John Elway was destined to be a pro quarterback.
He was born with a howitzer for an arm, ice in his veins, and a strong desire to win.
His path to greatness began when he learned the game of football from his father.
Then, while in high school, Elway was part of a new philosophy of football popularized by his prep coach.
In college, Elway was a star at Stanford and played in a game with an absolutely ridiculous ending.
After being a member of the historic “quarterback class” in the 1983 NFL Draft, Elway took part in some of the most memorable games in pro football history.
Today is John Elway's 60th birthday.
The 1st overall pick in the 1983 NFL Draft, Elway played 16 seasons for the Broncos, throwing for 51,475 yds & 300 TD, earning 9 Pro Bowl selection & winning 2 Super Bowls.
He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004. pic.twitter.com/iPeMWpeUk3
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 28, 2020
Elway also happened to be the first quarterback to start in five Super Bowls, winning two of them.
He became a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and then began a second career as an executive with the Denver Broncos.
This is the incredible story of John Elway.
Growing Up with Football
John Albert Elway Jr. was born on June 28, 1960, in Port Angeles, Washington. He has a twin sister, Jana.
At the time, Elway’s father, Jack, was the football coach at Port Angeles High School.
For the next several years, Jack Elway would coach at the junior college and college levels including stops at the University of Montana and Washington State University.
Jack Elway had been a quarterback in high school and enjoyed teaching the position as a coach.
𝗦𝗲𝗽𝘁𝗲𝗺𝗯𝗲𝗿 𝟴 | On This Date 📅
It was Jack Elway's debut as the @SanJoseStateFB head coach in 1979. San José State and Utah State set a @NCAAFootball Division I record for the highest scoring tie, 48-48.#SpartanUp pic.twitter.com/6xfWKHZnEr
— San José State Football (@SanJoseStateFB) September 9, 2020
He also enjoyed tinkering with his offenses, installing various passing options to keep defenses on their toes.
John Elway took after his father and became a quarterback as well.
He started to take off as a prep signal caller when he was a freshman at Pullman High School in Pullman, Washington.
That same year, Jack Elway received an opportunity to become the head coach at Cal State Northridge in Northridge, California.
The Elway family moved to California and John enrolled at Granada Hills High School in Granada Hills, California for his sophomore year.
Elway and the “Spread” Offense
While playing for head coach Jack Neumeier, John Elway learned the nuances of his coach’s new offense.
Neumeier had been at a basketball game when inspiration struck. He developed a fast-break style offense that included elements of what is now known as the spread offense.
That same day, Neumeier began drawing up a new offensive philosophy and playbook.
As someone who loved throwing the pigskin, Elway was in heaven.
He picked up the offense quickly and made mincemeat of the opposition.
Neumeier’s offense gained attention in Elway’s junior year when he obliterated defenses to the tune of 3,040 passing yards.
Greatest #HSFB Recruit From Every State 🏈🐐
California: John Elway, QB
Granada Hills High School (Granada Hills)
Class of 1979
College: Stanford 🌲 https://t.co/aVkZmjYeyt pic.twitter.com/vRTfkIajfG
— stadiumtalkcom (@stadiumtalkcom) January 6, 2023
In addition to throwing the ball, Elway could scramble with the best of them and piled up rushing yards by the boatload.
During his senior year, Elway injured his knee and missed a significant portion of the season.
However, when he did play, Elway continued to slice and dice defenses and became a Parade Magazine All-American.
By the time his senior season ended, Elway had passed for 5,711 yards and 49 touchdowns during his time at Granada Hills.
Meanwhile, Jack Elway couldn’t get enough of the offense his son was thriving in.
He had become the head coach at San Jose State in 1979. Elway and his offensive coordinator, Dennis Erickson, spent several hours picking Neumeier’s brain and used the offense with the Spartans.
Erickson would eventually take the offense with him in his own head coaching career. As the coach of the Miami Hurricanes, he won two national titles with the spread offense.
Elway Goes to Stanford
Despite Elway’s knee injury, college programs were more interested in his strong right arm.
There was some concern, however, that Elway would play professional baseball.
He had played the sport in high school and was sought after by several MLB clubs.
