Ever since I was little, I knew I would never play football. When I was six, I had my left kidney removed because it was not functioning correctly. At the time, football was my favorite sport, and like any kid, I had a dream. Unfortunately, that was impossible, so I found a substitute for myself: John Elway.
At the time, of course, I was only six and it was early in Elway's career, so I had no idea what a class act he was. John Elway is now 38 and, according to most people's standards, still firing on all cylinders. Although he is a great talent in the National Football League, that's not the only reason he's my hero.
John Elway went to Stanford University where his dad helped coach him. He had a chance to play major league baseball as a pitcher, but in the end, he decided on football. He was drafted by the Colts, but his draft rights were traded to the Denver Broncos and the rest is history. In his first few years, he didn't have a great record and, though he appeared in three Super Bowls before 1997, his record was a dismal 0-3. Many teams would have loved to have had him during this time, but he stayed with the Broncos through their long rebuilding process. Success came with the addition of Mike Shanahan as coach. In 1996, the Broncos went 13-3, the best record in the NFL, but lost in a disappointing effort against the Jacksonville Jaguars (30-27) in the first round of the playoffs. In 1997, he would not be denied his goal, going 12-4 and beating the favored Packers in the Super Bowl. After fifteen years as a pro, he was just the second member of the famous '83 QBs to win a Super Bowl. One of the biggest factors in their Super Bowl win was Elway's need for victory.
After the success-filled 1997 season, Elway chose to restructure his contract from $4.65 million to somewhere in the neighborhood of $300,000, so the Broncos could sign more talented free agents to help them defend their title.
Although people one decade ago wouldn't have thought this a sacrifice, today stars have shifted from focusing on winning to money, even leaving a winning team for a sub par team because of one million dollars' difference in contract money. Though this does not apply to all who play, especially the veterans, it has become the choice of many modern sports players. John Elway could have thought only of himself and kept his higher salary, but didn't. He is definitely my definition of a hero. Q
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.