NFL Countdown: The Denver Broncos select future HoFer John Elway in the 1983 draft

Denver Broncos v Las Vegas Raiders
Denver Broncos v Las Vegas Raiders
Adam Schultz

NFL Hall of Famer John Elway is known as one of the greatest players of all time. Spending the entirety of his 16-year career with the Denver Broncos, Elway took all before him as he would go on to win multiple Super Bowls during his time in the league.

Drafted out of Stanford University, the quarterback broke several passing records and declared for the 1983 NFL draft. Originally selected by the then-Baltimore Colts, Elway, who was an exceptional baseball player and was drafted by the Royals in 1979 and would go on to play for the New York Yankees in 1981. He threatened the Colts that he would play baseball, instead of football, if they did not trade him.

The Colts buckled, and the star quarterback found his way to Mile High, and that is where he spent his entire NFL career.


John Elway's college career

Elway attended Stanford University and was a member of the football team for four years. While he did not lead the team to any bowl games, he still had his fair share of success.

At the end of his college career, the superstar quarterback finished with 9,349 passing yards, 77 touchdowns and 39 interceptions. He also had a passer rating of 139.3 which is incredible.

Going through old dvd games, and found this one. 1980 Stanford vs USC. John Elway’s sophomore year. This is as good a play as you’ll ever see. Elway ends the scramble with a 70+ yard throw, and with velocity. And over Ronnie Lott.

Elway was given Pac-10 Player of the Year honors twice in 1980 and 1982 and was runner-up in the Heisman Trophy voting in his senior year. In 2000, the star quarterback was enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame.

John Elway's NFL career

Denver Broncos Introduce Peyton Manning
Denver Broncos Introduce Peyton Manning

Taken with the first pick in the 1983 draft by the Colts, Elway forced a trade and ended up with the Broncos. During his rookie year, he started ten games, had a 4-6 record and finished with seven touchdowns and 14 interceptions as the reality of the big league hit home. But he did lead the franchise to the playoffs for the first time in 24 years.

Known throughout his career for his incredibly accurate passing, rushing ability and his leadership in tough moments, Elway never led the league with stats, but it was his uncanny ability to produce when it mattered most that saw him elevate his game to new heights.

His most famous moment came in the 1986 AFC Championship game against the Browns. Needing a touchdown to tie, the quarterback led his team on a remarkable 98-yard touchdown drive to tie the game. Denver would then go on to win in overtime, and his famous efforts to tie the game led to it being known as "The Drive."

1987 NFL MVP

Elway won the biggest individual honor for a quarterback as he claimed the MVP award in 1987. He threw for 3,198 yards, 19 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

He led Denver to the Super Bowl that year, but they were beaten by the New York Giants 39-20. From 1986 through to 1989, Elway and Denver would lose three Super Bowls by, at least, three touchdowns as they were dominant during the regular season, but could not translate their form into the postseason.

Recency bias has made people forget how good John Elway was

The star number seven would not taste the ultimate success until the last two seasons of his NFL career. In 1997, Elway led his Broncos to a 12-4 record and threw 27 touchdowns to just 11 interceptions.

He would then lead Denver on a 4-0 run through the playoffs, culminating in a Super Bowl victory over Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers 31-24 as running back Terrell Davis was named Super Bowl MVP.

Elway did not have his best game as he completed 12 of his 22 attempts for only 123 yards and one interception. He also had a QBR of just 51.9 on a scale of 1-100, so he was rather average.

Elway's Super Bowl MVP 1998 NFL season

After Denver won the biggest prize in football in 1997, Elway again took the AFC franchise back to the promised land. He started 12 games in 1998 and had a 10-3 record.

He finished the regular season with 2,806 passing yards, 22 touchdowns and ten interceptions. During the playoffs, Denver would win three straight games as they claimed back-to-back Lombardi Trophies, and this time, Elway was the star.

A Super Bowl MVP performance from John Elway in his final game.Rewatch the @Broncos Super XXXIII victory TODAY at 3 pm ET on @NFLonFOX

In a 34-19 win over the Atlanta Falcons, Elway completed 19 of his 29 passes for 336 yards, a touchdown and an interception. he also rushed for a touchdown as he claimed Super Bowl MVP honors.

In 2004, John Elway was enshrined into the NFL Hall of Fame for his incredible career that spanned 16 seasons.

Post-NFL career

After his illustrious playing career, Elway then went corperate. He was named the Broncos’ executive vice president of football operations in 2011 and was a key figure in securing Peyton Manning.

From The Aftermath: As #Broncos GM John Elway steps aside, one name that'll draw interest is #Bears Assistant Director of Player Personnel Champ Kelly, who interviewed with the #Jets last year. Others with ties to Vic Fangio & DEN are Adam Peters (#49ers) and John Spytek (#Bucs).

He was praised for building an incredible defense around an aging Manning, which culminated in a Super Bowl win over the Carolina Panthers in 2016.


In 2021, the Denver star stepped down as general manager of the Broncos and, instead, became head of football operations for the NFL franchise, a title he holds to this day.

Edited by Windy Goodloe


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