Biography: Billy Thompson, S

Billy Thompson
Denver Broncos Billy Thompson (36) during a game against the New York Jets on October 22, 1973 at Shea Stadium in Flushing, New York. Denver Broncos beat the New York Jets 40-28. Billy Thompson played for 13 years all with the Denver Broncos and was a 3-time.(David Durochik via AP)
Billy Thompson, regarded by many as one of the best defensive backs in Denver Broncos history, was the only Ring of Fame inductee in 1987.

A third-round draft choice (61st overall) by the Broncos in 1969, Thompson was the first player in team history to play 13 seasons with Denver (1969-81) with that total tying for the sixth highest in franchise annals.

A team captain for many years, Thompson finished his career with more starts (178) and games played (179) than any player in Broncos history and currently ranks third and 10th, respectively, in those categories.

The safety also had the longest consecutive start and games played streaks (156 games) in Broncos history at the time of his retirement, marks that currently rank first and third, respectively, in club annals.

Thompson was a three-time Pro Bowl selection (1977-78, ‘81) who earned All-NFL honors twice (1977-78) while establishing himself as one of the game’s top ballhawks, finishing his career with a club-record 61 takeaways (40 INTs/21 FUM) as a member of teams that reached the playoffs three times (1977-79), won two division titles (1977-78) and appeared in one Super Bowl (XII in 1977).

His 40 career interceptions are the third most by a Bronco in team history, and Thompson stands atop the Broncos’ career interception return yardage list with 784 for a 19.6-yard average that is the second best in club history.

The safety scored seven defensive touchdowns for his career, reaching the end zone three times on interception returns and four times on fumble recoveries. His three interception return touchdowns tie for the third-highest total in Broncos annals while his four fumble recovery touchdowns stood as the NFL’s career record for many years and currently tie for third in league history.

As a rookie in 1969, Thompson became the first player in pro football history to lead his league in both kickoff (28.5 avg.) and punt return (11.5 avg.) average in the same season. He finished his career with the second-most punt return yards (1,814), seventh-best punt return average (11.6) and third-best kickoff return average (25.1) in Broncos history.

Thompson enjoyed a brilliant career at Maryland State (now Maryland-Eastern Shore), earning All-CIAA honors three times as a defensive back and being named team MVP as a senior. He also twice earned NAIA All-America honors and made All-CIAA three times in baseball as a centerfielder