The Mile-High Man!
There are many players in many sports who are most definitely the kings and queens of comebacks – but there is really only one that stands out in everyone’s mind. There is one man who, when the time clock hit 1:00 or less, seemed to be taken over by the sports ‘angels’ and became the ultimate threat!
John Elway WAS the Denver Broncos, and any and all Broncos fans will tell you that. Even though Elway is no longer in the quarterback position, he is currently the executive vice president of football operations for the Broncos – so Denver still gets to claim the ‘best of the best.’
John Elway played college football at Stanford and then – unlike almost all football players ever made – he played his ENTIRE professional career with the Denver Broncos, never leaving them to get a better salary to stroke his ego. This is one man who always loved his team, and that never changed!
Widely regarded as one of the finest athletes of his generation to ever play the quarterback position, Elway has the most victories by a starting quarterback. When he retired, he went out on some extreme highs, including the fact that he was the second best passer in the history of the National Football League. This is a man who led his team to six Championship Games and five Super Bowls, taking home the final two.
The man is a lot like a Mac truck. Elway had durability, strength, courage and the amazing ability to make crucial decisions in the final minutes of a game to bring the Broncos the win. He excelled at coming back and leading his team down the field in seconds in order to score those points that the Broncos had to have – and no one has ever shown that amount of skill, magic or determination since.
Drafted as the #1 overall pick in 1983, Elway first saw action with the Baltimore Colts before they traded him to Denver, because Elway demanded it!
One of the very first magical moments that Elway showed, was when he engineered the Broncos on a ninety-eight yard – game-tying touchdown in the AFC Championship Game against the Browns. In fact, it was so extraordinary that this event is in the history books as “The Drive.” Unfortunately, the Broncos went on to lose Super Bowl XXI to the New York Giants, but that would most definitely not be the last time they had a chance to bring home the trophy.
In fact, after two more Super Bowl losses, the Broncos looked as if they were going down and they wouldn’t ever get back up. Their decline was a bit sad for the beloved and devoted fans, but when 1997 came along, Elway proved that it REALLY ‘ain’t over ‘til it’s over.’ The 1997 season ended with Elway and Denver winning their very first Super Bowl title by defeating the Green Bay Packers in a stunning game. What’s more, the fans didn’t have to wait very long to see another trophy come into town – seeing as that the very next season John Elway did it again, and the Broncos repeated as champions by defeating the Atlanta Falcons 34–19. Elway was voted MVP of that Super Bowl but, frankly, he should have been voted as the MVP of all time in the NFL, because this was one man who would not give up!
The intelligence of John Elway doesn’t just remain on the football field. There are many who say that John Elway is a part of Denver, itself – not just the football team. Elway owns many businesses, which includes being a co-owner of an arena football team called the Colorado Crush. Elway has also shown his creative side by writing a weekly NFL blog and answering questions for the sports website OPEN Sports.com.
Considering the fact that John Elway IS Denver, it came as no surprise that Elway expressed interest in working as the Broncos’ top football executive – not head coach or general manager, John Elway just wanted to be a part of his absolute favorite organization. So, in January of 2011, Elway was named executive vice president of football operations of the Denver Broncos.
What most people don’t know is that there is more than one Elway – having a twin sister among the family of five. His dad was a coach for many high school teams, as well as an assistant coach for Montana and Washington State. It was in 1976, when his father took the job as the head coach at Cal State-Northridge when the Elway clan headed to Southern California, and where John was named to the PARADE All America High School Football Team.
From the beginning of time, John Elway was always seen as a dual-threat quarterback. At a time when many quarterbacks could only stand in the pocket and throw, John Elway had the amazing skill of being able to run, escape pressure, and still have the impressive ability to make sure that wherever he threw the ball, a touchdown would be made.
People who have followed Elway’s career will speak about the first time they were in complete awe while watching John play at Stanford University. It was in 1982, that Stanford needed to win their final game in order to secure their place in the Hall of Fame Classic, bowl game. It was with this on the line – and two minutes remaining in the game – that John Elway completed a pass and drove the ball downfield to the 35-yard line, where Mark Harmon kicked what appeared to be the winning field goal.
And then, what the history books will forever call “The Play,” happened. The game wasn’t over – even though people thought it was. The clock had four seconds remaining and Stanford had to kick off. This is when players threw the ball back and forth five times and actually got down the field and scored the winning touchdown. Elway was beyond angry about the game, telling everyone that the officials had, “ruined my last game as a college football player.”
If anyone believes in fate, perhaps the ‘gods’ decided that John was absolutely right, and that’s why they infused the ‘magic’ in him, allowing him to become the destroyer of many team’s hopes by scoring winning points in the final minutes of a game. Oddly enough, if Elway had gotten really mad he could’ve left football all together and continued on as a baseball player – yet another sport he excelled in. He was even drafted by the New York Yankees in the second round of the 1981 MLB draft.
BUT, as fate would have it, it was football that turned out to be his passion – and I’m sure that Denver fans thank the Lord for that every single day. He was actually the one who threatened to join the Yankees full-time unless the Baltimore Colts traded him. He didn’t want to be a Colt, seeing as that they were one of the absolute worst teams in the league. Finally the Colts gave in, and John became the ultimate Denver Bronco.
Elway lifted the fans in Denver a ‘mile-high’ into the air by being one of the most highly anticipated athletes in the history of the NFL. Although the Broncos were playoff contenders for all of his early years, Elway would go through the normal growing pains of a young NFL quarterback.
Over time, Elway was selected to start in the AFC’s Pro Bowl team and he won the NFL Most Valuable Player Award, then led the Broncos to a victory over the Browns in the AFC title game – earning their second consecutive Super Bowl appearance – this one against the Washington Redskins. While Elway did have a few highlights – like setting a record for the fastest touchdown ever made in Super Bowl history, the Redskins did go on to win.
1988 would probably be the worst moment for Elway. When he headed to the Super Bowl once again, the San Francisco 49ers wiped the floor with the Broncos in a 55-10 win – the most lopsided score in Super Bowl history. There was suddenly talk that Elway would never win a Super Bowl.
But this man did not stop. After eight years, Elway appeared in the Super Bowl and took the game! Repeating the same win the next year with absolutely no problem whatsoever. After these back-to-back wins – making the Denver crowd proud – John announced his retirement from pro football, definitely making sure to leave while at the top of his game!
Elway’s jersey – the mighty #7 – was retired by the Broncos during halftime at a Monday Night Football Game, the same night he was inducted into the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame.
No matter who comes along, or what ‘magic man’ takes the field in the future, they will never be more loved, more respected, and more legendary than the ‘Mile-High Hero!’