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Elway sports Super Bowl afterglow

Michael Traum

John Elway sat in front of a press room full of reporters, smiling wide, baseball cap pushed back and sipping a cola drink.

In his ninth year of attending the celebrity golf tournament at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course, he knew this year the questions would be different.

No longer would it be, “When are you gonna win the big one?” or “Has the game passed you by?”



This year, the quarterback greeted the media in possibly the greatest spirits a professional football player could experience – Elway, after 14 years in the National Football League and three prior big-game losses, is a defending Super Bowl champion.

“The monkey is off our back. It’s nice to get that one win,” Elway said. “The great thing about it is all positive. In the past, it’s not always been that way. This year, no one had anything to complain about.”



Elway led the Denver Broncos to a 31-24 win over the the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XXXII, vindicating a career of near-misses.

“I wasn’t even thinking past that Sunday. My football career was going on that Sunday. That’s how I was going to be judged. I could’ve died Monday,” Elway said. “I was just saying please give us a chance to be in the game. In the other Super Bowls, we’d been blown out by the fourth quarter. I can still remember running on the field with three minutes to go saying, ‘Thank you, Lord, for the chance, now please help us get into the end zone.'”

But once the game ended, the media scrutiny didn’t waiver, it heightened. Now that one of the game’s greatest had finally reached the top, was he going to hang up his cleats?

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do. It was to the point that my decision was all that was talked about. It’s almost like the Super Bowl was forgotten,” said Elway, who ultimately decided to play one final season. “I thought about getting on the horse and riding off into the sunset. That sounded pretty good. But why retire at the top? The thing I came to is there’s a lot of life left. To leave early, when you’ve done something your whole life and still enjoy it, why would you do that? And maybe we can come back and win another one. Then I can get on the horse.”

Elway kept the football world in suspense about his decision, even his coach and teammates, while basking in the glow of Super Bowl aftermath.

“It’s been really hectic. I don’t think you ever understand what you’re going to go through when you win the Super Bowl. It’s almost to the point that I’m glad training camp is going to start (in two weeks). You get pulled in eight different directions. Trying to please as many people you can gets pretty tough. You get tired of saying no, it’s frustrating. There’s just not enough hours in the day to cover everybody,” he said.

With training camp just down the road, Elway has little doubt that the upcoming year will be his last.

“It’s always going to be tough to walk anyway. But this is going to be my last year. I’m gearing myself for this to be the last one. I’m not nearly as fast as I used to be. That’s the thing that’s really dwindled. But I’m probably throwing the ball better than I ever had. Plus, the offense I’m in, I don’t have to do those things I did when I was younger,” he said. “It’ll be easier getting through the things you hate, knowing it’s the last time you have to go through them. But you have a chance to step back and enjoy things knowing this is going to be it. A lot of times the season goes so fast you don’t think about it.”

Notes: Elway said he consulted many sports-world friends before making his decision to play one final year. “I talked to Jim Kelly and Johnny Bench a little bit. Jim said the thing he didn’t miss was the pressure he felt every Sunday. Johnny said he knew when he was ready to retire, that he had no problems looking back. When he said that, I started thinking would I have a problem looking back. I decided I probably would at this point and time. That’s what probably pushed me over the edge.” … When asked what he would do in retirement, Elway laughed hard when saying, “Harass you guys (media). Write letters to the editors.”

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