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Sunday, April 22, 2001
Jack Elway was major influence on son's career
Associated Press

DENVER – Jack Elway, the father of John Elway and an innovative college coach in the 1970s and '80s, died of an apparent heart attack at his home in Palm Springs, Calif. He was 69.

Jack Elway
Jack Elway is shown in this May 2, 1999 photo listening to son John announce his NFL retirement.

Jack Elway died Sunday morning, Broncos spokesman Jim Saccomano said. John Elway, the retired Denver Broncos' quarterback, flew to Palm Springs on Sunday to help with funeral arrangements.

Jack Elway retired last year as the Broncos' director of pro scouting.

"A lot of people don't understand how close he (John Elway) and Jack were, even the people around him," Broncos owner Pat Bowlen said.

Coach Mike Shanahan said Jack Elway was crucial in building the Broncos' two Super Bowl championship teams.

"Jack was happy to stay in the background and let others get more public attention, but his position with us was truly invaluable," he said.

For the past two weeks, the elder Elway lent his expertise in the Broncos' predraft meetings, working side by side with his son. John Elway considered his father his best friend.

John Elway, who retired from the Broncos after winning a second Super Bowl title in 1998 and who has designs on owning or running an NFL team, was offering football insight and learning about draft preparations.

When the meetings wrapped up Friday, Jack Elway returned to Palm Springs.

Colorado State coach Sonny Lubick, an assistant under Elway at Stanford, called him a "classy, loving person. He was as fine a coach as there was and, more important, as fine a man as there was."

A native of Hoquiam, Wash., Jack Elway played quarterback at Washington State, where he earned his bachelor's and master's degrees.

Elway taught and began his coaching career at Port Angeles High School. From 1961 through 1966, he was head football coach at Grays Harbor College in Aberdeen.

He left after the 1966 season to become an assistant to his former high school coach, Jack Swarthout, at the University of Montana and later was an assistant at Washington State. Jim Sweeney, WSU head coach at the time, said of Elway, "He recruited so many kids to Montana I'd wanted that I figured I'd better hire him."

At the college level, Elway was head coach at Cal State-Northridge (1976-78), San Jose State (1979-83) and Stanford (1984-88).

In 34 seasons as a head coach and assistant coach in high school, junior college and college, he posted a .650 winning percentage. He was selected as head coach in both the Blue-Gray and East-West Shrine games.

Known for his creative, multidimensional offenses, Elway was inducted into the Cal State-Northridge Athletic Hall of Fame in 1997. He was inducted into San Jose State's Ring of Honor in 1998, joining a group that included Dick Vermeil, Bill Walsh and Steve DeBerg.

He also was coach of the Frankfurt Galaxy in the World League (1991-92) and scouted for the New York Jets in 1990.

He spent seven years in the Broncos' scouting department (1993-99), the last five as director of pro scouting, and subsequently served the team as a scouting consultant until his death.

Besides his son, Elway is survived by his wife, Jan; daughters Lee Ann and Jana; and eight grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held in Palm Springs on April 24. Funeral arrangements were pending.

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