Randy Charles Gradishar (born March 3, 1952) is a retired American football linebacker who played in the 1970s and 1980s. A native of Ohio, Gradishar was a two-time consensus All-American for the Ohio State Buckeyes, before playing ten seasons for the NFL's Denver Broncos, where he was the centerpiece of the "Orange Crush Defense".
Gradishar in 2003
|Born:||March 3, 1952|
|Height:||6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)|
|Weight:||233 lb (106 kg)|
|High school:||Champion (OH)|
|NFL Draft:||1974 / Round: 1 / Pick: 14|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NFL statistics|
Gradishar is a 1970 graduate of Champion High School, Champion, Ohio. During his high school career, Randy lettered all three years in both football and basketball. As a high school football player, Randy received honors including All-League, All-County, and the Star Helmet Award.
In basketball, he was the leading rebounder for three years and the second leading scorer for two years, receiving All-League and All-County honors. Randy holds the high school records for most blocked shots (44), single game rebounds (26), and most career rebounds (817).
In 2004 Randy was inducted into the Champion High School Hall of Fame for Athletics. He was presented by his former high school coach, Al Carrino.
Gradishar, who graduated with a degree in Distributive Education, was a three-year starter with the Ohio State University from 1971 to 1973. Former Ohio State head coach Woody Hayes called Gradishar "the best linebacker I ever coached". He made 134 tackles in his senior year, 60 of them solo, to lead the team.
|"Randy Gradishar is the finest linebacker I ever coached"|
In Gradishar's three years with the Buckeyes, all as a starter, the team had a 25–6–1 record, with two Big Ten Conference championships. Gradishar's final collegiate game was a 42–21 victory over the University of Southern California in the 1974 Rose Bowl, to complete a 10–0–1 season. In his senior season the Ohio State defense allowed only 64 points and posted four shutouts.
Against Washington State in 1973 Gradishar made 22 tackles, then the second most in a game in Ohio State history, and still stands as 9th best. His 320 career tackles were the most in school history when Gradishar left Ohio State and now stands as 11th best in team history.
1973 Heisman voting
Place Player, School, Position, Year Points 1st John Cappelletti, Penn State, RB, Sr. 1,057 2nd John Hicks, Ohio State, OT, Jr. 524 3rd Roosevelt Leaks, Texas, RB, Jr. 482 4th David Jaynes, Kansas, QB, Sr. 394 5th Archie Griffin, Ohio State, RB, So. 326 6th Randy Gradishar, Ohio State, LB, Sr. 282 7th Lucious Selmon, Oklahoma, NG, Sr. 250 8th Woody Green, Arizona State, RB, Sr. 247 9th Danny White, Arizona State, QB, Sr. 166 10th Kermit Johnson, UCLA, RB, Sr. 122
Randy was also academic All-American in 1973. According to scouts Gradishar was a linebacker who went out every day with his hard hat and lunch pail and got the job done. When naming Gradishar All-American Time stated he was the "best Big Ten linebacker in three years" Gradishar is a punishing tackler capable of penetrating any block, and, say the scouts, "he has that great pro quality—the ability to cover somebody else's mistake." Before entering the National Football League Gradishar played in the Hula Bowl and the Coaches' All-American game in 1974.
While attending the Ohio State University, Randy joined the Delta Upsilon Fraternity.
Gradishar was inducted into the Ohio State Varsity O Hall of Fame in 1983. In 1987, he was induced into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame. Gradishar was elected to the GTE Academic Hall of Fame in 1992. Ohio State's director of athletics, Ed Weaver, said, "No more outstanding young man has participated in our athletic program." Gradishar was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1998. In 1999 Gradishar received the Dick Butkus Silver Anniversary Award recognizing his achievements 25 years after his graduation from Ohio State. He was selected to the Ohio State Football All-Century Team in 2000.
The Ohio State end-of-season award for most outstanding linebacker is known as the Randy Gradishar Award. Recently named as the 8th best Ohio State player of all-time. Also made list of the Top 100 college football players of all-time. In 2000 was named to ABC Sports's All-Century team as an inside linebacker.