Grew up in South LA, was a baseball prodigy at a young age. Starred in both basketball and baseball at Crenshaw HS. `79 Crenshaw team lost to Granada Hills in the L.A. City Championship game, John Elway was a star for Granada Hills.
Darryl Strawberry pic.twitter.com/o3unoMwWPF
— Jim Koenigsberger (@Jimfrombaseball) January 20, 2023
In the 18th round of the 1979 MLB Draft, the Kansas City Royals selected Elway.
His first love was football, though, and even though he had his pick of colleges (including playing for his father), Elway eventually chose Stanford University where he would also continue to play baseball.
As a freshman in 1979, Elway backed up Turk Schonert, who would later spend time in the NFL.
Elway played sparingly that season and passed for 544 yards, six touchdowns, and three interceptions while the Cardinal finished 5-5-1.
Under new head coach Paul Wiggin in 1980, Elway became the starter and passed for 2,889 yards, 27 touchdowns (second most in the NCAA that year), 11 interceptions, and added four rushing scores.
Just John Elway scrambling through the Purdue defense. 😎 pic.twitter.com/u9zqWQ2loy
— CFB Home (@CFBHome) January 22, 2023
He was named Pac-10 Player of the Year.
On October 4 of that year, Stanford played against Jack Elway and San Jose State State. The team lost to the Spartans, 35-21.
In 1981, John Elway could only get Stanford four victories while throwing for 2,674 yards, 20 touchdowns, 11 picks, and one rushing touchdown.
He also lost to his father again, 28-6, in the second week of the season.
In the 1981 MLB Draft, the New York Yankees selected John Elway in the second round.
”He has a well-above-average major league arm,” says Gary Hughes, a Yankee scout. ”He runs well, makes contact, and this year he started hitting for power. That’s the big attraction.”
Elway spent the following summer with the Yankees’ single A farm team in Oneonta, New York, and batted .318 with four home runs, 48 hits, 25 RBIs, and 13 stolen bases.
John Elway, 1981 @StanfordBSB @Broncos pic.twitter.com/wr02eGQsUt
— Vintage Jerseys & Hats (@PolyesterUnis) December 13, 2022
Elway then returned to the gridiron at Stanford for his senior year in 1983 and passed for 3,242 yards, 24 touchdowns (which led the country), and 12 interceptions.
He was named Pac-10 Player of the Year, a unanimous All-American, won the Sammy Baugh Trophy, and finished second place in the Heisman Trophy voting.
Although Elway was a gifted signal caller, Stanford had a .500 record through ten games (including a third straight loss to Jack Elway and San Jose State).
The Cardinal did net a huge upset of the undefeated University of Washington, 43-31, on October 30.
Entering their final game of the season against Cal for The Big Game, Stanford was still bowl eligible.
If the Cardinal won the game, they would receive an invite to play in the Hall of Fame Classic bowl game.
With barely two minutes remaining in the contest, the team’s prospects looked dim as Stanford was losing, 19-17. Elway faced a 4th down and 17 in the shadow of his end zone.
Miraculously, he completed a pass on the next play for 29 yards and kept driving the Cardinal down the field and into scoring range.
Two time Super Bowl Winner John Elway never play in a collegiate bowl game.
He was also the starting QB against Cal during "The Play" pic.twitter.com/rhYLUet6kN
— CFB Home (@CFBHome) July 9, 2022
With only four seconds left, kicker Mark Harmon made a 35-yard field goal to take a 20-19 lead.
“Only a miracle can save the Bears now,” said announcer Joe Starkey.
Stanford players were delirious over the made kick and were flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Now kicking from his own 25-yard line, Harmon sent a low drive on the kickoff that was fielded by Cal at their 45-yard line.
Everyone in the stadium knew that the Golden Bears would try lateralling the ball to get in the end zone, but that strategy rarely worked.
Sure enough, Cal player Kevin Moen grabbed the pigskin and began a series of laterals.
By the third lateral, the entire Cardinal band had begun making their way onto the field, believing the game was over.
Of course, the game was not over yet, and Cal was still lateralling the ball.
The fifth lateral found its way back to Moen who zig-zagged through a few Stanford players and band members, crushed trombone player Gary Tyrrell, and went into the end zone.
November 20, 1982: “The Play.” Stanford was kicking off to Cal up 20-19 with four seconds left.
