Wed, 23 Sep 2020

Von Miller is already a Super Bowl MVP and a member of the 100-sack club, but this year he will add another notable accomplishment to his resume.

Miller will become the 33rd player to log 10 seasons as a member of the Denver Broncos.

This accomplishment is one of the best that any player can achieve, simply because it shows his consistent contributions and that the team values the player enough to keep him around.

As former NFL coach Jerry Glanville once famously said, "The NFL stands for 'Not For Long,' baby. If you do not perform, they will kick you the [heck] out."

A very good friend of mine was Glanville's PR man during that time, and he chuckles in confirming every word - except for the word "heck," of course, which I have taken the liberty to insert.

So chief among Miller's illustrious accomplishments is joining 32 other Broncos as 10-year men.

But as with so many things, the 10-year club is of more recent vintage in team history.

When the Broncos became winners, they had great players, and they played a long time. But as many readers know, Denver did not have a winning season for the first 13 years of the team, and the number of 10-year players followed according.

That is, there were none.

But everything changed in 1973, and just three players who joined the team in the 1960s were still Broncos at that time, and those three were the first 10-year members of the team.

Of course, players move around, due to roster decisions by coaches, better opportunities elsewhere, and so forth. So there were many players from the 1960s who played 10 years, just not all of them for the Broncos.

But two who did were Ring of Famers Billy Thompson and Paul Smith.

B.T. was one of the most notable players in Broncos history. Certainly one of the best defensive backs in franchise history, Thompson joined the team in 1969 and played here through the 1981 season, 13 years with one team.

He was a vital cog on the "Orange Crush" defense that led Denver to Super Bowl XII, generated 61 turnovers (40 interceptions and 21 fumble recoveries) as a cornerback and safety, and earned team captain status for several years. Billy Thompson was inducted into the Ring of Fame in 1987.

Joining the team one year earlier was Paul Smith, a superb defensive tackle from the University of New Mexico.

Interestingly, he was drafted by Denver from a New Mexico team that had just won one game, but Smith's star had shone brightly in college, and he continued stellar play with the Broncos.

He played 11 years with the Broncos, from 1968-78, and he too was a key member of that first Super Bowl team. During his career, Smith had back-to-back Pro Bowl selections and recorded 55.5 quarterback sacks from his defensive tackle spot. He was inducted into the Ring of Fame in 1986.

Far less notable but a beloved figure to old-time Bronco fans was the late Fran Lynch, No. 22 from the day he arrived in 1967 until the day he left in 1976.

Fran Lynch came to Denver as a fifth-round draft choice in 1967, the same year that future Pro Football Hall of Famer Floyd Little was our first-round selection.

Like Little, Lynch was a running back.

Like Little, Lynch was an East Coast guy, having played his college football at Hofstra.

And the two of them were roommates for the entirety of Little's nine-year career, with Lynch recording his 10th year in the NFL in 1976, though a knee injury during an exhibition game would prevent him from playing in the regular season.

Coaches, teammates, and fans, everyone loved Fran Lynch. He was Little's backup and was a star on Denver's special teams for his full career.

In 1967, his rookie year, Lynch rushed for 7 yards on two carries. But he made the team again in 1968, and every year thereafter through 1976. In 1974 he had just three carries for minus-2 yards, yet made the team for two more seasons after that.

Lynch could really play special teams well.

He finished as a 1,000-yard rusher - that is, 1,258 yards over nine years.

How solid was Fran Lynch? Just ask yourself this: How difficult is it to stay with one team, the same team, as a backup running back for 10 years?

It is difficult enough at the running back position that I was not able to find one other example in my research of NFL team player files. Never mind a guy who also had the elements of character that a guy like Floyd Little would room with him for his entire career. He seemed to be everyone's dearest friend.

Fran Lynch was the Broncos' first 10-year man, joined by Paul Smith and Billy Thompson, and this year Von Miller will become the 33rd member of that noble fraternity.

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