By Zack Kelberman
DENVER (247 SPORTS) – Reality is sinking in for Hall-of-Famer-elect Champ Bailey.
The legendary Denver Broncos cornerback, officially voted into Canton, has hit the road to enshrinement. On “Measurement Monday,” as it’s known, Bailey was fitted for his HOF bust, gold jacket and ring — a surreal moment for the 40-year-old and his former employer.
Bailey heads into the Hall as a linchpin of the 2019 class, which also includes current Denver owner Pat Bowlen. This marks the first time in franchise history that two Broncos were elected in the same class. Bailey is also the first defensive Broncos player to make it in.
“It’s amazing. I really didn’t know that for a while. I had no idea,” he said Saturday evening. “I just assumed that we had a defensive player in. But then I realized that we didn’t get our first one until I got to Denver with [President of Football Operations/GM John] Elway. So, I was like ‘OK, we don’t have a defensive player.’ But now I’m just proud to represent that franchise because they took care of me all my years. And they let me go out with a little bit of a bang.”
A 12-time Pro Bowler and six-time All-Pro (three-time first-teamer), Bailey arrived to the Mile High City in 2004, via the blockbuster Redskins trade involving running back Clinton Portis. He finished his 10-year tenure with 34 interceptions (three pick-sixes), 122 pass deflections, and 522 solo tackles. Incredibly, he started 132 of 135 games, an unthinkable stat in today’s NFL.
Bailey was a human highlight reel during his magical career, but one particular play stands the test of time, claims Broncos president Joe Ellis.
“I think if Hines Ward hadn’t come back and made a great play against him in the 2005 AFC Championship Game, and had Champ picked that pass off—I don’t know if some of you have ever watched that game—but I think that game might have gone a little differently,” Ellis said. “There are a lot of great moments—obviously that playoff game against New England. He really turned around actually that 2005 season. It was only Game 2. A lot of people probably don’t remember—he picked off a Drew Brees pass at the beginning of the second half. We were losing the game and not doing much on offense. He took it into the end zone and I think we won that game and 12 more and advanced to the AFC Championship Game that year.”
The enshrinement ceremony for Bailey and other members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2019 will take place on Saturday, Aug. 3 in Canton, Ohio.