“The band is out on the field!!” pic.twitter.com/xcRk6kj3MJ
— This Day In Sports Clips (@TDISportsClips) November 20, 2022
The final score was 25-20, Cal.
“When I’m introduced to someone new and the person doing the introducing says I was the trombone player in The Play, there’s recognition all around the world,” Tyrrell said in 2012. “Wherever I might be, they remember that play.”
Players and coaches from both teams were stunned.
Everyone looked for a flag, but it was hard to see anything because of the pandemonium on the field.
With no benefit of replay, Elway lost his final game as a Stanford player.
In his college career, Elway passed for 9,349 yards, 77 touchdowns, and 39 interceptions.
He also rushed for five scores and set a large number of school and NCAA records.
Elway was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2000.
Although there was still an option for Elway to play for the Yanks, every NFL team that needed a passer had its sights set on him.
”Nobody in the game today has a stronger arm or faster feet,” noted Dick Steinberg, director of player development for the New England Patriots.
By then, Elway’s arm was known for the sizzle it brought to a football as it sliced through the air and the marks it left on intended receivers.
“You first see it in the shower after practice,” said Stanford receiver Andre Tyler. “We call it the Elway Cross. You get it from the point of the ball hitting you in the chest. The X on the tip of the ball leaves a big red mark, which lasts about three to four days. I know. I’ve had a few myself.”
Even Jack Elway was asked about his son’s prospects in the upcoming draft.
”Well, you know,” said Jack modestly, ”that’s always tough for me to answer, because I’m his father, but I think he’s the best I’ve ever seen.”
Elway Spurns the Colts
Looking ahead to the 1983 NFL Draft, the Baltimore Colts had the first pick and were rumored to want Elway.
The idea of playing for then-head coach Frank Kush did not sit well with John or Jack Elway.
John Elway had meetings with the franchise before the draft and told the Colts that he wanted to play for a west coast team or, specifically for Dallas or Miami.
Apr 26, 1983: John Elway was the 1st player selected in the NFL Draft by Baltimore. #80s Later traded to Denver. pic.twitter.com/NF8Nw6KW6H
— Old School 80s (@OldSchool80s) April 26, 2019
There was also the threat of Elway returning to baseball if Baltimore selected him.
That didn’t seem to matter to the Colts, however, as they went ahead and drafted Elway with the number one overall pick.
As it turns out, the ’83 draft became heralded for no fewer than six quarterbacks being selected in the first round.
On this day in 1983, 6 QBs were selected in the 1st round of the #NFLDraft
1. John Elway (Colts – traded to Broncos)
7. Todd Blackledge (Chiefs)
14. Jim Kelly (Bills)
15. Tony Eason (Patriots)
24. Ken O'Brein (Jets)
27. Dan Marino (Dolphins) pic.twitter.com/9mEgYaqAm0
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) April 26, 2020
The “Quarterback Class of 1983” included future hall-of-famers Elway, Jim Kelly, and Dan Marino.
Elway couldn’t have cared less where he was drafted. He made his displeasure at becoming a Colt known to the media.
”Right now it looks like I’ll be playing baseball with the Yankees,” said Elway. “It will be a couple of days, or maybe even two weeks, before I make the final decision. We haven’t ruled out football, but it doesn’t look good right now.”
After the draft, the relationship between Baltimore and the Elways got worse.
The team stated they were trying to trade Elway with no luck while the Elways claimed that numerous teams had tried to trade for him.
”Kush called John shortly after the draft and indicated to John that the Colts had not received any substantial offers,” Jack Elway said. ”John related to him the fact that there had been a substantial offer, that one team, the Raiders, had offered the Colts three No.1 picks and a player.”
Eventually, Baltimore owner Robert Irsay contacted the Denver Broncos and offered Elway for Denver players Chris Hinton and Mark Herrmann and the Colts’ first pick in the 1984 NFL Draft.
Both sides agreed, and Elway became a new member of the Denver Broncos.
A Rocky Start for Elway
Elway’s career as an NFL quarterback didn’t begin well.
Head coach Dan Reeves named John Elway the starter before Week 1 of the 1983 season. However, backup Steve DeBerg replaced Elway against both Pittsburgh and the Colts the following week.
The game in Baltimore was an opportunity for the Colts’ faithful to jeer at Elway for rejecting their team.
