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Rod Smith, DeMarcus Ware among 11 former Broncos nominated for HOF

9NEWS' own Chad Brown also among 129 HOF nominees for class of 2023. Eventually, only 5 from modern-era ballot will be elected.
Credit: AP Photo/Ed Andrieski
Denver Broncos wide receiver Rod Smith (80) celebrates with teammate Ashley Lelie, left, after Smith's 80-yard touchdown pass reception against the Atlanta Falcons in Denver, on Sunday, Oct. 31, 2004. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

ENGLEWOOD, Colo — Immortality remains a long way away.

But 11 former Denver Bronco players took their first step Tuesday when they were among the 129 modern-era nominees for the Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2023.

The 11 former Broncos nominated:

  • WR: Rod Smith, Wes Welker
  • OL: Tom Nalen, Mark Schlereth
  • DE: Simeon Rice, Neil Smith 
  • LB: DeMarcus Ware, Al Wilson, Seth Joyner (and 9NEWS' own Chad Brown)
  • CB: Dre’ Bly
  • K: Jason Elam

Rod Smith, Tom Nalen and Al Wilson were the three players who played their entire careers with the Broncos. Rod Smith, who has been nominated multiple times but has never made it to the next cut of 25 semifinalists, remains the Broncos’ all-time receiver in catches (849), receiving yards (11,389) and touchdowns (68) 16 years after his retirement.

Nalen played all 14 seasons with the Broncos, made five Pro Bowls, three All Pro teams, was a two-time Super Bowl-champion and in 2003 was the NFL’s Offensive Lineman of the Year.

Wilson was a 5-time Pro Bowler in his eight seasons.

Elam played 15 of his 17 NFL seasons with the Broncos and remains their all-time leading scorer with 1,786 points.

Credit: AP
Jason Elam, left, joins Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen in holding Elam's jersey as Elam announces his retirement from the National Football League after signing a contract with the Denver Broncos so he could retire from the team that he played for 15 years during a news conference at the Broncos headquarters in Englewood, Colo., on Wednesday, March 31, 2010. Elam played for 17 years in the NFL, completing his career as a member of the Atlanta Falcons. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Schlereth played six seasons with the Washington Redskins, winning the Super Bowl following the 1991 season, and was the starting left guard on the Broncos’ 1997-98 Super Bowl champions. He was a two-time Pro Bowler and was known for going through 29 surgeries – 20 on his knees – during his 12-year career. He has been co-host of the sports talk morning show on the FAN (104.3) since January 2016.

Welker, Rice, Neil Smith, Ware, Joyner and Bly had the bulk of their best seasons with teams other than Denver, although Welker, Neil Smith and Ware were key members of Broncos’ teams that played in Super Bowls.

Ware, who played 9 of his 12 seasons with the Dallas Cowboys before teaming with Von Miller to help the Broncos win Super Bowl 50 to cap the 2015 season, has the best chance from the group to be among the final 5 modern-era players elected into the Hall of Fame’s class of 2023. Ware was a top 15 finalist last year in his first year of eligibility.

Brown starred at the University of Colorado during the Buffs’ glory years from 1989-92, then was the Steelers’ second-round draft pick in 1993. In 15 seasons with the Steelers, Seahawks and Patriots, Brown had 79.0 sacks, three defensive touchdowns, 1,091 tackles, three Pro Bowls and two All Pro team selections.

Credit: AP
Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker (83) stretches prior to an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Indianapolis Colts , Sunday, Jan. 11, 2015, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

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