Rod Smith toiled his way to Ring of Fame

The 23rd member of the Denver Broncos' Ring of Fame is one of the most renowned hard workers in team history.

Rod Smith went from an undrafted free agent to a two-time Super Bowl winner and leader of the franchise in Denver. It's no surprise Broncos owner Pat Bowlen and the selection committee have given Smith the team’s greatest honor by inducting him into the Broncos’ Ring of Fame. He is the first person to be inducted in three years.

Smith’s induction ceremony will be Sept. 23 at halftime of the Broncos’ home game against the Houston Texans. It’s probably not a coincidence Smith will be inducted against the Texans. Houston coach Gary Kubiak was Smith’s longtime offensive coordinator in Denver.

The three-time Pro Bowl selection set franchise records in receptions (849), receiving yards (11,389) and receiving touchdowns (68). He also owns the club’s career postseason receiving marks with 49 receptions for 860 yards and six touchdowns in 13 playoff games (12 starts), including the Broncos' back-to-back Super Bowl championships following the 1997 and ’98 seasons.

The Division II Missouri Southern University product spent his rookie season on the practice squad in 1995. He impressed then-Broncos coach Mike Shanahan in 1995 and Smith quickly became a major part of the offense. He remained a critical part of the team until he retired in 2008.

I covered Smith for a few years and I’ll always remember him for being a team player and being completely committed to his team. He was all business. Being a Bronco meant the world to him. He was a favorite of team employees on the football and non-football sides alike.

Smith’s first NFL quarterback, John Elway, had this to say about Smith’s election to the Ring of Fame:

“You couldn’t ask for a better teammate than Rod Smith. His work ethic, the way he competed and the positive influence he had on others were all qualities that made him one of the best. What a great Bronco who is so deserving of being honored as a member of the Ring of Fame.

“Although he had plenty of catches and touchdowns in his career, the only things that mattered to Rod were winning and competing for Super Bowls. That’s what was most important to him, and it showed in everything he did. Whether it was in the passing game or running game, you always knew Rod would give 100 percent on every play and do whatever it took to help his team win.

“Rod brought his lunch pail to work each day, took nothing for granted and made himself into an elite player. He’s a true pro. In addition to being one of the greatest undrafted players of all time, he’s one of the greatest wide receivers to ever play the position.

“I’m thrilled Rod has been elected to the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame, and I look forward to celebrating his induction this season.”