“I don’t know if I like being the sentimental favorite,” John Elway told reporters prior to Super Bowl XXXII. “There are a lot of people who might not get another chance to win a Super Bowl, not just me.” By the end of what many observers have called the greatest Super Bowl game ever played, thousands of fans in San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium were chanting “Elway, Elway, Elway.”
In almost storybook-like fashion, the veteran quarterback directed his team to a 31-24 victory over the heavily favored Green Bay Packers. It was Denver’s first Super Bowl victory. Elway would go on to lead his team to a second Super Bowl win a year later, capturing game Most Valuable Player honors in the process.
A first-round draft choice of the Baltimore Colts in 1983, Elway was immediately traded to the Broncos for two veteran players and a 1984 first-round pick. As the Broncos signal caller, Elway almost at once became one of the most feared quarterbacks in the league. From 1983 through 1998, he led his team to five victories in six AFC championship games and two Super Bowl wins. Elway’s record 47 fourth quarter game-winning or game-tying drives are legendary. In the 1986 AFC title game, Elway engineered a 98-yard come-from-behind touchdown drive to tie the Cleveland Browns and send the game into overtime. The Broncos went on to win 23-20. Today, the Elway-led fourth-quarter rally is simply referred to as “The Drive.”
The versatile Elway is the only player in National Football League history to pass for more than 3,000 yards and rush for more than 200 yards in the same season seven consecutive times. He was only the second quarterback in NFL history to record more than 40,000 yards passing and 3,000 yards rushing during his career. At the time of his retirement, he ranked second all-time in three of the game’s most significant passing categories, passing yards (51,475), attempts (7,250), and completions (4,123).
Indicative of his versatility, Elway was responsible for 334 touchdowns (300 passing; 33 rushing and one receiving) generating 4,771 of the 5,806 points (82.2%) scored by the Broncos during his 16-year tenure with the club. Selected to play in nine Pro Bowl games, Elway was a first- or second-team All-Pro choice three times and a first- or second-team All-AFC choice five times. In addition to his all-league honors, he was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player in 1987, AFC Offensive Player of the Year in 1993, and Super Bowl XXXIII Most Valuable Player.