Saturday night in Fremont, Ohio a man sadly died in the local Memorial Hospital. This man was special in more than one community; he played both big-time college football at the University of Michigan and played pro football with the Denver Broncos.
With this man's passing came the further enshrinement of the Orange Crush era in Denver as a memorial and historical testament to the greatness of one season played out over 30 years ago. With his passing, some of the grit, heart, and humility of the Orange Crush era has passed into infamy.
Rob Lytle was a running back by trade and was what football players should be: low-key, let his actions do the talking on the gridiron with power, force and a dash of slash. He scored the first touchdown in the Denver Broncos first-ever NFL championship game, Super Bowl XII against the Dallas Cowboys.
In those days, the Broncos were missing the brilliance of Floyd Little due to his early retirement and Otis Armstrong had multiple injuries that required Denver to pursue Rob Lytle.
Lytle apparently died of a heart attack late Saturday evening.
From the start, the dimension Lytle brought the Broncos was his hard-nosed running, something the Broncos traditionally didn’t have much of, and he had slash to his movements which allowed him to pick a lane fast and exploit it for maximum damage.
He never had amazing statistical seasons in the NFL, what he had was a knack for pickup up some hard fought yardage for the Denver Broncos. He had a nose for the hole in tight situations, and whatever the circumstance he would fill in and give it his all.
It’s a sad day knowing another key member of the Orange Crush has now passed on. Other players like Bernard Jackson, Paul Smith, Lyle Alzado, Bobby Maples and Norris Weese preceded their teammate Rob Lytle in death.
In his NFL career, he played all seven years with the Denver Broncos and he rushed for 1,451 yards, caught 61 passes for 562 yards and scored 14 touchdowns during his career. He was one of a number of humble faces for the franchise.
Nationally, Lytle is best remembered for his college years at the University of Michigan and for his fumble at the goal line against the Oakland Raiders in the AFC Championship game. It might eventually go down as the most famous fumble in the history of the NFL because of the stage in which it happened and the fact that it spurred instant replay to come to the NFL sooner than later.
The Broncos scored on the next play and eventually won the 1977-78 AFC Championship game, 20-17. More importantly the Broncos kept their arch-rivals the Oakland Raiders from ever going back to back as NFL champions and it forced John Madden to retire from football. Both Madden and Al Davis have always found that call hard to get over.
Former teammates, journalist and fans alike remember Rob Lytle with heavy hearts and a crush of heartfelt emotions.