In 2011, Shannon Sharpe did it. In 2012, it was Terrell Davis.
Now, for the 2013 NFL Draft, it’s Randy Gradishar’s turn.
On Friday, April 26, Gradishar will announce the Broncos’ second- and third-round picks live from Radio City Music Hall. The Broncos Ring of Famer was selected as one of 32 “NFL Greats” to participate in the draft — continuing the program that began in 2011.
This year’s class of 32 players includes six Pro Football Hall of Famers, and many argue that Gradishar should be in Canton sooner rather than later.
Here are just a handful of notes on one of the key pieces of the Orange Crush defense, compiled by Erich Schubert:
In 145 career regular-season contests (134 starts) over 10 seasons, Gradishar totaled 2,049 tackles—an average of 205 tackles per season—and set a franchise record by leading the club in that category for nine consecutive years (1975-83). He also accounted for 33 turnovers (20 INTs, 13 FR) during his career to tie for the fourth most by an NFL linebacker during that span.
In addition to his seven Pro Bowl selections, Gradishar is the only Bronco to be named NFL Defensive Player of the Year, earning the honor in 1978 after accumulating 286 tackles (190 solo), four interceptions and two fumble recoveries. He helped the franchise make its first four playoff appearances (1977-79, ’83) while leading Denver to consecutive division titles (1977-78) and an appearance in Super Bowl XII during the 1977 season.
Currently a Senior Committee candidate for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Gradishar was a finalist for the Hall of Fame in 2003 and ’08 and a semifinalist from 2005-07. During his 10-year career, his seven Pro Bowls were surpassed only by Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Lambert.
Additionally, his 145 consecutive regular-season games played from 1974-83 were matched only by Hall of Fame linebacker Ted Hendricks.