Gradishar was drafted 14th overall in the 1974 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos. Gradishar went on to spend 10 seasons with the Denver Broncos franchise. He played along with Tom Jackson as part of the Orange Crush Defense and is considered by some to be the greatest defensive player in Broncos history. Teammate Jim Jensen said Gradishar and Roger Staubach were the two best players he ever took the field with.
He became a starter midway though his rookie season and was named to his first Pro Bowl after the 1975 season, his third in the NFL. From that season through his last, 1983, the Broncos "Orange Crush" defense allowed the third fewest rushing yards in the NFL, behind only the Steelers "Steel Curtain" defense and the Cowboys' "Doomsday" defense. Additionally, the Broncos trailed only the Steelers in the fewest yards per rush during that same span. They have been named one of the NFL's greatest defenses by the BBC and others.
Gradishar became nationally known in a 1975 Monday Night Football game versus the Green Bay Packers in which he picked off a pass and returned it for a game-sealing victory while also recording a sack, two tackles for loss and knocked down two passes and recorded six solo tackles.
In 1976 the Broncos switched to a 3-4 defense in which Gradishar moved from middle linebacker to inside linebacker, where he stayed the remainder of his career. The switch to the 3-4 defense gave Gradishar responsibilities relative to rush-lane discipline and pass coverage that are beyond those of a middle linebacker in the 4-3 defense. In addition to leading the Broncos in tackles for the second straight year, Gradishar led all NFL linebackers in sacks, with seven. He was voted second-team All-AFC by United Press International.
In 1977 Gradishar assisted the Broncos to Super Bowl XII, their very first. He earned Pro Bowl honors and was named first team All-Pro. Gradishar anchored a defense that led the AFC in fewest points allowed (148 in the 14-game season) and gave up the 6th fewest yards. Gradishar was also voted the AFC Defensive Player of the Year by the Columbus Touchdown Club. The 1977 Broncos season is documented in a new book by Terry Frei, '77: Denver, the Broncos, and a Coming of Age that features Gradishar, Lyle Alzado and others. The 1977 Broncos season began with a 7–0 shutout of the St. Louis Cardinals that had been one of the NFL's top offenses from 1974–1976 that featured offensive stars like Jim Hart, Terry Metcalf, Mel Gray, Dan Dierdorf and Conrad Dobler. In a 14–7 win against the Kansas City Chiefs the Broncos made a goal line stand as time expired to preserve a win. Denver Post staff writer Terry Frei's book, 77: Denver, the Broncos, and a Coming of Age, put it this way, "Gradishar penetrated and stopped two running plays, as Gradishar did time and time again on the goal line in his career. It was the trademark of both Gradishar and the defense overall".
He was named consensus NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1978 by winning the Associated Press Award, along with the UPI Defensive Player of the Year award and the NEA Defensive MVP award, receiving the George S. Halas Trophy for his efforts as the Broncos reached the playoffs for the second straight season. The Broncos defense allowed 198 points in 16 games, which was second in the NFL behind the Super Bowl champion Steelers. Additionally, Gradishar was the Football Digest NFL Linebacker of the year in 1978, an honor he repeated in 1979.
The following season, 1979, the Broncos defense ranked 5th in fewest points allowed and Gradishar led the team in tackles for the 5th straight season. The 1980 season was average in terms of record (8–8) and statistics as the Broncos defense ranked in the middle of the pack in many defensive categories. Against the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium, Gradishar returned an interception 93 yards for a touchdown which was his career long interception return, a team record, and one of four defensive touchdowns Gradishar scored in his career. He was also named All-Pro and was voted the Broncos Most Valuable Player for the second time in three years.
However, under new coach Dan Reeves the Bronco defense rebounded in 1981, ranking 6th in total defense and 9th in fewest points allowed as Broncos finished the season with a record of 10-6. Randy had one of his best seasons as he was consensus All-Pro and All-AFC as well as being voted to the Pro Bowl.
