Reeves, Mingo, Upchurch to Broncos Ring of Fame
ENGLEWOOD — They long ago buried their feud. Now, John Elway and Dan Reeves will share a facade.
Elway’s former coach was elected into the Denver Broncos’ Ring of Fame on Tuesday along with former halfback/kicker Gene Mingo and returner/receiver Rick Upchurch.
They will be inducted at halftime of the Broncos’ Sept. 14 game against Kansas City at Sports Authority Field.
Team owner Pat Bowlen created the Ring of Fame, which is displayed on the fifth level facade of the stadium, in 1984 to honor former players and staffers who played significant roles in the franchise’s history.
There are 27 Ring of Famers including this year’s inductees. Elway’s name went up in 1999 just a few months after he retired following his second straight Super Bowl win — over Reeves’ Atlanta Falcons.
Reeves coached the Broncos from 1981-92, compiling a 110-73-1 record while leading the team to a franchise-best five division titles and three Super Bowl appearances (1986-87, ‘89), all losses. He’s the first coach inducted into the Ring of Fame and just the second non-player, joining former owner Gerald H. Phipps, who was elected in 1985.
“Dan won a tremendous amount of football games as head coach of Broncos. We had an opportunity to experience three Super Bowls in a four-year period and enjoyed a lot of success as a team. I have a great deal of appreciation for what Dan helped us achieve,” Elway, now the team’s executive vice president and general manager, said in a statement. “He’s a great football coach and is very deserving of this honor. I’m happy for Dan and his family, and I’m looking forward to his induction into the Ring of Fame.”
Reeves, whose intensifying clashes with his star QB led to his dismissal after a disappointing 1992 season, said that “when you look at it, John was a big part of my coaching career.”
“We won over 100 games,” he said. “I have a great deal of respect for him as a player, and what he’s accomplished. Now he’s got on the other side and he sees how that part of it works. I just have a great deal of respect for John and I’m thrilled to death that ... both of us will be in it together.”
The first black placekicker in pro football history, Mingo played for the Broncos from 1960-64. He returned a punt 76 yards for a touchdown in the first regular-season AFL game, a 13-10 Broncos win over the Boston Patriots on Sept. 9, 1960, and served as a catalyst during the franchise’s formative years.
He said he couldn’t figure out why it took him so long to make it to the Ring of Fame.
“I didn’t think I would ever get in,” Mingo said.
Upchurch spent his entire nine-year career in Denver from 1974-83, making the Pro Bowl four times and earning five All-Pro honors as a returner. His eight career punt return TDs still rank tops in team history.
“The first time I touched the ball, I got knocked out. As a matter of fact, they cracked my helmet and I had a big knot over my eye, my lip was all jacked up. And they said, ‘Welcome to the NFL, little guy,’” Upchurch recounted. “Then Haven Moses, he gets jacked up, his facemask just explodes ... Then all of a sudden I’m thrust in as a starting wide receiver. At the game’s end, we come back and we beat Kansas City and I ended up with 284 yards and two touchdowns of total offense.”
It was the start of a great career, but he, too, had a long wait to reach the Ring of Fame. But he said he never tried to figure it out because he was more concerned with winning than with individual honors.
“This,” he said of the Ring of Fame honor, “is the chocolate syrup now on my ice cream.”