Rick Upchurch was the best at what he did when he did it.
But the former Denver Broncos return specialist isn't in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Nor is he in the Broncos' own Ring of Fame at Invesco Field.
This fact was all the more glaring Sunday when the team introduced its fifty all-time best players during its home game against the New England Patriots, part of a larger celebration of the NFL's history.
Upchurch's name was the first one called.
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Speculation and local sportswriter Terry Frei (who also gives Upchurch's stats) have it that Upchurch isn't in the Ring because of a personality dispute with Broncos management, or perhaps because he supposedly admitted to using marijuana years ago.
Both of those reasons seem silly, and there are at least 170 people who agree, judging by a Facebook page called Rick Upchurch belongs in the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame, which reads: "One of the greatest punt returners in the history of the National Football League, it is a travesty that for apparent personal reasons, owner Pat Bowlen has refused this induction! It's disgraceful and should be rectified!"
As a kid, Rick Upchurch was my favorite player. In the 70s, I waited for an hour in line once at a tiny little seafood market called Port of Denver on East Sixth Avenue (no longer there) to get his photo and an autograph. I kept that autograph on the wall of my room for years.
Scoring a star football player's autograph outside a rinky-dink store in the '70s is a classic old Denver moment (can't imagine something like that happening today), and Upchurch was a classic Broncos player. He belongs in the Ring.