The Broncos returned to the playoffs in 1983, led by rookie quarterback John Elway and Gradishar, as he capped off his career with his seventh Pro Bowl in ten NFL seasons. In Week 12 of 1983 season, against the Seattle Seahawks, Gradishar intercepted a pass, recovered a fumble, recorded a sack, and a tackle for loss to go with his season-high 15 tackles in a key 38–27 win.
|"If you ask me to name the five best linebackers I played against, or had a chance to cover in my broadcasting career, Randy Gradishar would be on that list ... There is no question about his credentials; Randy Gradishar belongs in the Hall of Fame."|
His former coach Dan Reeves said about Gradishar, "He was as good a linebacker as I have ever been around, and I have been around some great ones. He was a leader without question of our defense while I was with Denver. He was an exceptional football player. I had a great deal of respect for him when I was at Dallas before I ever went to Denver. After I arrived in Denver and saw what kind of a leader he was my respect for him grew. He never missed a game and was a dominant force on the field. The opposing team always had to take him into account when they devised their game plans."
Randy Gradishar was called, "the heart and soul of the original Orange Crush defense. He was the centerpiece of Joe Collier's 3-4 and the glue that held a ragtag bunch of degenerates and hand-me-downs (I mean that in a good way) together." Pro Football Weekly 's personnel scout Joel Buchsbaum wrote that "there are quite a few scouts who will tell you that former Broncos ILB Randy Gradishar was almost as good, even as good, as Jack Lambert" and "unlike Lambert, Gradishar was not a flashy headhunter, just a great anticipator who was a deadly tackler and great short-yardage defender".
When naming the top linbeackers ever, Buchsbaum wrote, concerning Gradishar, "Maybe the smartest and most underrated ever. Had rare instincts, was faster than Lambert and very effective in short-yardage and goal-line situations. The fact he is not in the Hall of Fame is a shame and may be attributed to the fact he was a sure tackler but not a lights-out hitter or look-at-me type of player." In 2006 was named by Riddell author Jonathan Rand as one of the Top 25 linebackers of all-time.
Pro Football Weekly published these comments collected from NFL scouts, "Superior diagnostician with exceptional strength, balance, tackling form and very good lateral mobility. Not as flashy or brutal as some ILBs but means almost as much to Denver's defense as Walter Payton does to Chicago's offense" and "Is most dominant defender in AFC when healthy. Although not as brutal as Butkus or Bergey, he's strong at the point of attack, does a superb job of playing off blocks and getting to the ball, gets good depth on his pass drops and is consistently excellent"
Zander Hollander, who wrote The Complete Handbook of Pro Football, said about Gradishar, "Not as nasty as Butkus, doesn't snarl like Lambert, but Gradishar makes all the plays. Hey, he can hit, too. Just ask Saints' Henry Childs, after Gradishar knocked his helmet off, "It was the first in my career like that, in the open field". Gradishar's hitting ability was a sentiment echoed in Rick Korch's book, The Truly Great. In it, Tony Dorsett recalled the hit Gradishar gave him in a 1980 game, "I ran a pass pattern and was wide open but Danny White did not see me. I go back to the huddle and tell Danny that I am wide open. I ran the same route again but this time I was almost decapitated. My eyes were only partially open when I hit the ground. Trainers and doctors came running onto the field. They thought I was dead. Hey, I thought I was dead, too." Hall of Fame defensive lineman Dan Hampton remembers asking Walter Payton, "Walter, who gave you the hardest hit you ever took in the NFL?". According to Hampton, Payton replied, "Randy Gradishar, 1978". In 1981 SPORT magazine named Gradishar one of the Top 5 hardest hitters in the NFL, quoting the modest Gradishar, "The chance for a real good shot comes very seldom, but when it's there I take full advantage of it".
NFL Films' Steve Sabol said this about Gradishar, "His range separated him from others at his position. A sure and determined tackler, he was also an excellent pass defender. He had special qualities in terms of intelligence, preparation and athletic ability. His "play anticipation" was the best in football. He had a great ability to square his body into the ball carrier at the moment of impact; which made him an incredible performer on third or fourth and short." Detroit Lions General Manager and fellow inside linebacker Matt Millen added, "Randy Gradishar was one of the most productive players I've watched. He was always around the ball, rarely out of position, and constantly making plays. Linebackers are difficult to evaluate because there is a lack of statistics. But someone like a Randy Gradishar was easy to judge because of what he produced."
