List of HOF nominees highlights two Ring of Fame oversights
On Tuesday, the Pro Football Hall of Fame unveiled its list of 129 nominations for the class of 2023. It was a group that included several players with Broncos connections.
Some names on this list are amongst the best players in franchise history. They’re already inducted in the team’s Ring of Fame. Now, they’re just waiting for the call from the Hall. This includes Jason Elam, Tom Nalen and Rod Smith.
On the other end of the spectrum is a group of players who had very short stints with the Broncos, blips on the radar during their otherwise illustrious careers. This includes Bly, Joyner and Rice.
There’s also a subsection of players who were very productive with the Broncos, but their time in Denver was too limited to be worthy of Ring of Fame status. This includes Neil Smith, Ware and Welker. All were good in the Mile High City, but they were great elsewhere.
Which brings us to two names – Mark Schlereth and Al Wilson. Both have been deemed worthy of consideration, yet they are inexplicably not a part of the franchise’s highest honor.
Schlereth played 12 years in the NFL, six in Washington and six in Denver. He won a Super Bowl with the Redskins, but hoisted two Lombardi Trophies in orange and blue. His nomination for the Pro Football Hall of Fame has just as much to do with his time in a Broncos uniform as anything else, and rightfully so.
During his time playing in the Mile High City, Schlereth started 81 games. He was a part of a great offensive line, playing left guard on a group that opened holes for Terrell Davis en route to a 2,000-yard season, league MVP and Super Bowl MVP. It was an o-line that paved the way for other 1,000-yard rushers, including Mike Anderson and Olandis Gary.
Schlereth played between Gary Zimmerman and Tom Nalen. Both are already in the Ring of Fame. Zimmerman is also in the Hall of Fame, while Nalen is a nominee this year.
Wilson played all eight of his pro seasons in Denver. The Broncos first-round pick in 1999, he was the center of the team’s defense for nearly a decade, appearing in 125 out of a possible 128 games during that time. That’s a dazzling record of durability for a middle linebacker.
But Wilson was more than just available. He was also a tremendous player, earning five Pro Bowl invites during his eight years in Denver. Only eight Broncos have earned more, all of whom are in the Ring of Fame. The other four players with five Pro Bowl honors are also members of that elite group.
That makes Wilson’s omission a head scratcher. He certainly has the credentials, as well as the longevity. During his eight seasons, No. 56 record 723 combined tackles, 21.5 sacks, eight forced fumbles and five interceptions. His teams made the postseason four times, reaching the AFC Championship Game in 2005.
The resumes of Schlereth and Wilson are impressive. They certainly were worthy of consideration for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But for some reason, they aren’t good enough for the Broncos Ring of Fame.
Something seems amiss. These are two grand oversights that need to be corrected.