The induction ceremony will take place on Sun., Sept. 23, at halftime of the Broncos’ home game against the Houston Texans at Sports Authority Field at Mile High (2:15 p.m. MDT kickoff).
“Players like Rod don’t come through your door very often, but he came through ours every day with a purpose and hunger to be great,” Bowlen said. “Rod’s production and numbers—as outstanding as they were—paled in comparison to his commitment to winning and the respect he commanded from each and every one of his teammates throughout his career. Emerging from an undrafted player to one of the best to ever play his position, Rod has truly earned his place among the greatest Broncos of all time.
“I am thankful for everything Rod contributed to this franchise during his time with the Broncos, and I congratulate him on his well-deserved election to the Ring of Fame.”
A three-time Pro Bowl selection (2000-01, ’05), Smith played 183 regular-season games (158 starts) over 12 seasons while setting franchise records in receptions (849), receiving yards (11,389) and receiving touchdowns (68). He also owns the club’s career postseason receiving marks with 49 receptions for 860 yards and six touchdowns in 13 playoff games (12 starts), including Denver’s back-to-back Super Bowl Championships following the 1997 and ’98 seasons.
Originally signed by the Broncos as a college free agent from Division II Missouri Southern University in 1994, Smith spent his rookie season on Denver’s practice squad. His first NFL reception came against the Washington Redskins on Sept. 17, 1995, on a 43-yard catch from quarterback John Elway as time expired to give the Broncos a dramatic 38-31 victory.
Smith eclipsed the 1,000-yard receiving mark in six consecutive seasons from 1997-2002 and in a club-record eight seasons overall (also from 2004-05). His career totals include a franchise-best 30 100-yard receiving games in the regular season, including in a career-high eight contests during the 2000 season.
Following his final game as a Bronco at the conclusion of the 2006 regular season, Smith was ranked 11th in NFL history in career receptions (849), 17th in career receiving yards (11,389) and tied for 30th in career receiving touchdowns (68). His string of posting 70 or more catches for nine consecutive seasons (1997-2005) tied for the second-longest streak in NFL history, and his career reception and receiving yardage totals still lead all undrafted players in league annals.
He currently holds three of the Top-10 single-season reception totals in Broncos history, including a team-record 113 catches in 2001—his second of consecutive 100-catch campaigns. He also owns four of the Top-10 single-season receiving yardage totals in Denver annals, including a club-record 1,602 yards in 2000. Smith ended his career having caught at least one pass in a franchise-record 124 consecutive games—a streak that spanned more than seven seasons.
Smith finished his collegiate career at Missouri Southern with league records in receiving yards (3,043) and touchdowns (34) while breaking the school’s receptions record (153). He totaled 63 catches for 986 yards (15.7 avg.) with 13 touchdowns as a senior and was named a first-team All-America selection in addition to finishing as a finalist for the Harlon Hill Trophy, given annually to the top football player at the Division II level.
He was named Missouri Southern’s Outstanding Graduate in 1994 after completing his collegiate studies with three degrees: economics and finance, general business, and marketing and management. Smith was inducted into the school’s Athletics Hall of Fame on Oct. 11, 2003.
Also a member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, Smith was an all-league, all-area and all-state selection as a senior at Texarkana High School in Texarkana, Ark., where he lettered twice in football and basketball and one in baseball. He was born on May 15, 1970.
Smith is the first former Bronco elected into the franchise’s Ring of Fame since tight end Shannon Sharpe (1990-99, ‘2002-03) joined the distinguished membership in 2009. He is the third wide receiver to be elected to the Ring of Fame, joining Lionel Taylor (1984) and Haven Moses (1988) with that honor.
The Broncos Ring of Fame was created by Bowlen in 1984 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.