Steve Foley recalls great days with Broncos, enjoys current Tulane success
Steve Foley is a Denver Broncos legend who played for the Denver franchise in their first glory days in the NFL.
The native of New Orleans who starred at quarterback for Jesuit High School and Tulane became a main cog in one of the league’s best defenses.
Key motivation for the longtime pro defensive back was player loyalty to the team and backing from the coaching staff.
While playing cornerback on the Orange Crush defense, he was surrounded by exceptional talent. The 1977 unit that fueled a Super Bowl run allowed a league-low 10.6 points per game.
Tom Jackson, 1977 All Pro linebacker and legendary ESPN analyst, was the ringleader. He swatted away 94 passes in coverage during his career.
“The heart and soul of the defense,” Foley findly recalled. “A fiery leader.”
Nose tackle Rubin Carter made 153 starts, recording 29.5 sacks. Louis Wright was a staple in the secondary as corner.
“Louis could run 4.4 on grass in cleats. He could run down receivers in his 11th season,” detailed Foley. “Randy Gradishar was the most instinctive player I ever saw. He never missed a tackle.”
A linebacker, Gradishar was the 1978 NFL Defensive Player of the Year and twice named All-Pro. He finished his career with 2,049 tackles and 20 interceptions.
Then of course was the wild man himself, defensive lineman Lyle Alzado, who once stepped into a boxing ring for an exhibition match with Muhammad Ali.
The architect of that vaunted defense was Joe Collier. “He was the Bill Walsh of defense at that time,” Steve recalled. “He was the mastermind of the defense. It was amazing at what he could do. He never had computers, but we were always prepared. He was brilliant, one of the best human beings. He had total respect from all the players.”
Denver played in Super Bowl XII in the Louisiana Superdome against the Dallas Cowboys. Although they fell shy of their goal in a 27-10 loss, the Broncos had turned the corner. The Steelers won Super Bowls in 1974 and ’75. The Oakland Raiders captured the ’76 title. The Broncos took both down during the ’77 season.
“That’s when we knew we were legitimate,” recalled Foley.
During practice sessions during the 1978 season, there was a young 26-year old following Collier everywhere, in his shadow every step charting plays. the young assistant was a sponge for everything Collier did. That young man would eventually become maybe the most successful head coach in NFL history, Bill Belichick.
Out of his franchise record 44 career interceptions, Foley enjoyed much success against Chargers Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts.
“He threw a lot,” Foley said with a chuckle about the famous Air Coryell passing attack. “Almost a third of my interceptions came against him. He would throw 30-40 times each game when that wasn’t common.”
More foten than not, Foley and the Broncos struggled against the mighty Steelers. The Team of the 1970’s was complete, thanks to another Hall of Fame passer
“Terry Bradshaw was so accurate. He would throw the ball before the receiver broke. He had Lynn Swann and John Stallworth.”
Although he still closely follows the Broncos, Steve’s interest never strays far from his alma mater Tulane. He played 30 games for the Green Wave at quarterback, producing 2,174 passing yards and 14 touchdowns while adding another 1,308 yards rushing with 12 scores. He was a dual threat and modeled his style after one of the NFL’s all time best.
“I liked Fran Tarkenton. He was a scrambler,” Foley said with a grin.
Foley understands the path current Green Wave head coach Willie Fritz has traveled to make the program a winner. Fritz has a game plan and finds the players he needs in order to win.
“He knows how to win,” Steve explained. “I think that the transfer portal is great for Tulane. It’s a game changer. The players love him. They want to play for him. He’s approachable.”
Foley admires senior quarterback Michael Pratt, a three-time captain at Tulane.
“He has great presence. He can run, a surprising runner. He covers a lot of ground. He can make all the throws and throws in tight windows. A great arm, great QB.”
Foley envisions the Tulane football program reaching plateaus that were not previously imagined. “I think they could play with anyone.”
Whether it’s his Broncos under Sean Payton or Green Wave under Fritz, Steve Foley believes both are in secure hands.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, Rene Nadeau has been involved in sports ever since his earliest memories. Rene played basketball, wrestled, ran track, and was an All-District running back in football at John F. Kennedy High School. He went on to be a member of the LSU football program, developing a passion for the game in even…