Mike Giddings of Pro Scout, Inc., added that "Gradishar could cover the "Y" flat on a weakside linebacker blitzed. In recent times only Gradishar and Lambert could do that". Additionally, coach Joe Collier would have a unique coverage on a strong-side blitz in which Gradishar, the right inside linebacker would be responsiple to cover the tight end, man-to-man, on any "up" route in the "seam", which would be on the opposite side of the formation. To do so he would have to take the exact angle to get proper depth while going across the field and an angle, according to Giddings, Gradishar "could, and did".
In January 2008, he was voted by a panel of former NFL players and coaches to Pro Football Weekly 's All-Time 3-4 defensive team along with Harry Carson, Lawrence Taylor, Andre Tippett, Howie Long, Lee Roy Selmon, and Curley Culp.
Gradishar retired after the 1983 season, finishing his career with the NFL record for most tackles all time with 2,049, and 20 interceptions, which he returned for 335 yards and three touchdowns. He also recovered 13 fumbles, returning them for 72 yards and one touchdown. He also recorded 20 sacks according to Bronco team records. Since his retirement, he has been nominated for the Pro Football Hall of Fame several times, but has yet to be enshrined. He was among the 15 finalists in 2003 and 2008, and made the top 25 list in 2005 and 2007. The closest he came to induction was the day before the 2003 Super Bowl, when he made it to list of final ten.
Gradishar was inducted to the Broncos' Ring of Fame in 1989. Inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame in 1987. The Professional Football Researchers Association named Gradishar to the PRFA Hall of Very Good Class of 2008 
The 1971 All-Big Ten Conference football team consists of American football players chosen by various organizations for All-Big Ten Conference teams for the 1971 Big Ten Conference football season.1972 All-Big Ten Conference football team
The 1972 All-Big Ten Conference football team consists of American football players chosen by various organizations for All-Big Ten Conference teams for the 1972 Big Ten Conference football season. The teams selected by the Big Ten coaches for the United Press International (UPI) were led by Michigan with seven first-team selections, Michigan State with five first-team selections, and Ohio State with four first-team selections.1972 Big Ten Conference football season
The 1972 Big Ten Conference football season was the 77th season of college football played by the member schools of the Big Ten Conference and was a part of the 1972 NCAA University Division football season.
The 1972 Michigan Wolverines football team, under coach Bo Schembechler, compiled a 10–1 record, tied for the Big Ten championship, led the conference in scoring defense (5.2 points allowed per game), and was ranked No. 6 in the final AP and Coaches Polls. Michigan won its first ten games with four conference shutouts, and was ranked No. 3 in the AP Poll prior to its 14–11 road loss to Ohio State. Defensive back Randy Logan and offensive tackle Paul Seymour were consensus first-team All-Americans. Schembecher won the first Big Ten Football Coach of the Year award.
The 1972 Ohio State Buckeyes football team, under head coach Woody Hayes, compiled a 9–2 record, tied with Michigan for the Big Ten championship, led the conference in scoring offense (25.5 points per game), and was ranked No. 9 in the final AP Poll. The Buckeyes received the conference's berth in the 1973 Rose Bowl and lost to national champion USC, 42–17. Linebacker Randy Gradishar was a consensus first-team All-American.
Purdue running back Otis Armstrong led the Big Ten with 1,361 rushing yards, received the Chicago Tribune Silver Football as the conference's most valuable player, and was a consensus first-team All-American.1973 All-Big Ten Conference football team
The 1973 All-Big Ten Conference football team consists of American football players chosen by various organizations for All-Big Ten Conference teams for the 1973 Big Ten Conference football season.1973 Big Ten Conference football season
The 1973 Big Ten Conference football season was the 78th season of college football played by the member schools of the Big Ten Conference and was a part of the 1973 NCAA Division I football season.
