker Tom Jackson, who has gone on to such fame and to a spot in the broadcasting wing of the Hall for his work on ESPN, will compete his last assignment. How fitting that it is at the Hall of Fame game.
The first Bronco connection to the Hall was when Denver played the Detroit Lions in the Hall of Fame game in 1976 before the Broncos had even completed 20 seasons in pro football. The Hall itself was not yet 20 years old then, having inducted its first class of 17 enshrines in 1963.
While the number of Broncos in the Hall is a bane to Denver fans, this is a number that has grown and hopefully will continue to do so in the future.
I was speaking recently to Joe Horrigan, executive vice president of the Hall, and while plans remain in the talking stages, 2019 is the 100th anniversary of the NFL and the league and Hall will celebrate accordingly.
Personally, I would like to see the 100th year celebrated with a new inductee from every franchise in the game. My hope is that by then two or three more Broncos will be in by virtue of the normal selection process.
Denver has gone to the Super Bowl eight times -- tied for the most appearances ever -- and is one of just nine franchises to have won the Super Bowl three times. So from the owner on down, there have been some real talented individuals in the Mile High City. We certainly have no shortage of candidates, from owner Pat Bowlen to annual contenders John Lynch, Terrell Davis, Steve Atwater, Karl Mecklenburg and Dan Reeves, with Champ Bailey and Peyton Manning waiting in the wings.
In addition, I have strong hope that one of these years the Seniors Committee could favor us with a recommendation for election of cornerback Louis Wright and/or linebacker Randy Gradishar, both great players and legitimate candidates.
New Hall president David Baker is a dynamic individual who is spearheading a major expansion at the Hall, one that is philosophical as well as physical.
The Hall opened its doors for the first time in 1963 and has completed four expansions over the years (1971, 1978, 1995 and 2013). As a result, the museum has grown from its original 19,000 square feet of exhibit space the 118,000 square foot facility that it is today.
This year Edward DeBartolo, Jr., Tony Dungy, Brett Favre, Kevin Greene, Marvin Harrison, Orlando Pace, Ken Stabler and Dick Stanfel comprise the eight-man class, and Broncos fans will salute them and enjoy watching Tom Jackson's swan song for ESPN. But we all look forward to the next Bronco to wear the gold jacket, and hope that moment comes in 2017.