At halftime of Sunday’s game vs. Houston, Rod Smith’s name will be immortalized as the 23rd member of the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame.
The team’s leader in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, Smith’s induction was announced by Owner Pat Bowlen in May.
“Players like Rod don’t come through your door very often, but he came through ours every day with a purpose and hunger to be great,” Bowlen said in a statement at the time. “Rod’s production and numbers — as outstanding as they were — paled in comparison to his commitment to winning and the respect he commanded from each and every one of his teammates throughout his career. Emerging from an undrafted player to one of the best to ever play his position, Rod has truly earned his place among the greatest Broncos of all time.
“I am thankful for everything Rod contributed to this franchise during his time with the Broncos, and I congratulate him on his well-deserved election to the Ring of Fame.”
Broncos players have heard about Smith’s work ethic from his former coach, Richard Smith and teammate Keith Burns, who are now on the Denver coaching staff.
It is the legend of his work ethic that has left the biggest impression.
“It’s unbelievable the stories you hear about, and Rod’s one of them,” wide receiver Eric Decker said. “He exemplifies hard work and dedication and putting in the extra hours to do what he did. Obviously I look up to him, and I know he should be proud of himself.”
Wide receiver Brandon Stokley’s first season as a Bronco was also Smith’s last year in the NFL.
Even though Smith spent that 2007 season on injured reserve, Stokley said he was still able to learn from the veteran wideout.
“It taught me a lot watching him on film as a young guy, seeing how hard he worked,” Stokley said. “Being able to play with him for that one year was awesome, just to see what kind of leader he was. You still see him around the building these days, and you see him on the sidelines, which is awesome. It means a lot to young receivers.”
Tight end Joel Dreessen, who grew up watching Smith play for Denver, had a hard time pinpointing just one favorite memory of Smith.
“That play in the Super Bowl, the second Super Bowl they played against the Falcons, that long touchdown was one of my favorite memories,” Dreessen said. “I just remember him catching everything, always being open and catching everything. When I was in Houston, he was on a teaching tape for us. He was the best receiver when he would catch the ball the first thing he would do was get north and gain yards. It was no side-to-side running. I learned a lot from him.”
Along with other Broncos alumni, Smith has spent time with the team this season, sharing whatever advice he can with the current players.
“Whenever he makes an appearance, it’s nice to have him around,” Decker said. “He loves to talk and he loves to joke, but he’s also a great coach – a guy that has a lot of experience and wants us to succeed. So he shares his knowledge and it’s great to see him get recognized for his success on the field and the person he is off it.”
With Smith’s name atop the team’s leaderboard in just about every receiving category — and soon adorning the Ring of Fame in Sports Authority Field at Mile High — it gives the current wideouts a clear goal.
“We’ve got a ways to go to reach his standards,” Decker said. “But it’s somewhere I want to be 10 years down the road. It’s something to shoot for.”