John Albert Elway, Jr. (born June 28, 1960) is a retired Hall of Fame American football quarterback. He played his college football at Stanford and his entire professional career for the Denver Broncos of the National Football League (NFL).
Elway set career records for passing attempts and completions at Stanford. He also received All-American honors. Elway was drafted #1 overall in the 1983 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Colts before being traded to the Denver Broncos. By his second year in the league, Elway set team records for passing attempts, completions and yards. In 1987, he embarked on what is considered to be one of the most clutch performances in NFL history, when he helped guide the Broncos on a 98-yard, game-tying drive in the AFC Championship Game against the Cleveland Browns. The moment is known in National Football League lore as The Drive. Following the AFC Championship Game, Elway and the Broncos lost in Super Bowl XXI.
After two more Super Bowl losses, the Broncos entered a period of decline; however, that would end during the 1997 season, as Elway and Denver won their first Super Bowl title by defeating the Green Bay Packers, 31–24, in Super Bowl XXXII. The Broncos repeated as champions the following season in Super Bowl XXXIII by defeating the Atlanta Falcons, 34–19. Elway was voted MVP of that Super Bowl, as the game would prove to be the last of his career.
Since his retirement, Elway has owned several businesses, including currently being a co-owner of the Colorado Crush, an arena football team.
Elway was born in Port Angeles, Washington
on June 28, 1960, the son of Janet Jordan and John Albert Elway
, a college football
coach and prospect. As a youth he lived primarily in Missoula, Montana
, and Pullman, Washington
, when his father was an assistant coach at the University of Montana
and Washington State
, respectively. His father became the head coach
at Cal State-Northridge
, and the Elways moved to Southern California
, where John attended his final two years of high school at Granada Hills High School
in Granada Hills
, California. He ended his high school career with 3,711 passing yards and 29 passing touchdowns, and was named to the PARADE
All America High School Football Team. Known as a dual-threat quarterback, meaning he was accomplished at running and escaping pressure, and had impressive passing ability, he was the number-one recruited high school player in the country, receiving over 60 scholarship offers.
He enrolled at Stanford University
where he played both football and baseball
. His last football game at Stanford was one of the most famous games of all time, the 1982 Big Game
(also known as Cal), which ended with "The Play
", an amazing and memorable play with five lateral passes
that allowed Cal to win the game. After that game, Elway congratulated the trombone player that got run over. Although Elway never led his team to a bowl game
, he had an accomplished college career. In his four seasons (1979–1982) at Stanford, he completed 774 passes for 9,349 yards and 77 touchdowns. Stanford had a 20–23 record during his tenure. Elway'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, was a consensus All-American
, and finished second in Heisman Trophy
balloting as a senior. In 2000, Elway was enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame
. In 2007, Elway was ranked #15 on ESPN's Top 25 Players In College Football History list. Thomas Davids, an assistant football coach, said that Elway was the "best looking ball player he had ever seen."
Elway also excelled as a baseball player, finishing his senior year hitting .361 with nine home runs and 50 RBIs in 49 games and a 5–4 record with a 4.51 ERA.
Elway graduated with a degree in economics, and he is a member of the Delta Tau Delta Fraternity.
In the 1983 NFL Draft
, Elway was selected as the first overall pick by the Baltimore Colts
. Elway had, by then, played two summers of minor league baseball
for the New York Yankees
organization. Additionally, Elway had publicly stated that he refused to join the Colts organization, feeling the team could not allow him to be successful. If they did not trade him he said he was going to play baseball. Eventually, Colts owner Robert Irsay
gave in. The Colts traded him to the Denver Broncos
for QB Mark Herrmann
, rights to OL Chris Hinton
and a first-round pick (OG Ron Solt
) in the 1984 NFL Draft
on May 2
. John Elway is one of three quarterbacks in the history of the NFL Draft (started in 1936) to be drafted #1 and go on to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The other two are Terry Bradshaw
and Troy Aikman
1980s professional career
Elway stormed into the mile-high air as one of the most highly anticipated athletes in the history of the NFL. The local newspapers ran a section that was called "The Elway Watch".
