Biography: Paul Smith, DT

Paul Smith
Denver Broncos defensive tackle Paul Smith circa the mid-1970s. (AP Photo/NFL Photos)
Paul Smith was inducted into the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame in 1986 along with quarterbacks Frank Tripucka and Charley Johnson.

The defensive tackle recorded 55.5 sacks with the Broncos from 1968-78, finishing his 11-year career in Denver ranked second in that category (currently seventh). He posted 10.5 sacks in 1972 and 11 sacks in ‘73, propelling him to back-to-back Pro Bowl selections, while registering a career-high 12 sacks during the ‘71 campaign.

Smith did not miss a game for five consecutive seasons from 1969-73, appearing in all 70 contests during that period. He saw action in 12 games during the 1977 campaign, a season in which the AFC West- champion Broncos reached the playoffs for the first time in club history and played in Super Bowl XII against the Cowboys.

Smith was one of the team’s defensive leaders during the years when Denver was building the foundation for defensive excellence with the famed “Orange Crush.” His head coach, John Ralston, once said that Smith was “the finest defensive tackle in pro football,” and the lineman was known for being one of the quickest defensive tackles in the NFL.

Smith’s 11-year career was the longest in Broncos annals until he was surpassed by fellow Ring of Famer Billy Thompson. He was the first 10-year man in Broncos history after joining the club as a ninth-round selection (222nd overall) in the 1968 NFL Draft from the University of New Mexico.

Smith finished his professional career by playing two seasons with Washington from 1979-80. Smith passed away on March 14, 2000.