Elway shifts from football to fatherhood

Arnie Stapleton
Associated Press
Vail, CO Colorado
Ed Andrieski/APFormer Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway talks about his focus shifting from football to fatherhood during an interview at his office in Commerce City, Monday.

COMMERCE CITY, Colorado ” John Elway’s focus has shifted from football to fatherhood.

The 47-year-old Hall of Famer who led the Denver Broncos to two Super Bowl titles just finished serving as his son’s quarterbacks coach at Cherry Creek High School, helping strong-armed Jack Elway earn an athletic scholarship from Arizona State.

“I wanted to get back close to it and be close to him,” Elway told The Associated Press. “To me it was important to be around Jack. I had played too long to not at least be able to give him some of my knowledge that I had gained over the years of playing and that I had gained from my dad. I would have been kicking myself if I hadn’t done it.”

Juliana, 16, the youngest of four children raised by Elway and his former wife, Janet, just got her driver’s license and is starting to look into colleges herself.

“She’s a junior so she’ll be gone in a year and a-half, and I’ll be an empty-nester, which is hard to believe,” Elway said.

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So, he sat down with Jack and Juliana this week and signed a contract, one that for a change had nothing to do with football.

A master pitchman in the nine years since he threw his last pass, Elway’s latest endeavor is serving as a spokesman for Allstate Insurance Co.’s teen safe driving campaign, which includes a downloadable pact between parents and teenagers.

“I’ve had a chance to spend more time with my kids. That’s why this is kind of a fun thing for me,” Elway said. “It was fun to sit down with Jack and Juliana and create those boundaries,” such as no talking or texting on the cell phone, no eating or drinking on the road.

Elway said the campaign, which kicks off nationally this week, is close to his heart because he’s really had a chance to give his youngest kids some face time lately, such as tutoring Jack on the finer points of quarterbacking.

“It was great. It was really a chance for me to get to know him better,” Elway said. “And it wasn’t about telling him how to throw the ball or where to go or he missed a read or whatnot. It was really kind of helping him out through the tough situations.”

Such as last week, when the younger Elway was intercepted seven times in a 35-7 playoff loss to Grandview.

“He was like, ‘What do I do, Dad?’ And I said, ‘You know what you do, you’ve got to keep battling. I don’t care if you throw 10, let’s keep trying to win this football game,'” Elway recounted.

At 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, Jack Elway already is as big as his father was when he entered the NFL.

“He’s still a late bloomer,” Elway said. “He still hasn’t come close to his potential, in my mind. He made leaps and bounds from last year to where he is this year. But his upside’s all ahead of him. He hasn’t really scratched it. If he can unmask everything and get through everything, he’s got the ability to be really, really good. But at this point, it’s up to him to take that next step.

“He’s going to physically mature more. I mean, he’s as big now as I was when I got out of college. And then if he just keeps making the leaps he’s made from year to year then he’s got a chance to be a pretty good player.”

Elway, who will undergo left knee replacement surgery in two weeks, is now co-owner and CEO of an arena league team.

He led the Broncos to five Super Bowls, winning twice. He retired as the winningest quarterback in NFL history, a mark that Green Bay’s Brett Favre broke with his 149th win in September.

“If someone was going to break it, I’m glad it was him because here’s a guy that’s been around 17 years,” Elway said. “To be able to do that and do what he’s done, I mean, half the year in Green Bay it’s pretty dang chilly and doing it outside and the number of games in a row that he’s played, I mean, it’s just been incredible.”

Elway, who didn’t win it all until his final two seasons, said he’s enjoying watching Favre’s resurgence but bristled when it was suggested the three-time MVP was doing it in the twilight of his career as he had done.

“Watching him, he’s still enjoying it and he still can play,” Elway said. “So, everybody wants to keep telling him he has to retire. I’m like, ‘Dude, keep going.’ You’re not going replace what you’ve got right now. Plus, he’s got a pretty good football team.

“If he can play for 30 years he should play for 30 years, because once you get done, nothing can replace it, that rush and just playing and the camaraderie and everything that goes along with being a part of it.”

Elway said he got a tinge of that excitement back this fall coaching his son. He said he got nervous for Friday night the way he used to get butterflies before kickoff on Sunday.

“When your son’s doing it and you see him make a great play it’s almost more satisfying than doing it yourself,” Elway said. “My oldest daughter, Jesse, was a basketball player and she used to be just as much fun to watch as Jack. And then Jordan, my second daughter, was a lacrosse player. So, just to watch them compete was fun.

“My youngest one, she’s a socialite. She never really got into the sports, which is fine. She wants to be in tennis and I tell her all the time, ‘You don’t have to be in sports, you’re just a sweetheart as you are.'”

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