In Gradishar's three years with the Buckeyes, all as a starter, the
team had a 25-6-1 record, with two Big Ten Conference
Gradishar's final collegiate game was a 42-21
victory over the University of Southern
California in the 1974 Rose Bowl, to complete a 10-0-1
In his senior season the Ohio State defense
allowed only 64 points and posted
in 1973 Gradishar made 22 tackles, then the second most
in a game in Ohio State history, and still stands as 9th best. His
320 career tackles were the most in school history when Gradishar
left Ohio State and now stands as 11th best in team history.
Gradishar was a consensus First-team All-America
selection in 1972
and a unanimous
First-team selection in 1973
. Also in 1973
Gradishar finished sixth in the voting for the Heisman Trophy
1973 Heisman voting
||Player, School, Position, Year
||John Cappelletti, Penn State, RB, Sr.
||John Hicks, Ohio
State, OT, Jr.
||Roosevelt Leaks, Texas, RB, Jr.
||David Jaynes, Kansas,
||Archie Griffin, Ohio State, RB,
||Randy Gradishar, Ohio State, LB, Sr.
||Lucious Selmon, Oklahoma, NG, Sr.
||Woody Green, Arizona State, RB,
||Danny White, Arizona State, QB,
||Kermit Johnson, UCLA, RB,
Randy was also academic All-American in 1973. According to scouts
Gradishar was a linebacker who went out
everyday with his hard hat
and lunch pail
and got the job done. When naming
Gradishar All-American Time
stated he was the "best Big Ten linebacker in three years"
Gradishar is a punishing tackler capable of penetrating any block,
and, say the scouts, "he has that great pro quality—the ability to
cover somebody else's mistake." Before entering the National Football League
played in the Hula Bowl
and the Coaches'
All-American game in 1974.
While attending the Ohio State University, Randy joined the
Gradishar was inducted into the Ohio State Varsity O Hall of
in 1983. In 1987 he was induced into the Colorado Sports Hall
. Gradishar was elected to the GTE Academic Hall of Fame
in 1992. Ohio State's director of
, Ed Weaver, said, "No more outstanding young man has
participated in our athletic program." Gradishar was inducted
into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1998.
In 1999 Gradishar received the
Silver Anniversary Award
recognizing his achievements 25 years after his graduation from
Ohio State. He was selected to the Ohio State Football
The Ohio State end-of-season award for most outstanding linebacker
is known as the Randy Gradishar Award. Recently named as the 8th
best Ohio State player of all-time. Also made list of the Top 100
college football players of all-time. In 2000 was named to ABC Sports
's All-Century team as an inside
Gradishar was drafted 14th overall in the 1974 NFL Draft
by the Denver Broncos
. Gradishar went on to spend 10
seasons with the Denver Broncos franchise. He played along with
of the Orange Crush Defense
is considered by some to be the greatest defensive player in
Broncos history. Teammate Jim Jensen said Gradishar and Roger Staubach
were the two best players he
ever took the field with.
He became a starter midway though his rookie
season and was named to his first Pro Bowl
after the 1975 season
his second in the NFL. From that season through his last, 1983, the
Broncos "Orange Crush" defense allowed the third fewest rushing
yards in the NFL, behind only the Steelers
" defense and the and Cowboys'
"Doomsday" defense. Additionally,
the Broncos trailed only the Steelers in the fewest yards per rush
during that same span. They have been named one of the NFL's
greatest defenses by the BBC
Gradishar became nationally known in a 1975 Monday Night Football
the Green Bay Packers
in which he
picked off a pass and returned it for a game-sealing victory while
also recording a sack
, two tackles
for loss and knocked down two passes and recorded six solo
switched to a 3-4 defense
Gradishar moved from middle linebacker to inside linebacker, where
he stayed the remainder of his career. The switch to the 3-4
defense gave Gradishar responsibilities relative to rush-lane
discipline and pass coverage that are beyond those of a middle
linebacker in the 4-3 defense
addition to leading the Broncos in tackles for the second straight
year, Gradishar led all NFL linebackers in sacks, with seven. He
was voted second-team All-AFC
by United Press International
assisted the Broncos to Super Bowl
. He made the Pro Bowl
second time and began a string of six consecutive appearances from
1977 to 1983. Gradishar was First Team All-Pro
and led a defense that led the AFC in fewest
points allowed with 148 in that 14-game season and was 6th in
allowing the fewest yards. The 1977 Broncos season is documented in
a new book by Terry Frei, 77: Denver, the Broncos, and a
Coming of Age that features Gradishar, Lyle Alzado and others.
The 1977 Broncos season began with a 7-0 shutout of the St.
Louis Cardinals that had been one of the NFL's top offenses
from 1974-1976 that featured offensive stars like Jim Hart, Terry Metcalf, Mel Gray, Dan Dierdorf and Conrad Dobler. In a
14-7 win against the Kansas City
Chiefs the Broncos made a goal line stand as time
expired to preserve a win. Denver Post staff writer Terry Frei's
book, 77: Denver, the Broncos, and a Coming of Age, put it
this way, "Gradishar penetrated and stopped two running plays, as
Gradishar did time and time again on the goal line in his
career. It was the trademark of both
Gradishar and the defense overall".
