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Rick Upchurch
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Wide Receiver
Return specialist
Jersey #(s)
Born May 20, 1952 (1952-05-20) (age 57)
Toledo, Ohio
Career information
Year(s) 19751983
NFL Draft 1975 / Round: 4 / Pick: 95
College Minnesota
Professional teams
Career stats
Return Touchdowns 8
PR yards 3,008
KR yards 2,355
Stats at
Stats at
Career highlights and awards

Richard “Rick” Upchurch (born May 20, 1952, in Toledo, Ohio) is a former professional American football player who played wide receiver for the Denver Broncos (1975–1983) of the NFL. Before his NFL career, he played for the University of Minnesota and went to high school at Springfield High School in Holland, Ohio. In 2000, Upchurch was named one of the 300 best NFL players of all time.[1]

In his nine NFL seasons, Upchurch excelled as a receiver and a kick returner on special teams. In his rookie season, he rushed for 97 yards, caught 18 passes for 436 yards, returned 27 punts for 312 yards, and added another 1,014 yards returning kickoffs. In his second season, he set an NFL record by returning four punts for touchdowns and made the Pro Bowl. In the 1977 season, he led the NFL with 653 punt return yards and assisted his team to their first ever Super Bowl appearance. The Broncos lost Super Bowl XII to the Dallas Cowboys 27-10, but he had a good performance in the game. Upchurch amassed 125 total offensive yards (94 kickoff return, 22 punt return, 9 receiving), including a Super Bowl record 67-yard kickoff return in the 3rd quarter that set up Denver’s only touchdown of the game.

Upchurch stayed with the Broncos until the 1983 season. He led the NFL in punt return average twice (1978 and 1982), and was selected to the pro bowl 3 more times (1978, 1979, 1982). He finished his 9 season career with 49 carries for 349 rushing yards, 267 receptions for 4,369 yards, 248 punt returns for 3,008 yards, and 95 kickoff returns for 2,355 yards. Overall, Upchurch gained 10,081 total yards and scored 35 touchdowns: 8 punt return, 24 receiving, 3 rushing. He was also selected All-Pro 5 times. At the time of his retirement, his 8 punt returns for touchdowns tied the NFL record shared by Jack Christiansen. He is one of five players to record a career average of over 12 yards per punt return.

After his retirement from the NFL, Upchurch coached football at Tabor College in Hillsboro, Kansas during the early to mid 1990s. In 2005, Upchurch became the head football coach at East High School in Pueblo, Colorado. Upchurch currently resides in Mesquite, Nevada, and frequently visits nearby communities such as St. George, Utah, and Logandale, Nevada, to sign autographs for Broncos fans.

Personal life

Upchurch dated and was briefly engaged to the future Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in the 1970s. She left him because, according to her biographer Marcus Mabry, “She knew the relationship wasn’t going to work.”[2] He is currently married and has four children.[1]


  1. ^ a b Russakoff, Dale (February 7, 2005). "How football helped shape Condoleezza the strategist".  
  2. ^ Mabry, Marcus (May 1, 2007). Twice As Good: Condoleezza Rice and Her Path to Power. Modern Times. ISBN 1594863628.  

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