Elway would debut that season in the Broncos season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Three Rivers Stadium. Elway's first career sack in the NFL came at the hands of linebacker and fellow Hall of Famer Jack Lambert.
Although the Broncos were playoff contenders for Elway's early years, Elway would go through the normal growing pains of a young NFL quarterback.
In the 1986 season, Elway led the Broncos to Super Bowl XXI
, after defeating the Cleveland Browns
on a famous possession at the end of the fourth quarter that became known as "The Drive"
. (In a span of 5 minutes and 2 seconds, Elway led his team 98 yards to tie the game with 37 seconds left in regulation. The Broncos went on to win the game in overtime). Elway and the Broncos started out the Super Bowl against the New York Giants
very well, building a 10–7 lead and then driving to the Giants 1-yard line in the second quarter. However, the Broncos lost five yards on their next three plays and came up empty after kicker Rich Karlis
missed the field goal attempt. From that point on, the rest of the game went downhill for the Broncos. Elway was sacked in the end zone for a safety on the Broncos ensuing possession, cutting their lead to 10–9. Then in the second half, the Giants scored 30 points and ended up winning the game 39–20. Still, Elway had an impressive performance, throwing for 304 yards and a touchdown, with one interception, while also leading Denver in rushing with 27 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
In 1987, Elway was selected to start in the American Football Conference
's (AFC) Pro Bowl
team and won the NFL Most Valuable Player Award
. He went on to once again lead 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
. The game started out very well for Denver, and they built up a 10–0 lead by the end of the first quarter. At the time, no team had ever overcome a 10–0 deficit in the Super Bowl. But in the second quarter, the Redskins suddenly stormed back with a record 35 points, and ended up winning Super Bowl XXII
42–10. Elway did have a few highlights. His 56-yard touchdown pass to Ricky Nattiel
after just 1:57 had elapsed in the game set a record for the fastest touchdown in Super Bowl history, at the time. He also became the first quarterback ever to catch a pass in the Super Bowl, recording a 23-yard reception from halfback Steve Sewell
on a halfback option play
. With a porous defense unable to stop the Redskins offense, Elway was forced to take more risks on the offensive end. As a result, Elway's performance was rather disappointing: just 14 out of 38 completions for 257 yards and one touchdown, with three interceptions.
After recording an 8–8 record in 1988, Elway once again led his team to the Super Bowl after the 1989 season, with yet another win over the Browns in the AFC championship game, going on to face the San Francisco 49ers
in Super Bowl XXIV
. However this game ended even worse for the Broncos than their previous Super Bowl losses. San Francisco blew out Denver 55-10, the most lopsided score in Super Bowl history. Although Elway scored the only touchdown for his team on a three-yard run, his performance was exceptionally abysmal: 10 out of 26 completions for 108 yards with no touchdown passes and two interceptions. But he didn't try to hide from the media after the game or downplay his dismal performance. And when he was asked if he wanted to go back to the Super Bowl after three losses, he responded that he wanted to go back every year, even if his team kept losing. Still by this point, many doubted that he would ever win a Super Bowl in his career.
1990s professional career
Ending on top (1997–1999)
It took Elway another eight years, but he eventually led his team back to the Super Bowl in 1997. During the 1997
preseason American Bowl
game in Mexico City
, Elway ruptured his right (throwing arm) biceps tendon
. It was treated non-surgically, and he returned to play 19 days later, going on that season to play in his fourth Super Bowl
. In Super Bowl XXXII
, the Broncos faced the defending Super Bowl champions Green Bay Packers
. Despite Elway completing only 11 of 22 passes, throwing no TDs, but one interception, they went on to defeat the Packers 31–24, finally winning a Super Bowl after three failed attempts for Elway (and four for the team). In 1999
, the Broncos repeated this feat and Elway was awarded the MVP
of Super Bowl XXXIII
, throwing for 336 yards and one touchdown with one interception, while also scoring a rushing touchdown in Denver's 34–19 win over the Atlanta Falcons
. It was his last game, other than the 1998 Pro Bowl.
