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Barney Chavous

Inducted 2024

Barney Chavous was universally respected in his 24 seasons with the Broncos.
That’s right: His 24 seasons… with one team.

He was a crucial cog in Denver’s “Orange Crush” defense in his 13 seasons as a defensive end, then spent 11 seasons on the coaching staff, ultimately as an assistant offensive coach and strength assistant.

Chavous played in 183 NFL games, all with the Broncos, starting in all but five. His work wasn’t as flashy, but was just as important – and perhaps even more so – compared to the contributions of higher-profile teammates. He finished with 75 sacks, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. He was efficient every single down he was on the field, contributing to the famed defense’s success as a whole.

As he was raised in the 1950’s and 60’s, Barney Chavous Jr. didn’t need to look very far to explore his family background. The family cemetery, with graves of at least seven generations, was just down the road from the Chavous farm in Aiken, South Carolina.

Aiken was across the Savannah River form Augusta, Georgia, and these were the days when it would have been unimaginable that a Tiger Woods – or any other black man – someday would strive down the Augusta National fairway, eying his next shot and preparing to don a green jacket.

Ask Barney if he worked the family farm as a kid and the response was a hearty laugh. “Did I?” he asked. “I drove tractors. I planted and picked cotton. I hoed cotton. I helped harvest. I helped with the cattle and hogs.”
That’s all.

He eventually attended and played football at South Carolina State in Orangeburg. On NFL draft day in 1973, he went to his student-teaching assignment at Holly Hill High School. Yes, if a pro football career didn’t work out, he would be a teacher and coach.

“We got out about 2:30,” Barney said. “And when I got back to Orangeburg, the dean of the dormitory said, “Hey, you have a message over there, look at the board”.

There, pinned to the board, was a note that told him to call “Fred Gehrke of the Denver Broncos,” and listed a phone number of the team’s assistant GM.
Barney called. Gehrke told him the Broncos claimed him in the second round. It was the start of a long and mutually beneficial relationship.

After retiring as a player in 1986, Chavous took a year off from football. On a pheasant-hunting trip with Broncos coach Dan Reeves, Chavous told Reeves he would like to get back in the game. Reeves brought him back to the organization, first in an internship program and then as an assistant helping out with the defensive line. Under Mike Shanahan, Chavous moved to the other side of the ball, helping the offensive line, and he worked with the scouting staff before stepping away to return to South Carolina full-time.

Late last year, he got another call from Denver.

He had been selected for the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame.

By Tony Phifer, Sportswriter, Fort Collins.

a close up of a man