John Elway (1960
- ) was one of the greatest quarterback
s in football
history. As the QB
of the Denver Broncos
, Elway showed off one of the best arms in the history of the game, compiling the most career wins ever for a quarterback and finishing second only to Dan Marino
in career passing yards (51,475), completions (4,123) and 3,000-yard seasons (12). Elway was known for his ability to scramble
, becoming the only player to pass for more than 50,000 yards and rush for more than 3,000, and is also the only quarterback to start in five Super Bowl
s. But Elway was perhaps best known for his penchant for last-second combacks, leading an amazing NFL
record 41 fourth-quarter game-winning drives, and crafting the most famous comeback ever - a game-winning 98-yard drive in overtime against Cleveland
in the 1987 AFC
championship known simply as "The Drive
Raised in the San Fernando Valley in Southern California, Elway excelled as a high school quarterback and later as a two-sport standout in football and baseball at Stanford University. Elway's arm was always incredibly strong, allowing him to pitch 95 mph fastballs and famously hurl baseballs over the outfield wall from home plate. A consensus All-American in football his senior year, Elway passed for 3,242 yards and 24 touchdowns and finished second to Herschel Walker in the Heisman Trophy voting. In the Big Game that year against Stanford's archrival Cal, Elway gave a taste of things to come by leading an incredible last-second comeback to secure what appeared to be a sure Stanford victory, only to see Cal break off a multi-lateral kickoff return for a game-winning touchdown in the most famous play in college football history, now known simply as "The Play".
Elway had been drafted in the first round by the New York Yankees as a pitcher in 1981 and had been playing minor league ball in the summers when the Baltimore Colts made him the no. 1 pick overall in the 1982 NFL draft. Not wanting to play for the hapless Colts, Elway used the threat of quitting football to pitch for the Yankees to force a trade to the Broncos.
For the next decade Elway toiled away, but the Broncos hardly ever gave him much talent to work with. To make things even harder for Elway, the Broncos coach, Dan Reeves, continued to structure the Broncos offense around the running game, despite having the best pure passer in football. Even so, Elway managed to get the Broncos to three Super Bowls, mostly on the strength of his amazing right arm. Yet somehow he could never seem to win the big one.
Finally, in 1995, Elway got a new coach, Mike Shanahan, who wisely restructured the offense around Elway and the passing game, rather than trying to force Elway into an offense built exclusively around the run. In 1998, at age 37, Elway at last got that elusive Super Bowl ring, defeating the Green Bay Packers in a 31-24 upset. To top it all off, Elway returned for a final season in 1999 and lead the Broncos to a second consecutive Super Bowl championship over Atlanta, winning the Super Bowl MVP award and ending a brilliant career on its highest note.