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Broncos' Gradishar, Reeves, Shanahan advance to Hall of Fame finalist round

Gradishar has a great shot to be among 3 senior players elected. Shanahan and Reeves vying for one spot in coach/contributor category.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Randy Gradishar has made it through another cutdown in his candidacy for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. So have former Broncos’ head coaches Dan Reeves and Mike Shanahan.

Gradishar has made so many cutdowns before as a modern-era and senior players’ candidate, the former Broncos middle linebacker great knows not to celebrate unless he makes through the FINAL cutdown for the Hall of Fame Class of 2023. Still, he has never been one to take the consideration for granted.

The senior players’ voting committee narrowed its list from 25 to 12 players Wednesday. Gradishar made the list.

"Somebody from the East Coast called me a few hours ago and mentioned I’m down to the (12) finalists and that made me very, very happy," Gradishar said. "I’m glad somebody still remembers my name, kind of thing.

"I’ve been a finalist a few times and you get excited and hope for the best. This is another time for me to get excited."

 On Aug. 16, the list will be narrowed again, this time to three, and those three will be recommended for election into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The other 11 senior player finalists: Quarterback Ken Anderson, linebacker Maxie Baughan, linebacker Chuck Howley, quarterback Cecil Isbell, defensive lineman Joe Klecko, guard Bob Kuechenberg, cornerback Eddie Meador, linebacker Tommy Nobis, cornerback Ken Riley, receiver Sterling Sharpe (older brother of Broncos’ Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe) and cornerback Everson Walls.

Also Wednesday, the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced its 29 candidates under the coach/contributor’s category had been narrowed to 12 finalists. Reeves and Shanahan both made the cut. The problem is, only one from the coach/contributor category will eventually be recommended for election into next year’s HOF.

The other 10 coach or contributor finalists: Monday Night Football creator Roone Arledge, coach Don Coryell, coach Mike Holmgren, scout Bucko Kilroy, owner Robert Kraft, owner Art Modell, owner Art Rooney Jr., coach Clark Shaughnessy and player-executive-minority hiring advocate John Wooten.

A look at the three Broncos’ candidates:

Credit: AP Photo/Ed Andrieski
Former Denver Broncos linebacker Randy Gradishar holds one of his football helmets as he sits in front of a trophy case full of memorabilia from his playing days at the automobile dealership where he is leadership manager in Lakewood, Colo., on Thursday, Jan. 31, 2008. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

*Gradishar. The tackling leader of the iconic Orange Crush defense that allowed just 10.6 points per game in its Super Bowl season of 1977. A 7-time Pro Bowler in his 10-year career, Gradishar was also the 1978 NFL Defensive Player of the Year – the only Bronco to ever earn the distinction – and finished with a career triple double of 20 interceptions, 19.5 sacks and 13 fumble recoveries.

Credit: AP
Former Denver Broncos head coach Dan Reeves speaks after bring inducted into the Broncos ring of honor at half time of an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

*Reeves. Led two franchises – the Broncos and Falcons – to 4 Super Bowl appearances – a tougher task than the Vikings’ Bud Grant and Bills’ Marv Levy basically leading the same team to 4 Super Bowl losses – and Grant and Levy were long ago inducted into the Hall of Fame. Reeves, who died New Year’s Day just short of his 78th birthday, also turned around the New York Giants as a coach and had a seminal moment as a player, throwing a 50-yard halfback touchdown pass in the famed Ice Bowl.

Credit: AP Photo/Jack Dempsey
Mike Shanahan speaks at halftime during an NFL football game against the Las Vegas Raiders, Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021, in Denver.

*Shanahan. The only coach among the 12 finalists who has won multiple Super Bowls. Besides his success as a coach, Shanahan and his zone-blocking system has developed such current NFL coaches as Sean McVay, son Kyle Shanahan and Matt LaFleur.

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