The 1973 Ohio State Buckeyes football team, under head coach Woody Hayes, and the 1973 Michigan Wolverines football team, under head coach Bo Schembechler, compiled identical 10–0–1 records and tied for the Big Ten championship. Ohio State was ranked No. 2 in the final AP Poll, and Michigan was ranked No. 6. Ohio State led the conference in both scoring offense (37.5 points per game) and scoring defense (5.8 points allowed per game).
The regular season ended with a 10–10 tie between Michigan and Ohio State. When the game ended in a tie, the Big Ten athletic directors voted, 6–4, to send Ohio State to the Rose Bowl. Michigan athletic officials and fans were outraged, with even the Vice President of the United States, Gerald Ford, speaking out against the decision. Ohio State defeated USC, 42–21, in the 1974 Rose Bowl. Two selectors, the National Championship Foundation and the Poling System, recognize Michigan as a co-national champion for the 1973 season.
The Big Ten statistical leaders in 1973 included Ohio State running back Archie Griffin with 1,577 rushing yards. Griffin also won the Chicago Tribune Silver Football as the Big Ten's most valuable player. Four Big Ten players were recognized as consensus first-team All-Americans: Randy Gradishar and John Hicks of Ohio State and Dave Gallagher and Dave Brown of Michigan.1973 College Football All-America Team
The 1973 College Football All-America team is composed of college football players who were selected as All-Americans by various organizations and writers that chose College Football All-America Teams in 1973. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) recognizes six selectors as "official" for the 1973 season. They are: (1) the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) which selected its team for Kodak based on a vote of the nation's coaches; (2) the Associated Press (AP) selected based on the votes of sports writers at AP newspapers; (3) the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) selected by the nation's football writers; (4) the Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA) selected based on the votes of sports writers at NEA newspapers; (5) the United Press International (UPI) selected based on the votes of sports writers at UPI newspapers; and (6) the Walter Camp Football Foundation (WC).
Five players are recognized by the NCAA as unanimous All-America selections. They are: (1) running back and 1973 Heisman Trophy winner John Cappelletti of Penn State; (2) offensive tackle John Hicks of Ohio State; (3) defensive end John Dutton of Nebraska; (4) middle guard Lucious Selmon of Oklahoma; and (5) linebacker Randy Gradishar of Ohio State.1973 Ohio State Buckeyes football team
The 1973 Ohio State Buckeyes football team represented the Ohio State University in the 1973 Big Ten Conference football season. The Buckeyes compiled a 10–0–1 record, including the 1974 Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, where they won, 42–21, against the USC Trojans.1975 Denver Broncos season
The 1975 Denver Broncos season was the team's 16th year in professional football and its sixth with the National Football League (NFL). The team finished the season with a losing record and did not make the playoffs with six wins and eight losses. The Broncos would start out winning their first 2 games of the season against the Chiefs and Packers. However, the Broncos would struggle the rest of the season, as they would only go 4-8 in their last 12 games.1977 All-Pro Team
The following is a list of players that were named to the Associated Press All-Pro Team, the Newspaper Enterprise Association All-Pro team and the Pro Football Writers Association, and Pro Football Weekly All-Pro teams in 1977. Both first- and second- teams are listed for the AP and NEA teams. These are the four All-Pro teams that are included in the Total Football II: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League and compose the Consensus All-pro team for 1977.1978 All-Pro Team
The following is a list of players that were named to the Associated Press All-Pro Team, the Newspaper Enterprise Association All-Pro team and the Pro Football Writers Association and Pro Football Weekly All-Pro teams in 1978. Both first- and second- teams are listed for the AP and NEA teams. These are the four All-Pro teams that were included in the Total Football II: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League.1979 All-Pro Team
The following is a list of players that were named to the Associated Press All-Pro Team, the Newspaper Enterprise Association All-Pro team and the Pro Football Writers Association, and Pro Football Weekly All-Pro teams in 1979. Both first- and second- teams are listed for the AP and NEA teams. These are the four All-Pro teams that were included in the Total Football II: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League and compose the Consensus All-pro team for 1979.1980 All-Pro Team
The 1980 All-Pro Team is composed of the National Football League players that were named to the Associated Press, Newspaper Enterprise Association, Pro Football Writers Association, Pro Football Weekly, and The Sporting News All-Pro Teams in 1980. Both first- and second- teams are listed for the AP and NEA teams. These are the five teams that are included in Total Football II: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League. Pro Football Weekly chose a nose tackle due to the proliferation of 3-4 defenses in the NFL. They, and The Sporting News chose two inside linebackers.1981 All-Pro Team
