By Dayna O’Gorman // @DaynaOG
When we were dividing up the articles for the 2019 Pro Football Hall of Fame class, I jumped on the chance to write about Champ Bailey. Most of you know I am a lover of defense, and Champ was in a class by himself.
Cornerback Champ Bailey was drafted in the first round of the 1999 NFL Draft. It almost seems impossible that it was that long ago simply because it feels like he just left the game yesterday. Champ spent his first five seasons with Washington, then moving on to Denver in 2004.
His stats are staggering. Impressive from the start, Champ had five interceptions in his rookie year, including three against the Arizona Cardinals on Oct 17, 1999. In Denver, he had three division titles, started in two AFC Championship games, and one Super Bowl. 52 career interceptions, returned for 464 yards and 4 touchdowns. First Team All-Pro 4 times, Second Team All-Pro 4 times, voted to 12 Pro Bowls and named in the All-Decade Team for the 2000s. He holds the NFL record for most consecutive games with an interception (5).
Congratulations to Pat Bowlen and his family as well as Champ Bailey and his family on the selection to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The first time two Broncos will be enshrined in the same HOF class.
— Jeff Legwold (@Jeff_Legwold) February 2, 2019
But his stats are just part of the story. I knew there was more to the importance of Champ Bailey than just the numbers he put up on the field. Champ was part of the fabric of the Broncos and their community. I decided to chat with a couple of Denver Broncos fans, asking them what Bailey meant to them as a fan, and what they thought he meant to the team.
I first spoke to Jennifer Eakins, senior editor/writer for 4for4.com and contributor for SI Fantasy. She’s also a Denver Broncos fan. When I asked her about Bailey, she said, “Champ is the epitome of NFL legend. He only missed 14 total games from 1999-2012 and holds the record for most Pro Bowl selections by a corner. Bailey was a quiet leader both on and off the field, and a guy we all loved to root for. He brought so much joy and passion to Denver for so many years and is so deserving of this incredible honor.”
Seth Carnell is a life long Denver Broncos fan, who just happens to live deep in enemy territory…Kansas City. While football season can be rough when you live in the town of a division rival, Seth always wears his blue and orange proudly. I asked how he felt about Bailey.
“During a time of some of the most elite number one WRs and future Hall of Fame QBs, somehow Champ Bailey provided the fans and his team defensive comfort. He was electric to watch on the field and off the field made you more proud to be a fan of the Broncos.”
— Troy Renck (@TroyRenck) July 17, 2019
Accolades flooded in when Bailey was announced as a member of the 2019 class, from teammates, coaches, and fans alike, and they were well deserved. Bailey was not only a great football player, but he was also a player that made the fans proud. He is respected around the league as one of the best at the cornerback position and was definitely deserving of a first-round ballot induction.
As for this defense lover, being able to see Champ Bailey play was always reason enough to tune in to Broncos games. He was just so fun to watch. Fast, smart, intuitive…he was a fantastic football player.
Congratulation Champ Bailey!