BRONCOS

Randy Gradishar selected for Pro Football Hall of Fame

Feb 8, 2024, 8:10 PM | Updated: 9:14 pm

LAS VEGAS — Forty years, one month and 15 days after playing his final game, Randy Gradishar finally has the honor he always deserved.

Thursday night, the NFL announced that the legendary Denver Broncos linebacker was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2024. The induction will take place in August in Canton, Ohio, just 55 miles from Champion High School in Warren, Ohio — the place where Gradishar’s long journey to football immortality began.

Randy Gradishar enters the Hall of Fame as a Seniors Committee nominee. This meant that this selection was a near-certainty from the moment the Hall announced him as one of the Seniors candidates last August.

But until Thursday night, there remained an air of uncertainty — however slight it might seem.

Other Seniors nominees did not pass through the vote of the full Hall of Fame selection committee. That included one seniors nominee this year: Art Powell.

THE JOURNEY OF RANDY GRADISHAR

After retiring from the Broncos after the 1983 season, Randy Gradishar wasn’t even a finalist for induction until 2003. He didn’t make it that far again for another five years — which was the final year of his eligibility from the primary pool of potential inductees.

That tossed Randy Gradishar into the purview of the Seniors Committee, where his wait continued. In 2020, he was named one of 20 finalists for the Centennial Class of the Hall of Fame, designed to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the NFL’s founding.

Ten made it. Ten didn’t.

Gradishar was in the latter category.

Two of the others rejected in 2020 — Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Cliff Branch and Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders receiver Cliff Branch — got their Hall call in the subsequent two years.

He thought that the 2023 class might provide his moment.

“This is the first year in a long time that I’ve felt there’s a real possibility of getting into the Hall of Fame,” Gradishar said then, prior to the announcement of that year’s senior nominees. But the spots went to Chuck Howley, Joe Klecko and Ken Riley.

A man of deep religious faith, Gradishar leaned on it as he wondered when his day might finally arrive.

“I believe it’s all in God’s timing,” he said in 2022. “Whether I get in or don’t get in is not going to change my life. Those honors come as an honor. So, I just kind of keep waiting and depend on people to see what my statistics are for when I played. I’ve heard what I call a lot of excuses over the years. That’s my own personal feeling about that.”

Still …

“When I look at my statistics compared to the statistics of guys that are already in there, mine are a little bit better.”

Indeed, Gradishar’s accomplishments compared favorably with those of another linebacking star of the same era: Harry Carson.

Gradishar even earned a defensive-player-of-the-year honor, bestowed upon him by the Newspaper Editors Association for his exquisite 1978 campaign. Nevertheless, Gradishar’s long wait dragged on over the decades.

And in regards to the Carson-Gradishar comparison, Gradishar played in Denver. Carson played in New York.

“People keep telling me, ‘If you played anywhere on the East Coast, you’d have already been in,’” Gradishar said in 2022.

Well, now that flimsy excuse can die. It should have expired many years ago.

But it’s not too late. And Gradishar is now where he belongs. Where he always belonged.

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