Ending career on the right foot
By Ferd Lewis
For 15 years it was a marriage made in mile-high heaven, the providential coupling of Jason Elam's lethal right foot, steely nerve, uncanny accuracy and Denver's thin air.
Together they gave the Broncos a leg up on the NFL competition and an unmatched weapon in close games.
So much so that the Broncos were never shut out in Elam's career and he was part of 152 victories, second only to John Elway in Broncos' history. Twenty-four times Elam kicked game-winning field goals.
After 236 games together — each one of which Elam contributed at least a point to — it will be altogether fitting that the Broncos today extend to the University of Hawai'i graduate the courtesy of a one-day contract signing and accompanying ceremonies so that he might end his record-setting 17-year NFL career a Bronco.
The 40-year-old Elam flew in from his home in Alaska, where he is a commercial pilot and father of five, to be honored for a career in which he not only rewrote records but expanded the bounds of respect for kickers by dint of his accomplishments.
Elam became a crowd favorite in Denver soon after UH's 1992 UH Holiday Bowl season. A third-round draft pick, he was soon luring early arrivals to the sideline barriers before games at Mile High Stadium to watch him at work.
They would come to witness Elam launch field goals from breathtaking distances not unlike the way people turn out to watch sluggers smash batting practice pitches into the ozone. At 50 yards there would be murmurs from the assembled fans and at 60 a good buzz. Beyond 65 the oohs and aahs would be audible, piercing his cocoon of concentration, forcing a satisfied smile.
It was less a question of whether Elam would get a piece of the NFL record for the longest field goal, only a matter of when he would be given the opportunity. It came in 1998 when there was a penalty on his 58-yard attempt. Elam backed up and nailed a 63-yarder to tie Tom Dempsey's 28-year old NFL record.
But Elam was much more than a high-altitude kicker, he was a spot-on accurate. In his career, Elam made 81 percent of his field goals and 99.4 percent of his extra points, including 371 in a row.
"There has not been a more clutch kicker in the history of the NFL," Elway told www.DenverBroncos.com.
No surprise here, of course, where Elam's field goal with 1 minute, 36 seconds left beat ninth-ranked Iowa, 27-24, in his first UH game, the 1988 season opener.