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No. 6: Elway left NFL as a winner - To commemorate USA TODAY's 25th anniversary, a panel of USA TODAY's NFL reporters and editors has produced an anthology of the 25 best NFL players of the past 25 years. Working down from No. 25, we are unveiling one player each weekday until training camp season arrives:

John Elway's legacy was winning, but it wasn't till the end of his career that he became a champion. The NFL record holder for most victories by a quarterback, the Broncos signal caller retired on top following his second straight Super Bowl title after the 1998 season. Elway now lands at No. 6 on USA TODAY's list.

With his especially powerful, accurate arm (300 touchdown passes) and his excellent mobility (33 rushing TDs), Elway led the Broncos to just two losing records in his 16 seasons.

Drafted first overall by the Baltimore Colts in 1983, Elway forced a trade to Denver, the only team for which he would ever play. He went on to become the first quarterback to pass for 3,000 yards and run for 200 yards in seven consecutive seasons. When he retired, he ranked second all time in completions (4,123) and passing yards (51,475) and third in touchdown passes (300).

While he also owned the record for most times sacked (516), Elway's calling card will always be his knack for leading come-from-behind drives. He retired with an NFL-record 47 drives that won or tied games in the fourth quarter.

The most famous may have been "The Drive," a 98-yard romp against Cleveland in the 1986 AFC Championship Game that tied the game with a 5-yard TD pass to Mark Jackson with 39 seconds left. The Broncos went on to win 23-20 in overtime.

"There was a mind-set that when we started coming back late in the game," Elway once said, "until the clock said 00:00, we really felt that we've got a chance to win those games."

Said his former coach, Dan Reeves, who led the Broncos for Elway's first 10 seasons: "When the game was on the line, he was like Michael Jordan — he wanted the football. In those situations, I don't know if I know anyone that did a better job of handling that than John did."

Three Super Bowl appearances early in Elway's career ended in defeat, but his fortunes changed when the Broncos defeated the defending champion Packers 31-24 in Super Bowl XXXII. That contest was punctuated by Elway's helicopter-style hurtle through the air for a key first down that led to a Broncos touchdown in the third quarter. Then Elway led the Broncos to back-to-back titles in Super Bowl XXXIII, his final game, which culminated in his MVP performance in the 34-19 win over the Atlanta Falcons.

"I think probably the thing that I am most proud of is that I was able to hang in there long enough to win a couple of Super Bowls," Elway said after being elected to the Hall of Fame in 2004. "That was definitely the highlight, the thing I am most proud of."

About this series: A panel of 10 NFL reporters and editors at USA TODAY cast votes in this project. Points were assigned (25 points for the player voted No. 1, 24 points for No. 2, etc.), and the cumulative points determined the rankings.
Source : Originally Published, Jul 16, 2007
Celebrities : John Elway
Categories : Athlete News
Posted 7/16/2007 12:07:34 AM | Permalink
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