After he was pulled during the contest, DeBerg led the team to its second straight victory.
DeBerg then started several games before he was hurt. Elway closed out the season, which included a 31-7 loss to Seattle in the playoffs.
As a rookie, Elway passed for 1,663 yards, seven touchdowns, and 14 interceptions. He gained 146 yards and a score on the ground.
In 1984, DeBerg left for Tampa Bay, paving the way for Elway to become the franchise quarterback.
We are John Elway days away from the Broncos showdown with the Seahawks in Week 1. Is Elway the best No. 7 in Broncos history? pic.twitter.com/Gl7z7SFvFr
— Denver Sports (@DenverSportsCom) September 5, 2022
Elway started 14 games and passed for 2,598 yards, 18 touchdowns, and 15 picks while adding a rushing touchdown as the Broncos won 13 games.
Once again, Denver lost in the playoffs, this time to Pittsburgh, 24-17, in the Divisional round.
The Broncos missed the postseason in 1985 despite winning 11 games and Elway coming into his own.
That season, Denver led the NFL in total offense and passing plays while Elway set franchise records in passing yards (3,891), passing attempts (605, which also led the NFL that year), and completions (327).
In 1986, Elway proved why he had been the number one pick in the 1983 draft.
During his fourth season, Elway passed for 3,485 yards, 19 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions and added a rushing touchdown.
He was voted to his first Pro Bowl while leading the Broncos to another 11-5 finish.
After getting past New England in the Divisional round, Denver faced Bernie Kosar and the Cleveland Browns for the AFC Championship game.
° 1986 AFC CHAMPIONSHIP °
~ "The Drive" ~#Broncos QB John Elway orchestrates a 15-play, 98-yard drive in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter, culminating in a TD pass to Mark Jackson w/ :37 left to force OT.
Rich Karlis's 33-yard FG wins it in Cleveland, 23-20. pic.twitter.com/JrSNj0joHw
— Kevin Gallagher (@KevG163) January 12, 2022
As expected, the contest was a rugged affair between two evenly-matched teams.
At one point in the third quarter, Denver was leading 13-10 before the Browns scored 10 unanswered points in the fourth quarter.
When receiver Brian Brennan scored to put the Browns up by seven with 5:32 remaining, he believed that the stars were aligning for Cleveland.
“Right then,” Brennan said years later, “I’m thinking, it’s a done deal. We’re finally going to the Super Bowl.”
Brennan felt even more confident when the Broncos’ Ken Bell bobbled the ensuing kickoff and corralled the ball at his own two-yard line.
Where most quarterbacks would have been shaken by the magnitude of the moment, Elway became hyper-focused on the task at hand.
Instead of panicking, Elway calmly picked his spots, drove the Broncos 98 yards (in what would later be called “The Drive”), and connected with receiver Mark Jackson on a five-yard touchdown throw to tie the game.
On this date in 1987, John Elway and the Broncos use “The Drive” to win the AFC title game over the Browns.
Elway and the Broncos would go on to lose Super Bowl XXI to the Giants. pic.twitter.com/IkpTvhSpCG
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 11, 2021
In overtime, Elway led Denver on a 60-yard drive before kicker Rich Karlis booted a 33-yard field goal to win the game, 23-20.
With the victory, the Broncos returned to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1977, and Elway’s ability to perform in pressure situations was cemented.
“John Elway, unequivocally, is the best clutch player ever to play the game,” Brennan said.
Super Bowl XXI
Denver’s opponent in Super Bowl XXI was the New York Giants.
Those same Giants had torched San Francisco and Washington by a combined score of 66-3 the previous two weeks.
Oddsmakers didn’t give the Broncos much of a chance.
Denver didn’t back down and Elway’s four-yard touchdown run in the first quarter gave the Broncos a 10-7 lead.
Only minutes later, however, New York’s George Martin tackled Elway in the end zone for a safety leading to a 10-9 halftime score.
Lawrence Taylor, George Martin, Erik Howard and Leonard Marshall gang sack John Elway during Super Bowl XXI: pic.twitter.com/yR4GSBpn
— SI Vault (@si_vault) November 28, 2011
To the dismay of Broncos fans, the Giants then outscored Denver in the second half, 30-10.