He was named consensus NFL Defensive Player of the
in 1978 by winning the Associated Press
Award, along with the UPI
Defensive Player of the Year award and the NEA Defensive MVP award,
receiving the George S.
for his efforts
as the Broncos reached the playoffs
the second straight season. The Broncos defense allowed 198 points
in 16 games, which was second in the NFL behind the Super Bowl
champion Steelers. Additionally, Gradishar was the Football Digest
NFL Linebacker of the
year in 1978, an honor he repeated in 1979.
The following season, 1979
, the Bronco defense ranked
5th in fewest points allowed and Gradishar led the team in tackles
for the 5th consecutive season. The 1980 season
was average in terms
of record (8-8) and statistics as the Broncos defense ranked in the
middle of the pack in many defensive categories except the Bronco
defense was 5th in allowing the fewest rushing touchdowns in the
NFL. Against the Cleveland Browns at Mile High
Stadium Gradishar returned an interception 93 yards for a
touchdown which was his career long
interception return and one of four defensive touchdowns Gradishar
scored in his career.
He was also named All-Pro and was
voted the Broncos Most Valuable Player for the second time in three
However, under new coach Dan Reeves
Bronco defense rebounded in 1981
, ranking 6th in total
defense, 3rd in lowest rushing average allowed in the NFL and 9th
in fewest points allowed as Broncos were 11-5. Randy had one of his
best seasons as he was consensus All-Pro and All-AFC as well as
being voted to the Pro Bowl.
returned to the playoffs with rookie quarterback John Elway
and Gradishar capped of his career
with his seventh Pro Bowl in ten NFL seasons. In Week 12 of 1983
season, against the Seattle
, Gradishar intercepted a pass, recovered a fumble,
recorded a sack, and a tackle for loss to go with his season-high
15 tackles in a key 38-27 win.
|“If you ask me to name the five best
linebackers I played against, or had a chance to cover in my
broadcasting career, Randy Gradishar would be on that list ...
There is no question about his credentials; Randy Gradishar belongs
in the Hall of Fame.”
His former coach Dan Reeves said about Gradishar, "He was as good a
linebacker as I have ever been around, and I have been around some
great ones. He was a leader without question of our defense while I
was with Denver. He was an exceptional football player. I had a
great deal of respect for him when I was at Dallas before I ever
went to Denver. After I arrived in Denver and saw what kind of a
leader he was my respect for him grew. He never missed a game and
was a dominant force on the field. The opposing team always had to
take him into account when they devised their game plans."
Randy Gradishar was called, "the heart and soul of the original
Orange Crush defense. He was the centerpiece of Joe Collier
's 3-4 and the glue that held a
ragtag bunch of degenerates and hand-me-downs (I mean that in a
good way) together." Pro
's personnel scout
Joel Buchsbaum wrote that "there are
quite a few scouts who will tell you that former Broncos ILB Randy
Gradishar was almost as good, even as good, as Jack Lambert
" and "unlike
Lambert, Gradishar was not a flashy headhunter, just a great
anticipator who was a deadly tackler and great short-yardage
When naming the top linbeackers ever, Buchsbaum wrote, concerning
Gradishar, "Maybe the smartest and most underrated ever. Had rare
instincts, was faster than Lambert and very effective in
short-yardage and goal-line situations. The fact he is not in the
Hall of Fame is a shame and may be attributed to the fact he was a
sure tackler but not a lights-out hitter or look-at-me type of
player." In 2006 was named by Riddell
Jonathan Rand as one of the Top 25 linbackers of all-time.
Pro Football Weekly
published these comments collected
from NFL scouts, "Superior diagnostician with exception strength,
balance, tackling form and very good lateral mobility. Not as
flashy or brutal as some ILBs but means almost as much to Denver's
defense as Walter Payton
Chicago's offense" and "Is most dominant defender in AFC when
healthy. Although not as brutal as Butkus or Bergey
, he's strong at the point of attack, does
a superb job of playing off blocks and getting to the ball, gets
good depth on his pass drops and is consistently excellent"
Zander Hollander, who wrote The Complete Handbook of Pro
, said about Gradishar, "Not as nasty as Butkus,
doesn't snarl like Lambert, but Gradishar makes all the plays. Hey,
he can hit, too. Just ask Saints
, after Gradishar knocked
his helmet off, "It was the first in my career like that, in the
open field". Gradishar's hitting ability was a sentiment echoed in
Rick Korch's book, The Truly Great
. In it Tony Dorsett
recalled the hit Gradishar gave
him in a 1980 game, "I ran a pass pattern and was wide open but
did not see me. I go back to
the huddle and tell Danny that I am wide open. I ran the same route
again but this time I was almost decapitated. My eyes were only
partially open when I hit the ground. Trainers and doctors came
running onto the field. They thought I was dead. Hey, I thought I
was dead, too." Hall of Fame defensive lineman Dan Hampton
remembers asking the Walter Payton
, "Walter, who gave you the
hardest hit you ever took in the NFL?". According to Hampton,
Payton replied, "Randy Gradishar, 1978". In 1981 SPORT magazine
named Gradishar one
of the Top 5 hardest hitters in the NFL, quoting the modest
Gradishar, "The chance for a real good shot comes very seldom, but
when it's there I take full advantage of it".
