Thoughts of Upchurch to lifelong fan

He was Trindon Holliday without the fumbles. He was Darrien Gordon without the showboating. He was . . . and is . . . the greatest punt returner in Denver Broncos history.

The announcement to finally put Rick Upchurch into the Denver Broncos’ Ring of Fame, aroused memories of being a young Broncos’ fan. Memories of the Orange Crush. And memories of the first Bronco with home-run potential EVERY time he touched the ball.

Upchurch is the Broncos’ all-time leader with 8 punt returns for TD’s (the second is Gordon with 3). He has 3,008 return yards (the second is Deltha O’Neal with 1,335). He’s second in kickoff return yards behind Floyd Little. He’s also 10th on the all-time receiving yards list.

But memories aren’t stats. Memories of Rick Upchuch are the undersized #80 cutting through defenders, always running downhill and, of course, him being the deep threat to spread the field so that Haven Moses could be the go-to receiver for that wonderful 1977 team.

And for anyone who remembers those teams, surely they also remember the night Upchurch stood up the big, ugly John Matuszak.

It was a Monday night game in the late 70’s (maybe early 80’s). In a typical rough game littered with Oakland cheap shots, Upchurch had finally had enough. Near the Oakland sideline, Upchurch spiked his helmet and went after the giant-in-comparision Matuszak. It’s funny to remember now, but at the moment it was the antithesis of what that Broncos-Raiders rivalry was always about. We didn’t like them, they didn’t like us.

It’s been a long time coming #80 . . . congratulations.

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