There is one particular piece of Denver Bronco history that I remember from 25 years ago. It was a matchup with the archrival Oakland Raiders during their stint in Los Angeles. During Week 10 at the Coliseum, one which the Broncos came out victorious, one of the Raiders Touchdowns was ingrained into my mind. It involved Free Safety Mike Harden, but we’ll get to that in a minute. First things first.
Mike Harden was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 5th round (131st overall) of the 1980 NFL Draft. He took over as the starting Right Cornerback in ’83 and held the job for 5 seasons before spending his last year as a Bronco at Free Safety. In his 9 seasons as a Bronco, Harden started 98 of 128 games. He amassed 33 Interceptions, 4 Touchdowns, 11 Fumble Recoveries and 1 Sack. There are no statistical records for Tackles or Passes Defensed at that time. Mike also returned 7 Punts for a 14.6 average including one for a 32-yard Touchdown against the Eagles in Week 3 of the 1986 season. On Kickoffs, he had 26 returns for a 15.9 average.
Mike was involved in more than one jaw-shattering hit in NFL history. He is the Bronco that Bo Jackson bowled over on his way to his first pro Touchdown in 1987. This is the memory I referred to above.
Another incident occurred in 1988, when Harden laid out Seattle Seahawks Wide Receiver Steve Largent. Largent’s career came close to ending when he was bashed to the turf by Harden. Largent’s helmet was mangled and two teeth were broken. He was out cold for five minutes. The Bronco Safety was fined $5,000 by the league.
When the Broncos and Seahawks met again later that season (they were division rivals at the time), Largent got a measure of revenge. After Harden intercepted a Dave Krieg pass in the endzone, he returned it out near the 20 when Largent came out of the blue with a monster hit that sent Harden flying. The hit was perfectly legal. Later on, Largent admitted he wanted to hit Harden as hard as he could.
“It wasn’t meant to be a vindictive thing but it sure felt good.”
When the Broncos drafted Steve Atwater with the 20th overall selection in 1989, Harden was made expendable and he signed with the Oakland Raiders. Mike played for two more years before retiring in 1990.
Harden’s Team records
Most Interceptions (1984-88)
Interception yards (1983, 1985-86)
Interception TD’s (1984-86)
5th in Career Interceptions
Most yardage on Interception Returns
Career 2nd (643)
Season 1st (179)
Most Interceptions Returned for Touchdown
Career 1st (4) Tied
Season 1st (2) Tied
A Mile High Salute to Bronco Legend Mike Harden.
– Kaptain Kirk