On May 2, 1999, at the age of 38, Elway announced his retirement from pro football. Elway is regarded as one of the top quarterbacks ever to grace the game. He has one of the best winning percentages in league history (148–82–1), and is tied for second most Pro Bowl
selections for a quarterback (nine). He is third to Brett Favre
and Dan Marino
in career passing attempts, passing yards and completions. His four total rushing touchdowns in his Super Bowl games are the most ever by a quarterback. Elway is the only quarterback to have started in five Super Bowls. He is also the second player ever to score a rushing touchdown in four different Super Bowls (running back Thurman Thomas
was the first).
On Monday September 13, 1999, his number 7 jersey was retired by the Denver Broncos during halftime of a game vs the Miami Dolphins; that same night he was inducted into the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame. (Craig Morton, his direct predecessor in Denver, also wore number 7 and is in the Ring of Fame alongside Elway). He was the first Broncos player to have the five-year waiting period waived. Also in 1999 he was inducted in to the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame.
Also in 1999, he was ranked number 16 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Football Players, the only player to have spent the majority of his career with the Broncos to make the list (Willie Brown, who began his career with the Broncos but spent more of it with the Oakland Raiders, also made the list). In 2005, TSN published another special feature honoring the 50 Greatest Quarterbacks. Elway was ranked third behind Johnny Unitas and Joe Montana.
Elway was named the greatest athlete wearing the #7 by Sports Illustrated. Current Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who grew up idolizing Elway and Joe Montana, wears number 7 in honor of Elway.
Elway also holds the record for most game-winning or game-tying scoring drives in the fourth quarter, with 47. Elway holds the rather undesirable record for most times being sacked (516) and most career Super Bowl interceptions, with eight picks in the five title games he played. He also ended his career with 148 victories, good for second place behind Brett Favre
for most wins by a starting quarterback
. He finished his career with 774 rushing attempts, one shy of NFL record-holder Randall Cunningham
(775) for rushes by a quarterback. Elway's 3,417 rushing yards ranks sixth all-time among NFL QB's behind Cunningham, Steve Young
, Michael Vick
, Fran Tarkenton
, and Steve McNair
Elway threw for 1,128 yards in his five Super Bowls, second only to Joe Montana's record of 1,142 yards. His 76 Super Bowl pass completions rank him fourth behind Tom Brady, Joe Montana and Jim Kelly. His 152 attempts were a Super Bowl record before being broken by Tom Brady (156 attempts)
Elway holds several Broncos franchise records:
- Most Total Offensive Yards: 54,882 yards (51,475 passing, 3,407 rushing)
- Most Total Touchdowns: 334 (300 passing, 33 rushing, 1 receiving)
- Most Total Plays: 8,027
- Winning Percentage: .643 (148–82–1)
- Most Career Passing Yards: 51,475
- Most Career Completions: 4,123
- Most Career Attempts: 7,250
- Most Touchdown Passes: 300
Hall of Fame
On August 8
, Elway was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame
, by his eldest daughter Jessica. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame
- In 1979, Elway was drafted out of high school by the Kansas City Royals to play baseball in the MLB. George Brett, the future Hall of Fame third baseman for the Royals, is said to have remarked, "I hope this guy plays football." (The two would have competed for third base playing time)
- In the 1981 MLB Draft, Elway was selected by the New York Yankees in the second round. The following year, he played outfield in 42 games for the Class A New York - Penn League in Oneonta, New York. He had a .318 batting average, with four home runs and a team-high 25 RBI.
- In the 1983 NFL Draft, Elway was selected as the first overall pick by the Baltimore Colts, and on May 2, was traded to the Denver Broncos.
- On January 11, 1987, Elway executed "The Drive" - a last ditch, five-minute, 15-play, 98-yard touchdown drive in the AFC Championship against the Cleveland Browns to tie the game late in the fourth quarter, leading to an overtime win by field goal (by Rich Karlis) for the Broncos. It included six passes made (nine attempted), five rushes and an eight-yard sack. He was named the NFL Most Valuable Player and the AFC Offensive MVP.
