ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Three former Broncos icons—halfback/kicker Gene Mingo (1960-64), wide receiver/returner Rick Upchurch (1975-83) and Head Coach Dan Reeves (1981-92)—were elected into the Denver Broncos’ Ring of Fame, the team announced on Tuesday after the selection committee held its annual meeting.
“[Owner & CEO] Pat Bowlen and the Broncos are very proud of their tradition and alumni, and we are thrilled with the election of Gene Mingo, Rick Upchurch and Dan Reeves into the Ring of Fame,” Broncos President Joe Ellis said. “They played a key role in three important eras of Denver Broncos history and are most deserving of this prestigious honor.
“Our organization looks forward to honoring Gene, Rick and Coach Reeves as we celebrate their distinguished and lasting contributions to the Denver Broncos.”
The induction ceremony will take place on Sunday, Sept. 14, at halftime of the Broncos’ game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Sports Authority Field at Mile High (2:25 p.m. MDT kickoff).
The three honorees represent the most Ring of Fame inductions in a single year since 1988 when quarterback Craig Morton, wide receiver Haven Moses and kicker Jim Turner were elected.
The Ring of Fame, which is displayed on the Level 5 façade of Sports Authority Field at Mile High, was created by Mr. Bowlen in 1984 to honor former players and administrators who played significant roles in the franchise’s history. Including this year’s inductions, a total of 27 individuals have been honored as Ring of Famers.
DENVER BRONCOS RING OF FAME CAPSULES
Mingo, who played five seasons (1960-64) for the Broncos as a halfback and kicker, is the fourth “original Bronco” to be inducted into the Broncos Ring of Fame, joining safety Austin “Goose” Gonsoulin, wide receiver Lionel Taylor and quarterback Frank Tripucka.
During the first four seasons (1960-63) in Broncos history, Mingo ranked third in professional football with 375 total points, trailing only Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Paul Hornung (396 pts.) and Patriots Hall of Fame wide receiver/kicker Gino Cappelletti (448 pts.). He led the American Football League in scoring on two occasions—producing 123 points (6 TDs, 18 FGs, 33 PATs) in Denver’s inaugural 1960 season and 137 points (4 TDs, 27 FGs, 32 PATs) as an AFL All-Star selection in 1962.
A multi-talented weapon during the formative years of the franchise, Mingo appeared in 59 career games for the Broncos and totaled 185 rushes for 777 yards (4.2 avg.) with eight touchdowns on the ground and 47 catches for 399 yards (8.5 avg.) with three touchdowns through the air. He also completed 6-of-18 passes for 200 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
On special teams, he connected on 72-of-119 field goals (60.5%) and 111-of-116 extra points (95.7%) for the Broncos and returned 18 punts for 214 yards (11.9 avg.) with one touchdown along with 34 kickoffs for 742 yards (21.8 avg.).
He returned a punt 76 yards for a touchdown in the first regular-season AFL game—a 13-10 Broncos victory against the Boston Patriots on Sept. 9, 1960. Mingo later served as an honorary captain for Denver’s “Legacy Game” against the Patriots on Oct. 11, 2009, commemorating the franchise’s 50th season, and will represent the club at the NFL Draft on Friday.
A pioneer as the first African-American placekicker in professional football history, Mingo finished his career playing in a combined 71 games for Oakland (1964-65), Miami (1966-67), Washington (1967) and Pittsburgh (1969-70).
Mingo was born on Sept. 22, 1975, in Akron, Ohio.
Upchurch spent his entire nine-year NFL career (1975-83) with the Broncos and made four Pro Bowls (1976, ’78-79, ’82) and five Associated Press All-Pro teams (1976-79, ’82) as a returner. He was named a first-team 1970s NFL All-Decade choice by the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee in addition to earning second-team 1980s NFL All-Decade honors as a kick returner.
Upchurch is the only player in Broncos history to make multiple all-decade teams with the franchise.
His career totals include 267 receptions for 4,369 yards (16.4 avg.) with 24 touchdowns, 49 rushes for 349 yards (7.1 avg.) with three scores, 248 punt returns for 3,008 yards (12.1 avg.) with eight touchdowns as well as 95 kickoff returns for 2,355 yards (24.8 avg.).
Upchurch’s eight career punt return scores tied Pro Football Hall of Fame safety Jack Christiansen for the most in NFL history at the time of his retirement and currently rank first in franchise annals.
In 1976, he led the NFL with a 13.7-yard punt return average and four punt return scores. His four touchdowns on punt returns tied an NFL record which still hasn’t been broken. He finished first in the league in punt return average (16.1) and punt return touchdowns (2) again in 1982.
His best offensive season came in 1979 when he paced the Broncos with 64 receptions for 937 yards (14.6 avg.) with seven touchdowns. His 937 yards marked the sixth-highest single-season total in franchise history at the time and his seven receiving scores tied for sixth.
Selected by the Broncos in the fourth round (95th overall) of the 1975 NFL Draft from the University of Minnesota, Upchurch was a 2003 inductee into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame. He was born on May 20, 1952, in Toledo, Ohio.
Reeves coached the Broncos from 1981-92 and compiled a 110-73-1 (.600) record in his 12 seasons while leading the team to a franchise-best five division titles (1984, ’86-87, ’89, ’91) and three Super Bowl appearances (1986-87, ’89). He is the first coach to be inducted into the Broncos Ring of Fame and just the second non-player to earn that distinction, joining former Owner Gerald H. Phipps (elected in 1985).
His 110 regular-season wins and seven playoff victories each rank second in Broncos history behind former Head Coach Mike Shanahan (138 reg. season/ 8 postseason).
Hired by the Broncos on March 10, 1981, Reeves made six postseason appearances with Denver and finished with a losing record on just two occasions—one of which was the strike-shortened 1982 season.
The pinnacle of his coaching career with the Broncos came in the late 1980s when he led the Broncos to the Super Bowl three times in a four-year span (1986-87, ’89).
Including his NFL tenure as a player with Dallas (1965-72) and coaching stops with the Cowboys (1972, ’74-80), New York Giants (1993-96) and Atlanta Falcons (1997-2003), Reeves owns the distinction of participating in more Super Bowls (9) than any individual in NFL history.
His most recent championship appearance was during the 1998 season when he led the Falcons to Super Bowl XXXIII against the Broncos to become just the third head coach at the time to lead multiple teams to the Super Bowl.
In 23 NFL seasons as an NFL head coach, including his 12 years with Denver, Reeves posted a 190-165-2 (.535) regular-season record and an 11-9 (.550) postseason mark. His 190 regular-season wins and 201 overall victories each rank ninth in league history while his four Super Bowl appearances are tied for fourth in league annals among head coaches.
A quarterback at the University of South Carolina, Reeves signed with the Cowboys in 1965 and totaled 535 rushes for 1,990 yards (3.7 avg.) and 25 touchdowns as a running back during his eight-year professional playing career.