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Sammy Winder, Broncos Running Back
Jeff Pearlman
February 01, 1999
October 8, 1984
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February 01, 1999

Sammy Winder, Broncos Running Back

October 8, 1984

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When dDnverites hear the name of Sammy Winder, a former star running back for the Broncos, they show all the excitement of a fern. Some even ask, "Sammy who?"

This is what happens when a Terrell Davis comes to town. In with the new, John Doe to the old. "I would never, ever say I was as good a runner as Terrell Davis is," says Winder, 39. "I mean—look at him! But I was a tough, hard-nosed player who gave his all on every play. I think I helped my team succeed."

In his nine-year career with Denver, Winder ran for 5,427 yards and 39 touchdowns. His 296 rushing attempts in 1984, when he pushed and pounded his way to 1,153 yards, earning himself a trip to the Pro Bowl, was the Broncos' single-season record until Terrell Davis had 345 in '96. Winder made the trip to Hawaii again in '86. "But '84—that was the outstanding year for me," he says. "Other years were a little more frustrating."

He's referring to the three that ended with Super Bowl losses for Denver. Winder and the Broncos fell to the New York Giants in 1987, the Washington Redskins in '88 and the San Francisco 49ers in '90. He admits, somewhat grudgingly, that Denver may have been in over its head against New York and San Francisco, but the 42-10 loss to Washington still gnaws at him. "We matched up very well," he says. "We had a great start, scored first... and never got the ball back again. They just poured it on. We were shocked."

In 1989 Denver drafted Bobby Humphrey out of Alabama and gave him Winder's starting job. Although he says he was never bitter, Winder considers that the end of his career. "Before Humphrey, I never thought about getting hurt," he says, "but watching from the sidelines, I'd see Bobby get hit, and I started wondering if I'd be able to get up the next time that happened to me. I was 31, and maybe I had lost a step. I knew it was time."

Winder retired after the 1990 season and moved back home to Ridgeland, Miss., where he lives with his wife, Filista, and their nine-month-old daughter, Elizabeth. Together with his older brother, Warren, Sammy owns and operates Winder Construction, a business he finds as satisfying as a two-yard plunge into the end zone. "I really don't miss football very much," he says. "I've always been fascinated by power. One of the things I really enjoy is a 200-horsepower bulldozer and the energy it exerts. I just love that feel."

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