The 1981 All-Pro Team is composed of the National Football League players that were named to the Associated Press, Newspaper Enterprise Association, Pro Football Writers Association, Pro Football Weekly, and The Sporting News All-Pro Teams in 1981. Both first- and second- teams are listed for the AP and NEA teams. These are the five teams that are included in Total Football II: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League. The Associated Press added a "nose tackle" position in 1981, joining Pro Football Weekly .1983 All-Pro Team
The 1983 All-Pro Team is composed of the National Football League players that were named to the Associated Press, Newspaper Enterprise Association, Pro Football Writers Association, Pro Football Weekly, and The Sporting News in 1983. Both first- and second- teams are listed for the AP and NEA teams. These are the five teams that are included in Total Football II: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League. The NEA chose two inside linebackers for the first time, as a reflection of the 3-4 which was the common alignment for NFL defenses in the mid-1980s.Joe Rizzo
Joe Rizzo (born December 17, 1950 in Glen Cove, New York) is a former linebacker of the Denver Broncos. He played for the Broncos from 1974 to 1980 and was a starter in Super Bowl XII and member of the Orange Crush Defense. He had 9 career interceptions. He was part of one of the most dominant linebacking corps in NFL history. Known as the Orange Crush, it consisted of, Joe Rizzo, Randy Gradishar, Tom Jackson and Bob Swenson. The corp was named the 9th best linebacking corps in NFL history by nfl.com. Joe was also voted by Bronco fans as one of the top 10 linebackers in the 50-year history (1959-2009) of the Denver Broncos.
A commercial real estate broker since 1984, Joe owns a commercial real estate firm and resides in Wilmington, NC.List of Denver Broncos first-round draft picks
The Denver Broncos are a professional American football team based in Denver, Colorado. They are members of the American Football Conference West Division in the National Football League (NFL). The franchise was formed on August 14, 1959 to compete in the American Football League (AFL). The first AFL Draft was held three months later. The last AFL draft the Broncos participated in was the 1966 draft, due to them joining the NFL as part of the AFL–NFL merger on June 8, 1966.The Broncos first participated in the NFL Annual Player Selection Meeting, more commonly known as the NFL Draft, in 1967. In the NFL Draft, each NFL franchise annually seeks to add new players to its roster. Teams are ranked in reverse order based on the previous season's record; the worst record picks first, the second-worst picking second and so on. The two exceptions to this order are made for teams that appeared in the previous Super Bowl; the Super Bowl champion always picks 32nd, and the Super Bowl loser always picks 31st. Teams have the option of trading away their picks to other teams for different picks, players, cash, or a combination thereof. Thus, it is not uncommon for a team's actual draft pick to differ from their assigned draft pick, or for a team to have extra or no draft picks in any round due to these trades.The Broncos selected Roger LeClerc, a placekicker from Trinity College, in the 1960 AFL Draft. In their first NFL Draft, the Broncos selected Floyd Little, a running back from Syracuse University. The Broncos have selected players from the University of Nebraska, University of Florida, and University of Tennessee three times each, the most from any university in the first-round. The team's most recent selections were Tim Tebow, a quarterback from Florida University and Demaryius Thomas, wide receiver from Georgia Tech. Three selections, Floyd Little, Merlin Olsen and Bob Brown, were enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1982 and 2004, respectively. In 1991, Mike Croel became the first Bronco to win the Defensive Rookie of the Year award, receiving 68 out of 82 votes.The Broncos' latest first-round pick is University of Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch, who they picked 26th overall in the 2016 NFL Draft.National Football League Defensive Player of the Year Award
Several organizations give out NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards that are listed in the NFL Record and Fact Book and Total Football II: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League. The Associated Press (AP) has been giving the award since 1972; Pro Football Writers of America/Pro Football Weekly since 1970; and Sporting News has announced winners since 2008. The Newspaper Enterprise Association was the originator of the award in 1966. However, it became defunct after 1997. Also going defunct was the United Press International (UPI) AFC-NFC Defensive Player of the Year Awards that began in 1975.Orange Crush Defense
The Orange Crush Defense was the 3–4 defense of the Denver Broncos during the late 1970s and early 1980s. The team adopted the 3–4 defense during the 1976 season, and the nickname "Orange Crush" for the team's defense was popularized early in the 1977 season by sportswriter/broadcaster Woody Paige.