- Elway is the only player to throw for over 3,000 yards and rush for over 200 yards in seven straight seasons (1985–1991).
- Elway was named the AFC Offensive MVP in 1993 when he passed for over 4,030 yards and 25 touchdowns. He had a quarterback rating of 92.8.
- In 1997, Elway led the Broncos to their first ever Super Bowl win in Super Bowl XXXII. His three previous attempts in Super Bowls XXI, XXII and XXIV were unsuccessful.
- Elway is the oldest player to score a touchdown in a Super Bowl at age 38 in Super Bowl XXXIII.
- Elway is the only player to rush for a touchdown in four Super Bowls (XXI, XXIV, XXXII, XXXIII).
- On January 31, 1999, in Super Bowl XXXIII, Elway passed for 336 yards in a 34-19 victory over the Atlanta Falcons. He was named the Super Bowl MVP.
- Elway was selected to the Pro Bowl nine times during his 16 seasons with the Broncos, a franchise record.
- Over his professional career, Elway led his teams to a record 47 fourth quarter comebacks.
- Elway's 148 wins place him second (to Brett Favre) for career wins among quarterbacks. He was also sacked 516 times, more than any other quarterback.
- Elway's 300 career touchdown passes places him fifth behind Favre, Dan Marino, Fran Tarkenton and Peyton Manning.
- Elway is one of only three quarterbacks to pass for at least 3,000 yards in 12 seasons; Favre and Marino are the others.
- On January 31, 2004, Elway was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
John Elway is currently co-owner of the Arena Football team Colorado Crush
, a position he has held since 2002. In February 2007, Elway was elected chairman of the Arena Football League
's executive committee.
Elway is the owner of two steakhouse restaurants, each named "Elway's": One is located in the upscale Cherry Creek shopping district, and the other is in the Ritz-Carlton hotel in downtown Denver.
Elway used to own five auto dealerships called John Elway Autos in the Denver area. He sold them to AutoNation for $82.5 million in 1997. In December 2006, Elway ended the nine-year licensing agreement with AutoNation Inc., removing his name from Denver-area dealerships. At the time, Elway said the move could allow him to get back into the auto business under his own name. He still owns a Toyota Scion dealership in Ontario, California and Nissan dealership in Riverside, California
Elway married Janet Buchan, who attended Stanford University
and competed on its swimming
team, in 1984. They had four children (daughters Jessica, Jordan and Juliana, and son Jack) before separating in 2002 and divorcing in 2003.
Jessica Elway is a student at Stanford University. During her freshman year, she was a member of the Stanford women's basketball team. However, she did not rejoin the team for her sophomore year. She previously attended Cherry Creek High School, located in Greenwood Village, Colorado. Jessica gave an introduction speech for her father at his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, becoming the first daughter to ever introduce her father as an inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Jordan Elway attends the University of Denver, where she is a member of the lacrosse team. She originally attended the University of Virginia after her graduation from Cherry Creek HS.
Jack Elway (John Albert Elway III) played quarterback at Cherry Creek High School in Colorado. Jack stands 6′2″ and weighs 188 lb. John worked as the quarterback coach for Cherry Creek for Jack's senior year. Jack signed to play quarterback for Arizona State University. ASU's head coach Dennis Erickson was his grandfather Jack's first offensive coordinator, from 1979-81, at San José State, the elder Jack's first Division I head coaching job.
Elway had a twin sister, Jana, who "always kept him out of trouble." A non-smoker, she contracted lung cancer and died at the age of 42 in the summer of 2002. John's father, Jack, died of an apparent heart attack a year earlier.
Elway proposed marriage to former Oakland Raiders cheerleader Paige Green in Italy in September 2008. No wedding date has been set. Elway met Green in 2005 at a celebrity golf tournament held by former Raiders running back Marcus Allen in Los Angeles, California.
John Elway appeared on commercials for the foam Vortex football. When the Koosh Vortex football
was first introduced in 1994
, Elway threw it over 90 yards. In 1998
, Elway made history again, throwing the new Vortex Mach 110 over 110 yards.
