At 38 years old John Elway retired from professional football with a stellar career already under his belt. He literally has done everything a player can do in a pro football career.
Currently Elway is the executive vice president of pro football operations for the Denver Broncos; the team he has been with his whole professional career. When he retired from play in 1999 he ranked as the most prolific passer in NFL history. He led his teams to six AFC Championship Games and five Super Bowls, winning the last two. His #7 Broncos jersey was retired in September of 1999. How is a super athlete like John Elway created?
Well, Port Angeles, Washington, is a good place to start. Born in 1960 to Janet and Jack Elway, John was destined for a career in sports. Dad was a coach for many years at the high school, junior college and college level. In 1976 Dad became the head coach at Cal State-Northridge and John played pro football at Granada Hills High School for three years. The culmination to his high school career tallied 5,711 passing yards and 49 passing touchdowns. He was named to the Parade All America High School Football Team in 1979.
No surprise he was the number one interest for high school recruiting offers. He was presented with over 60 college scholarship offers. And with great talent in baseball, the Kansas City Royals drafted him in the 18th round of the 1979 Major League Baseball Draft. This same draft Dan Marino was picked in the fourth round. However, John was college bound and enrolled at Stanford University.
At Stanford John played pro football and baseball. In four seasons playing QB he completed 774 passes for 9,349 yards and 77 touchdowns. John’s 24 touchdown passes in 1982 led the nation, and he graduated with nearly every Stanford and Pacific-10 career record for passing and total offense. He won Pac-10 Player of the Year honors in 1980 and 1982. In 1984 he was the most highly recruited prep athlete. For the Stanford baseball team he played right field and pitcher. He finished his senior year hitting.361 with nine home runs and 50 RBIs in 49 games. In addition, he finished with a 5-4 record and a 4.51 ERA. Add a second round draft by the New York Yankees in the 1981 MLB draft and Elway has a pretty well rounded college career.
By the way, John graduated with a bachelor’s degree in economics and is a member of the Delta Tau Delta Fraternity.
John was playing minor league baseball for the Yankees when the 1983 NFL Draft sent him first in the overall pick to the Baltimore Colts. John didn’t want to play for the Colts and convinced management to trade him. Hello Denver Broncos and the beginning of a record setting career. High school recruiting sure paid off for him.
With the normal growing pains of any newly player, Elway worked hard and consistently posted great numbers. Even when the Broncos lost, his numbers were impressive. A Super Bowl appearance 1986 was lost to the New York Giants, 39-20. In 1987 Elway was selected to start in the American Football Conference’s Pro Bowl team and won the NFL Most Valuable Player Award. On to the Super Bowl and a fight for the trophy with the Washington Redskins.
It was a disappointing game and the first hit for Elway with stats were underwhelming. But, he did become the first QB in Super Bowl history to catch a pass. And, scored the only touchdown for his team.
Another Super Bowl loss in 1989 was even worse than the others. And, some may think he would be ashamed. But, his reaction was to say that he would go to the Super Bowl every year if he could, even if the team lost. It took another 8 years but the Broncos were back in the Super Bowl. This time the outcome was different… they defeated the Green Bay Packers 31-24 and Elway was named the MVP of the game.
His legacy is profound. A good foundation and great guidance by ethical management. Title after title, award after award, record after record; too many to name. But suffice to say this man is the gold standard and an example to aspire to.
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