It was one of the top defenses of its time with linebackers Randy Gradishar and Tom Jackson, with Gradishar as a potential Pro Football Hall of Fame selection. Other key players were defensive linemen Paul Smith (a three-time Pro Bowl selection), Barney Chavous, Lyle Alzado, and Rubin Carter, linebackers Bob Swenson and Joe Rizzo, and defensive backs Billy Thompson and Louis Wright and Steve Foley and Bernard Jackson.
In 1977, coach Ralston stepped down and Red Miller was brought in to guide an already talented team to their first ever playoff berth. The defense was already showing signs of dominance. By Week 7 of the 1977 season, the Broncos were 6-0 and the defense was well known as “The Orange Crush Defense”, giving up a total of 46 points during those games.
The team's coaching staff was led by Joe Collier, who was the defensive coordinator, along with defensive line coach Stan Jones (inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1991), and head coach Red Miller.
In the season the team played in Super Bowl XII, the 1977 Broncos had the National Football League (NFL)'s number-one defense against the rush and were a respectable 11th out of 28 teams against the pass using the NFL Passer Rating score. They allowed only 10.6 points per game, the third fewest in the league.
The team's defensive unit derived the nickname from their orange home jerseys and a popular soft drink, Orange Crush.The use of the term has resurfaced in recent years, most notably in reference to the Broncos' 2015 season.Van DeCree
Van Ness DeCree, from Warren, Ohio, is a former football defensive end who was a two-time All-American (1973, 1974) at Ohio State University. DeCree is a member of the Ohio State Football Hall of Fame (Class of 1990) He was also a three-year starter and a three-time All-Big 10 selection at defensive end, having been voted all-conference as a sophomore, junior, and senior. He was also voted to the Ohio State Football All-Century Team in 1999.
DeCree was part of a 1973 Buckeyes team that was considered among the best in school history. The defense had solid players from the line— tackle Pete Cusick, to the linebackers— Rick Middleton and Randy Gradishar, to the secondary— Neal Colzie, Steve Luke, and Tim Fox. This unit led by All-Big 10 selection DeCree, shut out four opponents in 1973, including three in a row.
Four of DeCree's teammates (Middleton, Gradishar, Colzie, and Fox) all became first-round draft picks in the NFL, as did Archie Griffin, John Hicks, and Kurt Schumacher on offense. Punter Tom Skladany was also a high NFL draft picks. The offensive skill players included Cornelius Greene at quarterback wingback Brian Baschnagel and fullback Pete Johnson and halfback Griffin, who led the Big Ten in rushing, running behind the tackle duo of Schumacher (an All-American) and Hicks (also an All-American) and winner of the 1973 Outland Trophy and the 1973 Lombardi Trophy.
The 9-0-1 Buckeyes, in the 1973 season Rose Bowl Game, beat Johnny McKay's 9-1-1 USC Trojans 42-21. The following year in the 1974 season Rose Bowl, USC edged the Buckeyes 18-17, which ended DeCree's college career.
DeCree played professional football for the World Football League in 1975 for the Chicago Winds. The
Chicago Winds signed Van DeCree. Winds coach Gibron planned to use DeCree at linebacker. Due to the Chicago franchise folding due to league-wide financial troubles, DeCree ended playing the rest of the season (which was ultimately suspended) with Birmingham.
DeCree still resides in Columbus, Ohio, and remains an avid Buckeyes follower.
1972 College Football All-America Team consensus selections
1973 College Football All-America Team consensus selections