As the NFL Draft 2017 gets underway today, Broncos’s fans attention must also be directed at The Denver Marriott City Center. There, the true definition of a shutdown corner–Champ Bailey— is being inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall Of Fame at the Annual Awards Banquet.
Bailey, drafted by the Washington Redskins in the 1st round of the 1999 draft, played 10 years in Denver after being a part of the trade taking Clinton Portis from Denver to Washington. This trade still remains one of most significant trades NFL history: Clinton Portis for Champ Bailey ranks among the biggest trades in NFL history | FOX Sports.
Before there was the No Fly Zone there was Bailey, who is indisputably one of the best to ever play the position, and this award is clearly the first of many yet to come. Champ embodied leadership excellence not only on the field of play, but in the locker room and community for more than a decade. When Elway returned to resurrect our beloved franchise, re-signing Bailey in 2011 was one of his top priories to offer stability and excellence to the team in the middle of a challenging transition. His approach to excellence never waivered: “until my last snap, I tried to be the best on the field” said Bailey.
Bailey created many memorable plays while wearing orange and blue, with the 100 yard interception return ending Tom Brady’s perfect playoff record as one of his most iconic. In his 10 years with Denver Bailey had 31 interceptions to go with his perfect cornerback shutout: allowing NO touchdown passes in the 2009 season. Bailey also finished his career with 52 interceptions. It’s a travesty that Champ did not get his Super Bowl ring; however, this stop off in the Colorado Sports Hall Of Fame will be a nice warm-up for his Canton, Ohio trip in 2019.
Bailey’s ability to travel all over the field set him apart from the other corners. Bailey shutdown the number one WR’s, week in and week out. He could cover the slot guy with his agility and football smarts as well as covering taller receivers on 9 routs, posts and corners with his pure athletic ability. Often left on ‘Bailey Island’ to fend for himself, few receivers could ever say they had a good day against Champ. His ability to tackle matched his coverage ability, which is rare talent indeed. What also distinguished Bailey as one of the best cornerbacks of all time is the longevity of his dominance in the NFL at his position. Steve Smith, one of the NFL’s greatest receivers, has repeatedly praised Bailey as the best corner he ever faced in his 16 year career.
[If] I lined up in the slot, he lined up in the slot,” Smith recently said on NFL Network. “If I lined up as a running back, he lined up as a linebacker. If I parked my car in the parking lot, he was the parking attendant. Champ Bailey lined up everywhere.
I just loved that there was no part of the field that [Bailey] wasn’t willing to go. Steve Smith
Many quarterbacks in the NFL simply didn’t look to the receiver when they saw 24 was covering. All of this resulted in 3 1st-team all–pro selections and a massive 8 pro bowl selections in his 10 year Bronco career – a team record. His overall 12 pro bowl selections is the most for any corner in the history of the league. Champ Bailey will be forever etched in stone as the best to play cornerback in the 2000’s and it’s not even close.
While Broncos’ fans are well aware of the eternally close bond between Elway and Pat Bowlen, Bailey was another player he was exceptionally close with. Bowlen loved the ferocity and elite level of Bailey’s game, but also his outstanding character off the field.
Champ Bailey was one of Mr. Bowlen’s favorite Broncos, one of his favorite players. It came down not only to his skill on the field but how he carried himself on the field, how he carried himself in the locker room and how he carried himself in the community. Those were high expectations to set upon a player, and Champ…exceeded those expectations. Joe Ellis, President of the Denver Broncos
Bronco Country, I hope you send a massive Mile High Salute to Champ on Thursday night as I will from across the pond, before sitting down popcorn ready waiting with anticipation for the next crop of hopefuls to cross the Colorado border and into Broncos Country.
As an interesting aside, at the Annual Induction and Awards Banquet Dylan McCaffrey son of Broncos’s legend Ed (and brother of hopefully Broncos’s selection in the 2017 draft Christian), will be picking up high school athlete of the year. Dylan’s brother Christian won the same award in 2015. It should come as no surprise to anybody that Von Miller will be awarded Colorado Sports Athlete of the Year award Thursday night as well.