Elway has suffered a long-term battle with acid reflux disease. In 2003, he made this condition public and became the spokesman for Prevacid
John Elway is often referenced on South Park. Like many Colorado residents, the boys are fans of the Broncos, and therefore look to Elway as a hero. In "City on the Edge of Forever," Cartman mistaken remembers that John Elway is his father. In one episode ,"The Wacky Molestation Adventure," a John Elway statue is known as the "provider" for the boys' make-believe town. Stan Marsh has many posters of Elway on his bedroom wall. In another episode with Barbra Streisand, Stan asks her if she knows John Elway. When she replies no, Stan says "You're so rich and famous, but you don't know John Elway?". In It's Christmas in Canada, at least Stan expresses interest in a John Elway action figure with karate chop action for Christmas. In the intro to Butters' Very Own Episode, the song states "he loves John Alway" while Butters is shown holding up a photo of himself in Elway's arms to which Butters corrects them, "Elway!"
He has twice been lampooned on The Simpsons. In "Cape Feare", he is Homer's preferred new identity, as Homer fantasizes himself scoring a touchdown as the Broncos quarterback in a Super Bowl. However, upon viewing the scoreboard, it shows that the Broncos are trailing in the game, 56-7. This is a reference to Super Bowl XXIV, which Elway's Broncos lost 55-10, with Elway scoring the only touchdown of the game for his team long after the Broncos had any hope of making a comeback. In "You Only Move Twice", the Denver Broncos are seen haplessly getting their football drills wrong after Homer receives the team as a gift from Hank Scorpio. Homer is disappointed as he'd always dreamed of owning the Dallas Cowboys. "Awww the Denver Broncos...," Homer later says. Ironically, the Denver Broncos would win the next two Super Bowls after the original airing of that episode.
In 1994 he appeared in an episode of "Home Improvement".
He appeared as himself in the movie Resurrecting the Champ.
Elway was featured as the star of John Elway's Quarterback video game for the Nintendo Entertainment System.
Elway had a cameo appearance in the Garth Brooks music video," We Shall Be Free," along with fellow quarterbacks, Troy Aikman and Warren Moon.
Two days before the 2006 AFC Championship Game pitting the Broncos against the Pittsburgh Steelers, a Pennsylvania high school student named Joshua Vannoy sported an Elway jersey. A teacher, John Kelly, an avid Steeler fan, humiliated him by having him sit on the floor during a test and had the students throw paper balls at him. Vannoy, who only wore the jersey because he was an Elway fan, claimed that he wasn't able to concentrate fully on the test, messed up miserably, and was called a "stinking Denver fan." He eventually stopped attending school and had to transfer to another high school. The teacher claimed that the incident was only in fun. When Elway heard the news, he sent Vannoy a custom designed recliner.
John Elway and his Elway Foundation host a charity golf tournament every year called the John Elway Golf Classic. Profits are split equally between two local charities, the Kempe Foundation and The Family Advocacy, Care and Support (F.A.C.E.S.), both of which combat child abuse.
Elway has contributed to a number of Republican Party candidates in recent elections. Following the decision by incumbent U.S. Senator Wayne Allard on January 15, 2007 not to seek another term in 2008, some pundits speculated Elway might campaign for the seat.
Elway appeared in the ABC reality television series Fast Cars and Superstars: The Gillette Young Guns Celebrity Race, in 2007, featuring a dozen celebrities in a stock car racing competition. Elway won the competition.
Elway was featured on the cover of All-Pro Football 2K8 video game with Barry Sanders and Jerry Rice.
Elway has throwback jerseys available from Reebok as well as Mitchell and Ness, his jersey is amongst the most popular throwback jerseys available in all of sports.
¹Led league ²Second place ³Third place †Tied
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*includes Super Bowl
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- The Associated Press, "Clock runs out on Elway", Arizona Daily Wildcat, May 3, 1999.
- Ivan Carter, "KC helped make Elway a star", The Kansas City Star, August 8, 2004, p. C8.