Former Ohio State Linebacker Randy Gradishar Named Finalist for 2024 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

By Andy Anders on August 23, 2023 at 1:37 pm
Randy Gradishar
Rod Hanna – USA TODAY Sports

Randy Gradishar's wait to enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame may finally be coming to an end.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced Wednesday that Gradishar, who played for the Denver Broncos from 1974 through 1983, was selected as one of three senior finalists for the 2024 class from the Canton institution's Seniors Committee.

As a senior finalist, Gradishar will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame if he receives approval for 80% or more of the full Selection Committee during its selection meeting early next year.

Gradishar played for Ohio State from 1971 through 1973, earning consensus All-American status in both 1972 and 1973. He's a rare linebacker who earned Heisman Trophy hype, landing sixth in the voting for college football's most prestigious award in 1973.

Woody Hayes, who had his share of great linebackers in Columbus, called him the “best linebacker I've ever coached.”

Gradishar's dominance continued into the professional ranks. Tackle stats weren't consistently kept until after his retirement in 1994 and didn't become an official stat until 2001, but unofficially Gradishar recorded 2,049 tackles across his career, which would be second all-time behind only Ray Lewis with 2,059. Lewis played 17 seasons to Gradishar's 10. Unofficially, Gradishar averaged more than 200 tackles per campaign.

Gradishar served as the centerpiece of the Broncos' "Orange Crush" defense, helping the team make Super Bowl XII in 1977. Gradishar followed that year up with a selection as both the AP and UPI Defensive Player of the Year for 1978. He made seven Pro Bowls and was a two-time first-team All-Pro.

Tackles weren't his only specialty either, Gradishar recorded 20 interceptions and returned three for touchdowns across his career. He hauled in four picks in two different seasons, 1978 and 1981. He's earned comparisons to one of the legends of his era by former Pro Football Weekly personnel scout Joel Buchsbaum.

"There are quite a few scouts who will tell you that former Broncos ILB Randy Gradishar was almost as good, even as good, as Jack Lambert," Buchsbaum wrote. "Unlike Lambert, Gradishar was not a flashy headhunter, just a great anticipator who was a deadly tackler and great short-yardage defender."

Gradishar has been a Hall of Fame finalist twice previously in 2003 and 2008. He is in the Broncos' Ring of Fame.

Should he be inducted, Gradishar would be the 11th player, coach or contributor from Ohio State to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, joining Cris Carter, Sid Gillman, Lou Groza, Dante "Gluefingers" Lavelli, Dick LeBeau, Orlando Pace, Jim Parker, Ed Sabol, Paul Warfield and Bill Willis.

He'd be just the fourth Buckeye to earn membership into both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame, joining Pace, Parker and Willis.

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