Broncos' Elam got foot in door at Aloha Stadium
Bruce Asato The Honolulu Advertiser
The Denver Broncos' Jason Elam is making his third trip to the Pro Bowl at Aloha Stadium, where he kicked a field goal in his first collegiate game as a freshman to lift the University of Hawai'i to a season-opening upset victory over Iowa.
Bruce Asato The Honolulu Advertiser
By Ferd Lewis
Over there," Jason Elam said, pointing across the artificial turf shimmering in the mid-morning heat, "was where the 56-yarder was spotted."
"Right over here," he said, gesturing toward another spot, "was where I kicked from in the Iowa game.
"And, over there ..."
For Elam, stepping through the North tunnel and into Aloha Stadium for yesterday's Pro Bowl practice was a contemplative 100-yard stroll down memory lane, a college scrapbook come to life.
"You wouldn't believe how it all comes back to you as soon as you step on that field again," said the former University of Hawai'i All-American. "All the games, the memories ... especially those BYU games.
"When the (AFC team) bus backed down into the tunnel to drop us off, I was thinking, 'This is exactly how the UH bus would do it, too, and we'd walk across the field.'
"It always feels special to walk down that tunnel and onto the field here because I never know when it is going to be the last time to play here," Elam said. "It is special; I've been blessed. That Pittsburgh game (at the end of his senior year in 1992) could have been it. Then, there was the Hula Bowl. I didn't know if I'd ever kick here again, but this is my third Pro Bowl."
The 31-year-old Elam in the Denver Broncos' helmet this week appears little changed from the one on the cover of the 1992 UH press guide. At 200 pounds, he is barely above the 195-pound playing weight that he was when he became one of the NCAA's most accurate and prolific kickers of all time.
The once shy, pleased-to-meet-you freshman from Snellville, Ga. who kicked a game-winning field goal to beat Iowa in his debut and went on to help the Rainbows to two bowl game appearances, has given way to a confident professional at the top of his game.
"The time has just flown by," Elam said glancing around Aloha Stadium. "Hardly anything has changed it seems like I just finished taking my senior walk."
In the interim, there have been nine hugely productive seasons since Elam last appeared in green and white, an NFL lifetime, really. One in which Broncos' coach Mike Shanahan has come to refer to him as "Our Mr. Clutch" and not without reason. Elam has tied the record for the longest field goal (63 yards) and courted point-after perfection with 368 extra points in 369 attempts.
His consistency of performance has been matched only by his attachment to Denver, where he has become an elder roster member of sorts since the Broncos made him a third-round draft choice in 1993. How much longer he'll remain there is anybody's guess. The six-year extension of Elam's original contract ends this month, leaving him a much-coveted unrestricted free agent.
One thing for sure is that Elam, at a $950,000 base salary this past season, was seriously under compensated in a market where Olindo Mare reportedly averages $2 million and Martin Gramatica recently signed for a reported $1.9 million.
"I don't know how it will end, but it should be an interesting next three or four weeks," Elam says.
In the meantime, there are old friends to see and memories to cherish.
For no matter where his NFL career eventually takes him, this week Elam is "home."