Rick Upchurch
Rick Upchurch was born on May 20, 1952 in Toledo, Ohio. The 5-10, 175 pound Upchurch played his college football as a wide receiver at the University of Minnesota. He was selected by the Denver Broncos in round 4; pick 95 of the 1975 NFL Draft.

Rick Upchurch #80

Player Info

Height 5' 10"
Weight 175 lbs
DOB: 5/20/1952
Wide Receiver



NFL Draft

1975/Round 4/Pick 95

Career Highlights

Pro Bowl 1976, 1978, 1979, 1982
Honors Denver Broncos Ring of Fame
NFL 1980s All-Decade Team
Colorado Sports Hall of Fame

Team(s) As A Player

Denver Broncos 1975-1983

Rick Upchurch had a dazzling NFL debut on September 21, 1975 against the Kansas City Chiefs. With the Broncos trailing 10-0, Upchurch capped off a scoring drive with a 13 yard touchdown run on a reverse play. In the third quarter, Denver scored first as Rick Upchurch blazed by Jim Marsalis on a 90-yard pass play from Johnson. For the game Upchurch had 3 catches for 153 yards, one carry for 13 yards, scored two touchdowns, and had 284 total yards for the game. The Denver Broncos beat the Chiefs 37-33. (1)
“To do that well in that first game was something else, plus we came back to beat Kansas City,” Upchurch said. (4)

Mr. Punt Returner, Rick Upchurch

During the 1970’s and the early 1980’s, Rick Upchurch was the best punt returner in the NFL.  For his career he had 248 punt returns for 3008 yards, a 12.1 yard average and scored 8 touchdowns. His best season was 1976 when he had 39 punt returns for 536 yards, a 13.7 yard average and scored 4 touchdowns. Both the single season and career punt return touchdown marks were tied for the NFL record at the time of his retirement. 

On October 24, 1976, Rich Upchurch put on an outstanding performance, returning two punts for 59 yards — including a 55-yarder for a touchdown — and two kickoffs for 79 yards - including a 64-yarder to set up another touchdown — in leading the Broncos to a 35-26 win over the Kansas City Chiefs. Upchurch’s presence was known as the Chiefs squibbed their kickoffs to keep the ball away from Upchurch which ensured the Broncos of having good field position. “Sometimes in football you reach the point with a guy where respect turns into fear and I think that was the case today. Overall, I thought Upchurch was the key factor in the game.” said Chiefs' coach Paul Wiggin. (2) 

Upchurch tied an NFL record with four touchdown returns in a season and admits he is looking forward to breaking the longtime punt return record set by Christiansen."I'm no one-man show," Upchurch said. "I'd like to see our team get the record for everybody's sake. I can't go anywhere without the help of those blockers. They are the key for me." Chiefs' special teams coach Steve Ortmeyer thinks Upchurch may be underrating himself. "The Denver return teams are really sky-high right now and that's because Upchurch gives them something to believe in." (2) 

Once again the Kansas City Chiefs were the victim in 1982, as Rick Upchurch struck again. Denver's second touchdown of the half came on Upchurch's 78-yard punt return. It was his eighth career scoring return, tying an NFL record. Unfortunately for the Broncos, they turned the ball over six times and lost the game 37-16. (3) 

Looking Back on Upchurch’s Career

Rick Upchurch was a good wide receiver for the Denver Broncos from 1975 to 1983, catching 267 passes for 4369 yards, ran the ball 49 times for 349 and scored 27 touchdowns. He was a great return man though with 95 kickoff returns for 2355 yards, a 24.8 yard average, 248 punt returns for 3008 yards, a 12.1 yard average and 8 touchdowns. Upchurch led the NFL in punt returns twice during his career and was selected to the Pro Bowl four times. He also made the 1980’s All NFL Team as a punt returner.

Rick Upchurch was all about team and his most cherished memory was Super Bowl XII (a 27-10 loss to Dallas in 1978) which he considered to be the peak of his career. Upchurch made one catch for 9 yards in that game and also recorded a 67-yard kickoff return that set up the Broncos' only touchdown. “But then going to the Super Bowl was the very top. To achieve something as a team, not only for the city of Denver but for the whole state of Colorado, that was the pinnacle,” Upchurch said. (4)

In 2003, Upchurch was selected to the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame. “This truly is a great honor,” said Upchurch, who lives in Pueblo. “To be thought of in that sentence - the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame - is very touching because this is where I played my sport and had my fans. This is where I really made my career.” (4)

By A. Goodin, 20Yardline.com
May 24, 2008

Rick Upchurch Biography Sources:

(1)    Broncos Sputter to Victory, Beat Kansas City by 37-33 (1975, September 22) Greely Daily Tribune
(2)    Broncos beat Chiefs to snap losing streak (1976, October 25) Greely Daily Tribune
(3)    K.C. Tips Denver 37-16 (1982, December 21) European Stars And Stripes

Rick Upchurch Links:

www.RickUpchurch.com official website