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Elway excelled in final minutes

Tuesday, July 5, 2005
Elway led Broncos on "The Drive"
By Bob Carter
Special to

Signature Game
Jan. 11, 1987 - It is known, simply, as "The Drive." Quarterback John Elway led the Denver Broncos back from defeat numerous teams, but his performance in the AFC championship game against the Cleveland Browns topped the list of his heroics, elevating him to superstar status.

Trailing 20-13 with 5 minutes left in the fourth quarter at Cleveland, Denver took over on its two, 98 yards away from the tying touchdown. "I suddenly flashed on something I was thinking about before the game," Elway said later. "Great quarterbacks make great plays in great games. That's what it's all about, isn't it?"

Elway made like a great quarterback, smartly passing and scrambling the Broncos down to the Browns' 14-yard line. After a nine-yard run by Elway moved the ball to the five, on third-and-one he fired a dart in the end zone to Mark Jackson with 37 seconds left. Rich Karlis' extra point tied the game.

In overtime, two Elway completions were good for 50 yards, setting up a 33-yard field goal by Karlis that gave the Broncos a 23-20 victory and sent them to the Super Bowl.

Elway accounted for 300 total yards, passing for 244 (22-of-38) and rushing for 56.

Odds 'n' Ends

  • Elway ran for six first-half touchdowns in his first game -- as a sixth grader -- in Missoula, Mont. His father Jack had to convince him that his best position was quarterback, not halfback.

  • Washington State basketball coach George Raveling had Elway at his summer camp and thought he showed more potential in basketball than football.

  • Elway was selected as the Southern California player of the year in baseball as a senior at Granada Hills High School.

  • His favorite high school subject was math, and he had a 3.0 GPA at Stanford, where he received an economics degree.

  • Elway batted .269 in his freshman baseball season at Stanford.

  • In his senior year, he quarterbacked Stanford to a 43-41 victory over top-ranked Washington.

  • His final college game -- a 25-20 loss to arch-rival Cal -- ended with perhaps the most famous play in college football history. After his passing set up the field goal that put Stanford ahead 20-19 with seconds left, the Bears returned the kickoff for a touchdown, via five laterals, on the last play as the Stanford band came onto the field.

  • He finished his college career with 77 touchdown passes. Although interceptions hurt him in the NFL, Elway set an NCAA record for lowest career interception rate while at Stanford, 3.13 percent.

  • Baltimore selected Elway first overall in the celebrated Quarterback Class of 1983, ahead of Todd Blackledge, Jim Kelly, Tony Eason, Ken O'Brien and Dan Marino.

  • Elway didn't want to play for dictatorial coach Frank Kush of the Colts. Baltimore then traded his rights to Denver for backup quarterback Mark Herrmann, the rights to tackle Chris Hinton (the No. 4 pick in the draft) and a 1984 first-round pick.

  • In his first exhibition game, Elway led the Broncos on a decisive, 10-play touchdown drive against Seattle.

  • He completed one of eight passes for 14 yards in his regular-season debut against Pittsburgh before suffering a bruised elbow and was replaced by Steve DeBerg, who led Denver to a 14-10 victory.

  • Elway's former wife Janet was a swimmer at Stanford. She set a national record in the 400-meter individual medley while in high school at Tacoma, Wash.
  • John and Janet were married in 1984, after his first NFL season. They have four children, three daughters and a son. The couple divorced in 2003.

  • Elway threw a career-high 23 interceptions in 1985.

  • Against Washington in 1988, he became the first quarterback to catch a pass in the Super Bowl.

  • In 1993, he was chosen the AFC's MVP and led the NFL in passes (551), completions (348) and completion percentage (a career-best 63.2). He led the AFC in TD passes (25), yards passing (4,030) and quarterback rating (92.8).

  • In his last seven seasons, Elway cut down on his interceptions.

  • Before Elway and the Broncos won in January 1998, the Quarterback Class of 1983 had an 0-9 record in Super Bowls.

  • In Elway's final season (1998), the Broncos went 14-2, and he established his highest passing efficiency mark (93.0). For his career, he had a 79.9 regular-season passing rating and 80.1 for the postseason.

  • John started the Elway Foundation in 1987.

  • Elway was a first-team pick on the NFL's All-Decade Team of the 1990s, chosen by the Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee.
  • He joined fellow superstars Wayne Gretzky and Michael Jordan in a much-publicized, partial purchase of in 1999. However, the online sporting goods store failed.

  • In April 2000, Elway was voted into the College Football Hall of Fame. He was formally inducted in December.

  • John and his father Jack were inducted together to the San Jose Sports Hall of Fame in November 2000. Jack coached San Jose State's football team from 1979-83. John starred at Granada Hills High and at Stanford.

  • In the years after his retirement, Elway had to deal with the passing of his father, who died of a heart attack in 2001, and his twin sister Jana, who succumbed to lung cancer in 2002.

  • In 2003, Elway became a co-owner and the CEO of the expansion Colorado Crush in the Arena Football League. In its third season, the Crush won the 2005 AFL championship.

  • Elway was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility and inducted in August 2004.

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