Randy Gradishar belongs in the Hall of Fame


Denver Broncos Historical Archives
(Randy Gradishar photos courtesy of the Denver Broncos)

Talk of Fame Network

Randy Gradishar is in the College Football Hall of Fame for his linebacking career at Ohio State.

Now Gradishar deserves a bust in Canton for his NFL career, according to last week’s Talk of Fame Network poll. We asked our listeners and readers to identify the best middle linebacker not enshrined in the Hall and gave them six options, including an all-decade selection form the 1960s (Tommy Nobis) plus four other players who went to at least five Pro Bowls apiece.

Gradishar won the vote in a landslide, easily outdistancing Lee Roy Jordan of the Dallas Cowboys. Gradishar received 49.2 percent of the vote, followed by Jordan at 22.0, Karl Mecklenburg at 13.6 and Nobis at 9.8. Mike Curtis and Bill Bergey also finished in single digits.

Gradishar and Mecklenburg both spent their entire careers with the Denver Broncos, overlapping for one season in 1983. They went to a combined 13 Pro Bowls, seven by Gradishar and six by Mecklenburg. Gradishar has been a Hall-of-Fame finalist twice, in 2003 and 2008, but Mecklenburg has never been in the room to be discussed.

Linebacker Karl Mecklenburg gets by a Charger blocker during a December 22, 1991 win (17-14) over San Diego at Mile High Stadium.

(Karl Mecklenburg photo courtesy of the Denver Broncos)

Gradishar was a feature performer in Denver’s Orange Crush defense that took the Broncos to the Super Bowl in the 1977 season. He also was named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 1978. He went to seven Pro Bowls, the most of any middle or inside linebacker not in the Hall of Fame.

Legendary coach Woody Hayes called Gradishar “the finest linebacker I ever coached,” and he was named to the school’s all-century team. He collected 200 or more tackles in six of his 10 NFL seasons and played in the one Super Bowl.

Jordan was a worthy runnerup in this poll, starting in the middle for 14 seasons for the Cowboys and earning five Pro Bowl invitations and a Super Bowl ring. He also was one of the great playmaking linebackers in NFL history with 48 career takeaways – 32 interceptions and 16 fumble recoveries.

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(Lee Roy Jordan photo courtesy of the Dallas Cowboys)
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