Although New York won 39-20, Elway played a solid game, passing for 304 yards, one touchdown, and one interception and adding 27 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown.
NFL MVP and “The Fumble”
Returning for the 1987 season after their Super Bowl loss, Elway was a man possessed. He was determined to get Denver back to the promised land.
During the regular season, he passed for 3,198 yards, 19 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions and rushed for a career-high 304 yards and four rushing scores.
Elway was named the NFL MVP, went to his second Pro Bowl, and became a second-team All-Pro.
The Broncos took a 10-4-1 record into the playoffs and defeated the Houston Oilers in the Divisional round before facing Cleveland for the second straight year in the AFC title game.
By halftime, the Broncos were humiliating the Browns 21-3 and were still ahead, 28-10, in the third quarter.
Today in Sports History:
Jan. 17, 1988 – The @Broncos hold off the @Browns, 38-33 in the AFC Championship in Denver, known forever as "The Fumble".@PigskinDispatch @pigskintalespod @SportsHistoryHQ @missc_73 @jeremy_mcfarlin @coolstub @FootballLearn1 @ScottKinville13 pic.twitter.com/NVsDzwrf2x
— Historically Speaking 🎙️🏀⚾🏈🏟️ (@HistoricallySp2) January 17, 2023
However, Cleveland stormed back and tied the score at 31-all early in the fourth quarter.
With four minutes remaining, Elway found Sammy Winder for a 20-yard touchdown and Denver re-claimed the lead, 38-31.
Kosar then led the Browns down to the Broncos’ eight-yard line with 1:12 left in the contest.
On the next play, Kosar handed off to running back Earnest Byner who looked to have a clear path to pay dirt.
35 years ago today…
The 1987 AFC Championship#Broncos – #Browns at Mile High
A true agony/ecstasy play for the ages pic.twitter.com/zi8eunEqXL
— Kevin Gallagher (@KevG163) January 17, 2023
Suddenly, Broncos defensive back Jeremiah Castille stuck out his hand. This caused Byner to fumble the ball. Castille recovered at the three-yard line. (The play is now known as “The Fumble.”)
After the Broncos took an intentional safety, there was no time left for Cleveland. The Browns had their hearts ripped out again, 38-33.
“It took me years and years to get over it…” Byner said in 2020.
Super Bowl XXII
For the second year in a row, Denver was playing for a world championship. This time, the team faced the Washington Redskins.
After an Elway touchdown pass and a Karlis field goal, Denver led, 10-0, at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter began and Washington quarterback Doug Williams had a field day against the Broncos’ defense.
In that quarter alone, Williams threw four touchdown passes, and running back Timmy Smith ran for another score.
FYI: Broncos led Super Bowl XXII 10-0 after 1st Qtr.
They gave up 35 points in 2nd Qtr & lost 42-10 pic.twitter.com/Dt6Jis1aPG
— NFL on CBS 🏈 (@NFLonCBS) February 8, 2016
Washington set Super Bowl records for most points in a quarter and yards of total offense in a quarter (356) as they took a 35-10 halftime lead.
The ’Skins scored again in the fourth quarter to win the trophy with a score of 42-10.
Elway’s day was brutal as he passed for 257 yards and a touchdown but also threw three interceptions.
Three Super Bowls in Four Years
In 1988, Elway passed for over 3,300 yards, but the Broncos went 8-8 and missed the postseason.
The team came back with a vengeance in 1989 and won 11 games before beating the Steelers by one in the Divisional round.
Then, for the third time in four years, the Broncos faced Cleveland in the AFC Championship game.
At one point in the third quarter, Denver was ahead 24-7 before Kosar and the Browns came roaring back to close the gap to 24-21.
That’s when Cleveland ran out of gas. Elway led the Broncos to 13 unanswered points in the fourth to win 37-21.
Denver was back for their third Super Bowl in four years when they met Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XXIV.
Just like their previous two appearances, the Broncos were no match for their opponent.
On this date in 1990: Joe Montana wins his 4th Super Bowl as the 49ers CRUSH the Broncos 55-10 in Super Bowl XXIV pic.twitter.com/X3MPXgMMeI
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) January 28, 2015
By halftime, the Niners led 27-3 before cruising to an easy 55-10 victory.
