Only the older generations of Denver Broncos fans can say they remember and watched Otis Armstrong play, but he was a superior NFL running back for eight years in Denver.
Next Tuesday night Otis will be inducted into the National Football Foundation College Football Hall of Fame at a dinner at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.
The connection to the dinner does not end with Otis, as the Chairman of the NFF is Archie Manning, father of Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.
Armstrong was the Broncos’ first-round draft choice out of Purdue in 1973, and while his College Football Hall of Fame selection is tied only to his career at Purdue, he did great at both the college and pro levels.
He had a sensational career at Purdue as the holder of virtually every school and Big 10 rushing record at that time, twice earning consensus All-American honors for the Boilermakers.
As a senior he carried 243 times for 1,363 yards and his college career rushing total was 3,315, sixth on the all-time NCAA list at that time—and this was before freshmen were allowed to play, or his total surely would have been much higher. Armstrong was the first Big 10 player since 1945 to win the league total offense title without throwing a pass.
He rushed for 4,400 yards and had over 6,000 total yards in his Bronco career, which was cut short by injury midway through the 1980 campaign.
Despite a rotation system for running backs in Denver, Armstrong twice ran for 1,000 yards (1974 and 1976), and he led the NFL with his 1,407 yards in 1974, becoming one of a handful of players at that time to average 100 rushing yards per game over an entire season.
A Pro Bowl selection in 1974 and again in 1976, Armstrong was a key player on the Broncos’ 1977 AFC championship team that represented Denver in Super Bowl XII, the first of the franchise’s six Super Bowls.
He had a powerful burst and was described by Head Coach John Ralston as “the best draw runner in pro football” during his Bronco career.
It was a pleasure to watch Otis Armstrong run, and I will be honored to be in the attendance next week and welcome him into the College Football Hall of Fame.
In the cult classic movie “Animal House” there is a character named Otis, and a refrain in the movie is to call out, “Otis, my man!” Oftentimes someone in the Mile High Stadium press box would recite that line—to himself or others–when Armstrong made a big run for the Broncos in the late 1970’s era that began the team’s playoff history.
And in the hard fought 20-17 win over Oakland in which Denver earned its first Super Bowl trip, Denver was nursing a three-point lead when the Broncos got the ball with just over three minutes left, getting to a third and three that would either ice the game or force a punt back to Oakland. It was Armstrong to whom Denver turned for those tough three yards, and he gained four for the game’s final first down to cement the win and bring euphoria to the Mile High City.
And next Tuesday, when he rises for induction into the National Football Foundation College Hall of Fame, it will be one more triumphant run for “Otis, my man!”
Tags: Jim Saccomano