said this about Gradishar, "His range separated him from
others at his position. A sure and determined tackler, he was also
an excellent pass defender. He had special qualities in terms of
intelligence, preparation and athletic ability. His “play
anticipation” was the best in football. He had a great ability to
square his body into the ball carrier at the moment of impact;
which made him an incredible performer on third or fourth and
short.” Detroit Lions
and fellow inside linebacker Matt Millen
added, “Randy Gradishar was one of the most productive players I’ve
watched. He was always around the ball, rarely out of position, and
constantly making plays. Linebackers are difficult to evaluate
because there is a lack of statistics. But someone like a Randy
Gradishar was easy to judge because of what he produced.”
Mike Giddings of Pro Scout, Inc., added that "Gardishar could cover
the "Y" flat on a weakside linebacker blitzed. In recent times only
Gradishar and Lambert could to that". Additionally, coach Joe
Collier would have a unique coverage on a strong-side blitz in
which Gradishar, the right inside linebacker would be responsiple
to cover the tight end, man-to-man, on any "up" route in the
"seam", which would be on the opposite side of the formation. To do
so he would have to take the exact angle to get proper depth while
going across the field and an angle, according to Giddings,
Gradishar "could, and did".
In January, 2008, he was voted by a panel of former NFL players and
coaches to Pro Football Weekly
's All-Time 3-4 defensive
team along with Harry Carson
, Lawrence Taylor
, Andre Tippett
, Lee Roy Selmon
Gradishar retired after the 1983
, finishing his career with over 2,000 tackles and 20
interceptions, which he returned for 335 yards and three
touchdowns. He also recovered 13 fumbles, returning them for 72
yards and one touchdown. He also recorded 20 sacks according to
Bronco team records. Since his retirement, he has been nominated
for the Pro Football
Hall of Fame several times, but has yet to be enshrined.
He was among the 15 finalists in 2003 and 2008, and made the top 25
list in 2005 and 2007. The closest he came to induction was the day
before the 2003 Super Bowl
he made it to list of final ten.
Gradishar was inducted to the Broncos' Ring of Fame in 1989.
Inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame in 1987.
Post NFL Activities
made several trips to the Middle East,
visiting troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as visiting Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.
- Was president of the Denver Broncos Youth Foundation from
- Served on the NFL Players Special Advisory Council from
- Has a left ring finger shaped like
the number "7".
- Was sympathetic to college coach Woody
Hayes when he punched a player in the 1978 Gator Bowl. Gradishar knew Hayes would be fired
but stated publicly that "We all go off the deep end sometimes.
Woody just happened to do it in front of millions of people."
Gradishar empasized the positive aspects of Hayes, "Every time you
talked to him, it was, 'How are you doing in school, when are you
going to graduate, are you going to be a doctor or a lawyer?'"
- Worked with Promise Keepers in
Denver from 1994-97.
- Participated in the Susan G.
Komen for the
Cure celebrity race to raise awareness and funds for
research into curing breast
- Serves as an Honorary Chair for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure
- Is president of the Phil Long Community Fund, a non-profit
organization that provides financial resources to help champion
self-esteem and the leadership of young people through excellence
in education, sports, and recreation.
- Known for wearing a rare Riddell mask
that Helmet Hut expert Dr. DelRye thought was one of the
few Riddell models that "looked cool".
- All-time OSU defensive team packs quite a
wallop, Gannett News Service
- Ohio State Rushing Records
- John Cappelletti, Heiseman.com.
- The Ten Greatest Buckeyes Of All-Time: #8 Randy
- Randy Gradishar, College Football Hall of Fame.
- Phil Long.com
- Top 100 College Football Players of All Time,
America's Best & Top Ten.
Jensen, NFL Alumni, Rocky Mountain Chapter.
- Randy Gradishar for the Professional Football Hall of
- Gridiron's greatest defences, BBC News.
- Phil Long.com
- NFS Statistics by Team Category
- '77: Denver, the Broncos, and a Coming of Age
- NFL Statistics by Team Category
- NFL Statistics by Team Category
- NFL Statistics by Team Category
- Phil Long.com
- Phil Long.com
- Randy Gradishar, Professional Football Hall of
- History, Colorado Sports Hall of
- Gradishar Visits Troops in Iraq,
- Celebrity Teams, Susan G. Komen for the Cure
- Randy Gradishar, DenverBroncos.com.
- Phil Long.com
- 2008 Honorary Chairs, Susan G. Komen for the
- Letters, Helmet Hut.