Elway scored on a rushing touchdown in the third quarter but passed for only 108 yards and two interceptions.
Missed Opportunities and Close Calls
For the next seven years, the Broncos struggled to maintain the formula that got them to three Super Bowls.
Elway played well, throwing for more than 3,000 yards each year including an NFL- and career-best 4,030 yards in 1993.
He also led the NFL that season in attempts (551), completions (348), and yards per game (251.9).
Elway was the league’s Man of the Year in 1992 and was a second-team All-Pro in 1993 and 1996 while also playing in four more Pro Bowls.
Good Morning Broncos Country. Today is #7 John Elway Days til Kickoff. Go Broncos 🏈🏈🏈🏈 pic.twitter.com/DqQqYUU87A
— BRONCO JEFF 26 (@jeff92809796) September 5, 2022
Meanwhile, in 1991, the Broncos lost by three points to Buffalo in the AFC Championship game and lost in their only other playoff appearances in 1993 and 1996.
Denver’s playoff loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1996 shocked everyone (except maybe the Jax fans).
The Jags were playing in only their second season as an expansion team, and the Broncos had won 13 games that year.
Thankfully, Denver wouldn’t be down for long.
Elway and the Broncos Win a Super Bowl
Before the 1997 season, pundits openly questioned whether Elway was at the end of his career.
He was 37 years old and many thought he was too old to lead the Broncos back to a Super Bowl.
Elway answered that challenge by passing for 3,635 yards, 27 touchdowns, and 11 picks and leading Denver to 12 wins.
In the Wild Card round, the Broncos got their revenge against Jacksonville by beating the Jags 42-17 before defeating Kansas City and Pittsburgh in the next two rounds.
Green Bay and quarterback Brett Favre waited for Denver in Super Bowl XXXII and hardly anyone expected the Broncos to win.
The Packers opened the game as 11-point favorites but found themselves in a 17-14 hole at halftime.
With 2:16 left in the third quarter, the score was tied, 17-17, and the Broncos were driving.
On third and six at the Packers’ 12-yard line, Elway dropped back to pass but couldn’t find any receivers.
He then took off running as three Packers closed in on him.
At the last second, Elway jumped into the air and was hit at the same time, spinning him through the air before he landed on the turf.
I’m enjoying this new mobile Kirk. Might need to see John Elway Helicopter Spin Dot GIF if the Vikings are going to come back and win this one. pic.twitter.com/LPwPA9CE0b
— Phil Mackey 🎙 (@PhilMackey) December 20, 2020
Thankfully, he didn’t fumble and Denver now had a first-and-goal at the two-yard line.
Running back Terrell Davis punched it in two plays later.
Early in the fourth quarter, the contest was tied at 24 when Elway got to work, helping the Broncos get to the Packers’ one-yard line.
Green Bay coach Mike Holmgren elected to have his defense allow Denver to score on the next play so the Packers would have time to answer.
Jan 25, 1998: The @packers lost Super Bowl XXXII in San Diego. The Denver Broncos beat Green Bay 31-24. Terrell Davis scored the winning touchdown with 1:48 left in the game. It’s the first Super Bowl loss for the Packers. They won the first two and XXXI in 1997. pic.twitter.com/GX3Dy4KzhH
— Jack Eich (@jackeichsays) January 25, 2023
Davis scored again for a 31-24 lead, and Green Bay took over with just 1:45 left.
“This One’s for John!”
Although the Packers and Favre gave a valiant effort, Broncos linebacker John Mobley broke up a Favre pass intended for tight end Mark Chmura on 4th and 6.
At long last, Denver had won its first-ever Super Bowl.
In the trophy presentation after the game, Broncos owner Pat Bowlen declared, “This one’s for John,” before handing the Lombardi Trophy to Elway.
25 Years Ago Today
"THIS ONE'S…FOR JOHN!" 🏆#Broncos owner Pat Bowlen delivers the Lombardi to John Elway
Super Bowl XXXII, #Denver's first ring pic.twitter.com/XWNr99ZwlM
— Kevin Gallagher (@KevG163) January 25, 2023
During the game, Elway passed for 123 yards and an interception and rushed for 17 yards and a score.
Repeat in 1998
Initially, Elway considered retiring after 1997. Denver owner Pat Bowlen tried to entice his quarterback to return with a unique offer.
