John Elway Enshrinement speech
Pro Football Hall of Fame Field at Fawcett Stadium
August 8, 2004
Jessica Elway (presenter):
Thank you, Mr. Berman; thanks, everyone. It is a tremendous honor to be with you today to represent my family, my brother, Jack, and my two sisters Jordan and Juju at such a special time in my dad's life.
As you might suspect, growing up with the last name Elway made for some pretty interesting questions. The most common one we get is, "What's the coolest part of having John Elway as a dad?" "That's easy," we always respond. "We're too young to remember the first three Super Bowls."
My dad would be looked at differently today if he had not won two Super Bowls, but it wouldn't have mattered to my brother and sisters and me. When we look at my dad, we see a different man than everyone else sees. We see Jack's coach. We see a dad who used to be able to beat his daughter - used to, I said - at one-on-one in the driveway. And we see a son who desperately misses his father and sister, never more than today. We called my grandpa "Poppy," and we all wish he could be with us. Dad, this the greatest honor of my life that you have chosen me to speak for him.
Some of our most vivid memories came from Mile High Stadium. But they didn't have anything to do with football. We spent more time watching my dad on the sideline, waiting for him to wave up at us, than we did watching the game. And sure enough, he always did. Looking back, those are some of my most treasured moments.
Just because he played quarterback for the Broncos didn't mean we had to cut him any slack. Whenever we see him on ESPN Classic, we always tease him about his goofy haircuts. When he got a big knot in his arm after tearing his bicep we'd say, "Come on, Dad, show us your Popeye." And when he got into his late 30s, we'd tell him, "Dad, you're too old to be calling everyone 'Dude."'
As proud as we are of my dad, we'd be just as proud if he had not made the Hall of Fame. I can't tell you how much he has taught us about life. He has taught us to be leaders, to set goals, to dream and to never, ever, ever make excuses. Above all, he has taught us to be tough. No one knows more than his children how tough my dad is, how competitive he is, how badly he wanted to win those Super Bowls.
We saw the black-and-blue marks at the kitchen table. We saw the bruises on his arms, the cuts on his fingers and the scrapes on his elbows. Whenever one of us kids would ask him about it, he'd just smile and say, "Oh, it's OK."
He had 12 surgeries during his career. With all those aches and pains, he didn't exactly have a lot of sympathy when one of us kids came crying. I remember one time, I stubbed my toe, and he said sarcastically, "Uh-oh, better go call 911." It was a funny moment until my little sister Juju called 911.
As long as I'm telling you family secrets, let me tell you another one. After the Broncos won their first Super Bowl, I asked my dad to quit. I told him I wanted him to be happy, to go out on top. But he wouldn't do it. Dad, let me tell you something I've never told you before, and I'll probably never tell you again. Thanks for not listening to me.
Dad, I love you and I'm so proud of you.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is with great pride that I introduce to you now, my dad, John Elway.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I have to be totally honest, I have never heard that in Ohio before. So it is very nice. Jessie, thank you, sweetheart. You did awesome.
Six years ago, a great thing happened in my life – the Broncos finally won a Super Bowl. And after that game on the field, I kept asking myself, “We actually won a Super Bowl?” After we beat the Packers that night, our owner, Pat Bowlen, raised the Vince Lombardi Trophy and told everyone, “This one’s for John.” Well, I’m here today to say that this one’s for Pat and this one is for every Broncos fan out there.
First of all, I’d like to congratulate all of my classmates. Barry Sanders, I’ll call him the best to ever play the game even though his dad wouldn’t agree. Bob Brown, I wish I could have played with Bob Brown, that’s for sure. And I’m glad I didn’t have to play against Carl Eller, let’s put it that way. Congratulations.
Someone asked me the other day if I had any regrets about my career. There’s only one, and that’s that my father, Jack, and my sister, Jana, couldn’t be here. My dad wasn’t just my best friend, he was my hero, my mentor and my inspiration. He was the keeper of my reality checklist, and the compass that guided my life and my career. And he taught me the No. 1 lesson of my life – always make your family proud. Now that he’s gone, I thank God every day for letting him see the Broncos win two Super Bowls.
My dad didn’t so much teach me how to play football, but why to play it. He taught me to compete, to never give up, to play every down like it’s your last. He taught me to appreciate the game, to respect it, to play it like it was meant to be played. He taught me to enjoy my successes and learn from my failures. And above all, he told me, “Make sure when you go out with your offensive linemen, you pick up the tab.”
My dad isn’t here today, but my other hero is. But then, you’ve always been there for me mom. Thank you. I hope I’ve made you proud today and every other day. You think going 98 yards in the fourth quarter against the Browns was tough, try cooking breakfast and dinner every day and raising three kids while your husband is off coaching. Try driving your son all over town so he could chase his dreams. And try doing it in your spare time after working 40 hours a week.
I’m going to tell a little secret that my mom and I had. It was when we were going to Super Bowl XXXII against the Packers. My mom was over and sat in my house and sat in the house and offered these heartfelt words of encouragement, words only a mother could say to her son – “Do we really have to go back to the Super Bowl?” I knew right then that we’d better win that one or she’d never go back. Thanks, mom. I love you.
For me, the worst part about going to college was leaving my two sisters. My twin sister, Jana, who obviously got all the looks, she always kept me out of trouble when I did my best to get into it. I was so nervous before my first high school game, I lost my mouthpiece. Sure enough, she was the one who found it. Trust me, it wasn’t the last time she was there to keep an eye on me. And I know she’s looking down here today and I wish you were here Jana.
