I would guess that many fans in Broncos Country today, or maybe just those younger ones who have come along since the Broncos back-to-back Super Bowls, have only known Brian Dawkins as the player who wore #20 for the Orange and Blue. I’m not judging mind you, but even before the All-Pro Champ Bailey, there was another player who actually was a Shutdown Cornerback. His name is Louis, or “Louie” Wright and like Champ, he held down the Left Cornerback position.
Louie Wright was drafted by the Broncos with the 17th overall pick in the 1975 NFL Draft. He stood 6’-2”, 200 lbs. and played his entire 12 year NFL career for the Denver Broncos, something that isn’t so common anymore due to Free Agency. As is the case for many 1st round draft picks, it didn’t take him long to break into the starting lineup. Wright started 11 games as a rookie, making 2 Interceptions and Recovering a Fumble. They didn’t statistically record Tackles back then so it is difficult to portray the value of Wright. He followed that up with a breakout year (1977), Intercepting 3 passes for 128 yards and a Touchdown as part of the “Orange Crush” Defense that led the Broncos to their first Super Bowl (XII).
Here are some of Wright’s accomplishments:
1977 Football Digest NFL Defensive Back of the Year.
NFL 1970s All-Decade Team.
One of nine players in franchise history to be selected to at least 5 Pro Bowls (1977, 1978. 1979, 1983 and 1985).
Made his 1st pick-six in 1977 against the Raiders in Week 5.
Named 1st-Team All-Pro in both 1978 and 1979.
Named 2nd-Team All-Conference in 1980 and 1981.
Had a career-high 6 Interceptions in 1983.
Had 2 career Fumble returns for a Touchdown (82 yards in 1979 and 27 yards in 1984).
Blocked a Field Goal in 1985 during the Week 11 game against the Chargers, running it back 60 yards for his 4th and final career Touchdown. That block won the game (in OT) for the Broncos.
Played in two Super Bowls (XII, XXI).
Named to the Broncos 50th Anniversary Team.
In his NFL career, Wright finished with 26 Interceptions for 360 yards and 1 Touchdown. He also recovered 11 Fumbles and Returned two for touchdowns. In addition to his cover skills, Wright was also one of the best run supporting Cornerbacks of his era. His feats eventually earned him the nickname “Lou-dini.”
Joe Collier, former Broncos Defensive Coordinator and creator of the Orange Crush Defense had this to say about Louis Wright:
“They use a term today of Shutdown Cornerback. We didn’t have that term back then, but Louie Wright was a shutdown cornerback. He was a great run defender. He played the left side and in those days most teams were right-handed and their running plays usually went to our left side.”
The story in that link points out that Louis, along with Pittsburgh Steelers Mel Blount and Oakland Raiders Mike Haynes were considered the premiere Corners in their time. Blount and Haynes made it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But Wright has not. It is possible that the difference in Interceptions is what’s preventing Wright from getting that gold jacket—Blount-57, Haynes-46 and Wright 26–but Collier doesn’t agree.
“He couldn’t catch the ball very well,” Collier said. “But he knocked down more passes than anybody else.”
Perhaps someone should go back and watch game film on Louie. The League didn’t start recording Passes Defensed statistics until 2001 and I’ll bet they would find enough to get him into the Hall Of Fame.
Wright was inducted to the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame in 1993 and is currently a football assistant coach and Physical Education teacher at Rangeview High School in Aurora. He is also the Defensive Coordinator for the Metro State Football Roadrunners along with Darius Watts (Head coach) and Tom Nalen (O-Line coach).
A Mile High Salute to Lou-dini!
– Kaptain Kirk