Bowlen offered him as much as a 20% buy-in stake in the franchise if Elway would eventually become Bowlen’s special assistant and a team executive.
The offer was on condition that Bowlen wouldn’t have to pay Elway his deferred salary of $21 million.
Elway passed on the deal, and by 2022, his stake in the team would have been worth at least $900 million.
John Elway Declined the Opportunity to Buy 20% of the Broncos in 1998, Which Would Have Just Made Him $900 Million https://t.co/3jbsWEUvf9 pic.twitter.com/cTBqSpSvkU
— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) June 8, 2022
Regardless, Elway returned for one last hurrah in 1998 and led the Broncos to a franchise-best 14-2 record.
He threw for 2,806 yards, 22 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions and was voted to his ninth Pro Bowl.
In the playoffs, Denver beat Miami by 35 and downed the New York Jets, 23-10.
Elway then became the first quarterback to start in five Super Bowls. (Tom Brady would later surpass that mark.)
During Super Bowl XXXIII against the Atlanta Falcons, and Elway’s former coach, Dan Reeves, Elway crushed the Falcons’ defense with 336 passing yards, one touchdown, and one interception and added a rushing score.
On this date in 1999, the Broncos beat the Falcons in Super Bowl XXXIII to win their 2nd straight title.
John Elway, in the last game of his Hall of Fame career, passes for 336 yards and runs for a touchdown to earn MVP honors. pic.twitter.com/TUEi5EzRR3
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 31, 2021
Atlanta didn’t stand a chance and lost 34-19 as Elway received the game’s MVP award.
Although the Denver organization and its fan base wanted Elway to return for a chance at a three-peat, he retired after the season.
In his career, Elway passed for 51,475 yards, 300 touchdowns, and 226 interceptions and added 3,407 rushing yards and 33 rushing scores.
Happy 61st Birthday to John Elway!
🏈 300 Touchdowns
🏈 51,475 Passing Yards
🏆 2X Super Bowl Champion
🏆 Super Bowl MVP
⭐ 9X Pro Bowl
🏆 MVP in 1987
💯 Broncos #7 Retired
💯 Member College and Pro Football Hall of Fame#Denver #Broncos #NFL #BOTD pic.twitter.com/e8caowZa13
— JVAN (@VanderlansJim) June 28, 2021
He was an NFL MVP once, NFL Man of the Year, two-time Super Bowl champion, Super Bowl MVP, three-time second-team All-Pro, nine-time Pro Bowler, and NFL passing yards leader once.
Elway is in the NFL’s top five all-time in numerous categories including pass attempts, completions, and passing yards. He is ninth all-time with 31 fourth-quarter comeback wins.
He also passed for at least 3,000 yards and rushed for at least 200 more in seven consecutive seasons, the only NFL player to accomplish such a feat.
Elway was later added to the NFL’s 1990s All-Decade Team as well as the league’s 100th Anniversary All-Time Team.
The Denver Broncos placed Elway in their Ring of Honor and his number 7 has been retired by the organization.
Second Career as an NFL Executive
After retiring, Elway dove head-first into the business sector.
At one point, he owned five auto dealerships and still owns a number of restaurants.
For seven years, Elway was the co-owner of the Arena Football League’s Colorado Crush.
In 2004, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
That made Elway just the third quarterback taken first overall in the NFL Draft to become a Hall of Fame member.
Then, in 2011, Elway was named general manager and executive vice president of football operations for the Broncos.
One year later, he was instrumental in signing former Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning.
In four years with Denver, Manning led the franchise to two Super Bowls, winning Super Bowl 50, 24-10, against the Carolina Panthers.
John Elway again rules the NFL, this time as executivehttps://t.co/jtdIQcvojj pic.twitter.com/ktt86EMSzE
— The Gazette (@csgazette) February 8, 2016
The victory gave Elway his third title as a member of the Broncos.
Manning retired following the 2015 season, and the Broncos have not returned to the playoffs since.
Following the 2020 season, Elway stepped away from his general manager’s role and was named an “outside consultant” in 2022.
Elway was married to his first wife, Janet, for 19 years and had four children before divorcing in 2003.
He married for the second time to Paige Green in 2005.
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