ENGLEWOOD, Colo. >> Former Denver Broncos safety John Lynch used to look up from the grass at Sports Authority Field and glance at the names along the team’s hallowed Ring of Fame.
Steve Atwater, Dennis Smith, Randy Gradishar.
“I used to look up there all the time and wonder if my name could ever go alongside theirs,” Lynch recounted Tuesday. “I thought my time in Denver was too short for that to happen.”
Lynch, who played in Denver from 2004-07, was elected to the Broncos’ Ring of Fame along with former kicker Jason Elam (1993-07) and ex-linebacker Simon Fletcher (1985-95). They’ll be inducted at halftime ceremonies of a game this season.
Lynch, who wrapped up his career in the Rocky Mountains after 11 seasons in Tampa Bay, also is being inducted into the Buccaneers’ Ring of Honor this season.
“So, it’s going to be a special year for my family and me,” Lynch said.
Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, who was inducted last year, created the Ring of Fame in 1984 to honor players and administrators who played significant roles in the franchise’s history.
Elam played the first 15 of 17 NFL seasons in Denver, where he’s the all-time leader in field goals and points.
Fletcher, the Broncos’ all-time sacks leader, spent his entire career with the Broncos and never missed a game. Team president and CEO Joe Ellis called Fletcher’s selection “long overdue.”
Fletcher took his extended wait in stride.
“I could run fast but I’ve truly been slower at every other aspect of life, so it’s not surprising to me,” he said.
“I think one of my eyes may sweat during the ceremony,” Fletcher added. “Big boys don’t cry, but we do sweat when we’re in a hot situation, particularly from the eyes, in this case.”
Lynch, who admitted he thought about going back to baseball (the Marlins held his rights) after his second season in Tampa, played four seasons (2004-07) in Denver, each ending with a Pro Bowl appearance.
Ellis said Lynch “played for us for only four years, but made four Pro Bowls, was a great leader and had a terrific season in 2005. One of the leaders on defense. One win short of the Super Bowl that year.”
Ellis said Lynch’s dual honors this fall should serve as a prelude to his enshrinement in Canton.
“I think you take not only what kind of player he is, but what kind of person he is, what kind of leader he has been for two franchises. I think if you sum that up, if I were a Hall of Fame voter, I would probably take that into consideration,” Ellis said.
Ellis said the committee never considered waiving the five-year waiting period to honor Peyton Manning as it did for John Elway in 1999 just six months after he retired a champion.
“No. We didn’t talk about that. I don’t think we’d consider that,” Ellis said. “We considered that for one guy who I think everyone would justifiably argue was the greatest the player in franchise history and has a special place in our owner’s heart and deserved that award at that time.”
So, Manning can expect to see his name alongside Lynch’s in 2020.