Linebacker, Denver Broncos
5th season in pro football & with Broncos
College: Ohio State
Height: 6’3” Weight: 233
An All-American selection in both 1972 and ’73, Gradishar was chosen by the Broncos in the first round of the 1974 NFL draft (14th overall). Moving into the starting lineup at middle linebacker, he was chosen to the Pro Bowl for the first time in 1975. A smart and overachieving player who was especially effective against the run, Gradishar was a 2nd-team All-AFC selection in ’76 and moved to inside linebacker in 1977 as the Broncos switched to a 3-4 defense. Fueled by the “Orange Crush” defense, Denver won the AFC title and Gradishar was a consensus first-team All-NFL as well as Pro Bowl selection.
1978 Season Summary
Appeared in all 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]
Interceptions – 4
Most interceptions, game – 2 at Seattle 10/29
Int. yards – 19
Most int. return yards, game – 8 (on 1 int.) vs. Seattle 10/1
Int. TDs – 0
Fumble recoveries – 2
Fumble recovery TDs – 1 [2, tied with 13 others]
TD – 1
Points – 6
Postseason: 1 G (AFC Divisional playoff at Pittsburgh)
Sacks – N/A
Interceptions – 0
Int. return yards – 0
TD – 0
Awards & Honors:
NFL Defensive Player of the Year: AP
1st team All-NFL: AP, PFWA, NEA, Pro Football Weekly
1st team All-NFC: UPI, Sporting News, Pro Football Weekly
Broncos went 10-6 to finish first in the AFC West while allowing the fewest passing TDs (9) in the NFL and finishing a close second in fewest points allowed (198). Lost AFC Divisional playoff to Pittsburgh Steelers (33-10).
Gradishar received first- and second-team All-NFL honors and was again chosen to the Pro Bowl in 1979. He failed to make the Pro Bowl in ’80, a season in which he was credited with 230 tackles, but was selected in each of the next three years. Gradishar played a total of ten seasons, through 1983, and was selected to the Pro Bowl seven times and received at least some All-NFL or AFC honors on eight occasions. He was inducted into the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame in 1989.
MVP Profiles feature players who were named MVP or Player of the Year in the NFL, AAFC (1946-49), AFL (1960-69), WFL (1974), or USFL (1983-85) by a recognized organization (Associated Press, Pro Football Writers Association, Newspaper Enterprise Association, United Press International, The Sporting News, Maxwell Club – Bert Bell Award, or the league itself). Also includes Associated Press NFL Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year.