My sister, Lee Ann, was always the responsible one. She didn’t have much choice since she was the oldest. You always put me first, Lee Ann. And your little brother will always appreciate it. Thank you for your love, your friendship and your unwavering support.
I have so many people to thank today. I want to start with my high school coaches – Jack Neumeier and Darryl Stroh. Coach Neumeier, I know it wasn’t easy for you to be here, but I’m sure proud you are. Thanks for seeing me for what I might be and for showing me how to get there. Coach Stroh, thanks for your leadership and toughness. It really went a long way.
I thought I was a pretty good quarterback when I got to Stanford. As things turned out, I had a lot to learn. Thankfully, Jim Fassel was there to teach me the techniques that got me to the NFL and carried me through 16 seasons. Little did I know that nearly 15 years later, we’d be reunited with the Broncos.
As NFL players go, I was truly one of the lucky ones. I got to play my entire career in the same city. I got to play in the greatest football town in America, and for the greatest fans. And to top it off, I got to play for the greatest owner in professional sports. “Player and owner” doesn’t even begin to describe our relationship. Pat, you’ve been a great boss and an even better friend. Thanks for giving me the chance and the opportunity to pursue the dream we all have as players – and that’s to be world champs.
I’d also like to thank my many teammates – Granada Hills, Stanford University and the Denver Broncos. I’d like to name every one of you here today, but time won’t allow. Just know that I’m proud to have called you my friends and my teammates. This bust here would not be here, and neither would I, if it weren’t for you guys. People sometimes don’t realize how dependent the quarterback is on his teammates to do their jobs. For every guy that ever stepped onto a field with me, I accept this honor today on behalf of all of you. Thanks for protecting me, catching my passes, defending our goal line, for sharing my highs and lows. And more than anything, thanks for not losing confidence in me when I lined up for a snap as a rookie behind the left guard.
Then, there’s Mike Shanahan, who other than my father was the single biggest influence on my career. Thanks, Mike, for your honesty, your friendship, your never-ending attention to detail. Thanks for restoring hope in me, when I have to admit, I was running on empty. Thanks for making me the best player I could be. And thanks most of all for not making me come work out even after I retired.
This weekend has been an emotional time for me. And I’m particularly glad to see that my old coach, Dan Reeves, could be here. Dan, I regret that we couldn’t win a Super Bowl, but we went down fighting, that’s for damn sure. I appreciate all the wins we did have together. And I want you to know that I fed off of your competitive spirit. Thank you.
One of these days, Pat Bowlen, Mike Shanahan and Dan Reeves will be inducted into this great place. Take it from someone who worked alongside them for most of his career. If I belong here, they belong here.
I’d also like to give special thanks to my coach, my teammate, my room dog – Gary Kubiak. Kub, thanks for the support and understanding through the years, and listening. And thanks for not listening each year in training camp as I tried to quit.
Nor would I be standing here, literally, if not for our trainer, Steve Antonopulos. Thanks for all the band-aids, Greek. And thanks for convincing me that I wasn’t hurt as much as I thought I was.
And thanks to our PR man, Jim Saccomano. Sacco, somehow you always managed to lock my lips before I sank the ship.
My best friend, Dennis Engle, you were there from the very beginning as an offensive guard at Stanford. You’ve been a buddy through the years andall the support. I just appreciate you for being a friend. And I appreciate you, more importantly, for making me the scrambler that I was.
This is a proud day for Denver, for the Rocky Mountain region, for the Broncos. My only wish is that it had come earlier. I’m the first Broncos player to pass through these doors, but it’s my sincerest hope that others will soon follow. The Broncos have played in six Super Bowls, more than any other AFC team. No team could do that without having great players worthy of the Hall of Fame.
I’ve only lied to the media twice – that I recall – in my career. Halfway through my career, I started getting questions about whether someday I might find my way to Canton. Every time, I said that I hadn’t given it any thought. That was the first lie. It’s every player’s dream to be here and I was no exception.
I’ll leave my legacy up to others, but I can tell you this – I never felt more proud than the day my coach, Wade Phillips, called me the Lou Gehrig of quarterbacks. As a quarterback, I didn’t always have a great game, nor was I always healthy, but my teammates knew that I’d always show up. I didn’t always succeed, but I persevered. And finally after 14 seasons, with the help of my coaches and teammates, I got to experience the feeling of winning a Super Bowl.
And here, my media friends, is the second lie. I said my career would have been complete without a Super Bowl victory. I obviously said that without ever experiencing the feeling. It was a feeling like few others. And just so we never forgot the feeling, we did it twice.
The only bigger thrill in my life was the birth of my children, Jessie, Jordan, Jack and JuJu. They are what gets me up in the morning. I’d like to thank them most of all. Thanks, guys, for jumping in the bed on Monday mornings when I was too sore to get up. Thanks for keeping me young when my body felt old. Thanks for giving me perspective and keeping me grounded. Thanks for teaching me about life and reminding me what really matters. And thanks most of all for remembering your grandpa’s No. 1 lesson – thanks for making your family proud. I love you very much.
Last but not least, to all those Broncos fans out there, thank you for everything. And this final Mile High Salute is for every one of you out there. Thank you.