As part of the festivities this Sunday when the Denver Broncos host the Philadelphia Eagles, is a halftime ceremony inducting former Bronco Center Tom Nalen into the Ring of Fame. Nalen, who played 14 seasons (1994-2007) for the club, will be the 24th member of the Denver Broncos’ exclusive club.
The Broncos’ Ring of Fame was created in 1984 by team owner Pat Bowlen to recognize former players and administrators who played significant roles in the franchise’s history. The Ring of Fame is displayed on the Level 5 façade of Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
Tom was born on May 13, 1971, in Foxborough, Massachusetts. He played college ball at nearby Boston College, where he was a three-year starter and earned several honors, including 3rd-team Associated Press All-America, 2nd-team All-Big East Conference and 1st-team ECAC recognition.
He was drafted by Denver in the 7th round (218th overall) of the 1994 NFL Draft and anchored a Broncos Offensive line that was the standard among NFL units during his 14 year playing career. “Nails” saw action in the 3rd-most regular-season games (194) in franchise history, and his 188 starts are 2nd only to quarterback John Elway in Denver’s record books.
He was a member of Denver’s back-to-back Super Bowl champion teams from 1997-98 and his 13 career postseason starts are tied for the third-highest total in team history.
Former Broncos GM Ted Sundquist maintains that, “Nalen was the foundation of the front five that finally brought Pat Bowlen and John Elway a set of rings.”
At the time, the Broncos Offensive Linemen had a self-regulated agreement to not speak to the media. Some say that coach Alex Gibbs ordered it because he wanted their play on the field to speak for itself. Either way, the NFL mandated media time during Super Bowl week. Now Tom Nalen is an opinionated guy and just because their was a gag rule doesn’t mean he was the quiet type. A columnist from the San Diego Courant found out how blunt Tom could be:
“Well, we discovered Nalen’s pregame ritual: `Come early, find the right shoes and throw up.”
Among Tom’s accolades were:
5× Pro Bowl (1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2003)—the most by a Broncos Offensive lineman.
3× All-Pro (1999, 2000, 2003)
2× Super Bowl champion (XXXII, XXXIII)
NFL Alumni Offensive Lineman of the Year (2003)
Denver Broncos 50th Anniversary Team
In addition to being a part of seven playoff teams, three division champions and two Super Bowl winners, Nalen’s Offenses finished ranked in the Top 5 in total yards on eight occasions.
The 11 single-season 1,000-yard rushers and 93 single-game 100-yard rushers Nalen blocked for as the team’s starting center (1995-2007) represented the most by an NFL club during that time and the Broncos’ 395 Sacks allowed in that span were the 3rd fewest in the league.
Nalen blocked for 1997 MFL MVP Terrell Davis’ memorable 2,000-yard campaign in 1998 and helped pave the way for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year performances by running backs Mike Anderson (2000) and Clinton Portis (2002).
On January 6, 2009, he announced his retirement from football after spending his entire career playing for the Denver Broncos. He was the last remaining player from the Broncos’ Super Bowl titles in the late 90′s. That decision was made easy by 3 factors: His contract was up, his longtime coach (Mike Shanahan) just got fired and he was battling a bone-on-bone condition in his surgically repaired knee.
During his Ring of Fame news conference back in May, Nalen said,
“At halftime, I’m pretty sure I’m hoping there won’t be 76,000 fans there. Hopefully they’ll be getting a beer when I’m speaking for 12 seconds or so. I’m not looking forward to that at all.”
“Nails” joins five other teammates from the two Super Bowl wins in the Ring of Fame: Rod Smith (inducted in 2012), Shannon Sharpe (2009), Terrell Davis (2007), Steve Atwater (2005) and Gary Zimmerman (2003).
– Kaptain Kirk