Who is the soul of the Denver Broncos?

Credit: Matthew Emmons, USA TODAY Sports

Who is the soul of this Broncos team?

I know Peyton Manning is the face of the team, but he’s not the soul. To be the soul, you have to be a Bronco through and through. The soul of the team lives and dies for the Mile High City, and the Mile High City lives and dies for them.

Now, I’m not saying that Manning doesn’t mean everything to the Bronco community, but Bronco fans would be lying if they said that they’d already forgot about all those years he spent in Indianapolis.

For the last decade, Champ Bailey has been the soul of the Broncos, but now that he’s gone, he has left a void that needs to be filled.

Will it be Von Miller, Demaryius Thomas, or Ryan Clady? Honestly, I don’t know. It could be someone you’d never really expect like Chris Harris. Who knows? Nobody can just designate someone as the soul of the team. It just happens.

So, who is it that the Bronco’s community loves most? Who represents what it means to be a Bronco best?

As I see it, here is a timeline of how the position of “team’s soul” has been passed down through Broncos history:

1960-1966 – Lionel Taylor

Taylor was an original Bronco. He came over from the Chicago Bears during the Broncos inaugural season, and cemented himself as one of the greatest Bronco receivers ever. During his seven years in Denver, he caught 543 passes for 6,872 yards – both good for third most in team history.

1967-1973 – Floyd Little

Every Broncos fan owes a debt of gratitude to this man. Without him, there wouldn’t be a Denver Broncos. He was the first real star the Broncos ever had, and his play helped develop the fantastic football city that Denver is today.

1974-1982 – Randy Gradishar

The first defensive player to make this list, Gradishar was the heart of the Orange Crush Defense that led the Broncos to Super Bowl XII. Gradishar is easily one of the best defensive players to every wear a Broncos uniform.

1983-1995 – John Elway

I’m not going to spend much time here. We all know exactly what Elway meant to the Broncos franchise.

1996-1998 – Terrell Davis

Davis is incomparable. His spark burned so bright, yet lasted for such a short time. Over the course of these three seasons, Davis was not only the best player on the Broncos team, he was the best player in the NFL and one of the best players in NFL history. His toughness, effort and unrelenting competitiveness led the Broncos through the greatest years in the franchise’s history.

1999-2003 – Rod Smith

After Elway retired and Davis’ career was thwarted by knee injuries, Smith was the only logical option to become the “team’s soul.” Undrafted out of Missouri Southern, Smith went on to break nearly every Bronco receiving record. To this day, though, the Broncos have had more talented receivers, Smith is still the most iconic wideout in team history.

2004-2013 – Champ Bailey

Like Elway, there isn’t much to say about Bailey. He’s one of the greatest defensive players of all time, and he helped carry the franchise through one of its toughest stretches in history.

2014 – ?

Right now, I would say that Thomas is next in line for the designation of “team’s soul,” but I really don’t know. He’s a top-five player at his position, he’s an extremely likable person and he seems destined to be with the Broncos for a long time, but I can’t honestly say that he’s my favorite player. It probably should be Miller, but I think that his off-the field issues have really hurt his case.

Either way, let me know what you think. What would you change on my list, and who do you think is destined to be the soul of the Broncos franchise?

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Like this? CLICK HERE to see which Broncos players have made it onto the NFL Network’s Top 100 list.

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  • Rich Kurtzman

    This is a cool list. Although, I must say Knowshon Moreno was “the soul” of the Broncos in 2013. His tears before that Chiefs game are a microcosm of his emotion, as was the army crawl after that late first down scamper to basically seal the win. Moreno was consistently jumping up for joy after being hit, hyping teammates up. He may not have been the most popular, but the soul? Yes. And, indeed, they are searching for a new one.

  • Michael Jaycox

    Totally agree with Knowshon. His emotions carried the Broncos team much of last year. My only reservations would be that he was only able to do that for a year. I think he was the soul of the team, but I’m not sure if he was the soul of the fan base. Simply because of the timespan. Though he was easily my favorite player on the team last season!