John Elway, The President of Football Operations of the Denver Bronco's, has had a nearly forty-year career in the NFL. From the controversial way he came into the league in 1983, to winning Superbowl's as both a player and an executive, Elway has excelled at every position. As a player, he led the Bronco's to five Superbowl's, and won two championships. Twelve years after earning the 1987 NFL MVP, he also won the Superbowl 33, MVP award by leading the Bronco's to a smashing victory over the Atlanta Falcons. After he retired as a player, the 1992 Walter Payton Man Of The Year Award winner, began a new career as a football executive. First, he turned his attention to the Arena Football League where, as the Colorado Crush's General Manager, he won Arenabowl 19, in 2005. Soon after, he joined the Denver Bronco's front office, where he masterminded the signing of QB Peyton Manning, and as general manager, and executive vice president of football operations, won Super Bowl 50. Among his other business interests, he is a restaurateur, and most recently, a winemaker.
Rock On: Hi John, thanks for agreeing to speak with Rock On Magazine. You were already a successful businessman by the time you helped start the Colorado Crush, but did that experience help you as you transitioned to NFL executive?
Elway: Absolutely. I purposefully chose to run the Crush in preparation to run the Broncos' one day if the opportunity presented itself. I didn’t know for certain that I would have that opportunity, but I wanted to be prepared if it did. I looked at it as my MBA on the business side of football.
Rock On: Recently, you stepped back from your role as Bronco's GM?
Elway: I think the timing was good. Like many business organizations, there comes a time when people need to hear a new voice, or get a fresh perspective. I didn’t go into my role with the Broncos’ thinking I was going to be the GM, but after a while, I thought I had a lot to add to that position, and could offer great perspective. Similarly, I realized that the timing may be good for some new ideas, so I went back to my role as President of Football Operations.
Rock On: What does the President of Football Operations do?
Elway: There are two sides to an NFL team; the football side, and the business side.
The business side oversees the stadium, licensing, and sponsorship. I oversee all football-related decisions, which are GM, the scouting department, and coaches.
Rock On: During the 1983 draft, you expressed a strong desire to play almost anywhere else, other than for the Colts. At that time, you had the opportunity to play for the Yankees in Major League Baseball, and told the Colts you would play baseball before going there. Would you have chosen baseball?
Elway: It’s been well documented that it wasn’t the Colts, specifically that I had an issue with; it was just the Coach (Frank Kush) at the time, wasn’t a particularly good fit for me. The way the NFL worked back then, was once you got drafted by a team, it was very difficult to get out of the situation. There was no free agency. I loved football and it was my first choice, but yes, I would have stuck to my guns and played for the Yankees. I’m glad it worked out the way it did though.
Rock On: I think millions of fans would agree. Would you tell us about your relationship with (Bronco's deceased Owner) Pat Bowlen, and what he meant to you, both on and off the field?
Elway: I consider myself one of the luckiest people in the world to have joined the Broncos when I did. Mr. Bowlen bought the team in my second year at the Broncos (as their quarterback), and we had an amazing ride together. He was as competitive as I was, and wanted to win as badly. He took the necessary steps to put the Broncos in a position to have the success that we did. He was a great ambassador for the NFL and an even better man. I have the highest regard
for Mr. Bowlen.
Rock On; When I was researching for this article, I went to Youtube and put Elway into the search engine, and the very first thing to pop up was “The Elway Helicopter.” It struck me as curious, that of everything you’ve accomplished, both inside and outside the NFL, the most searched thing about you is a six-yard run against Green Bay in Superbowl 32. The NFL channel called it the 8th greatest play in Superbowl history. It's been suggested you didn’t like the play call, and were determined to run, pretty much, right away?
Elway: Well, after I saw the defense, I had my doubts if it was going to work. I knew we needed that first down and was going to possibly have to improvise. At that stage in my career, running wasn’t high on my list of choices, but that turned out to be the best option. Who knew that a run would be one of the defining highlights of my career?!
Rock On: Other than winning the Superbowls, what is one of your favorite game memories?
Elway: The (1986 AFC Championship Game) drive in Cleveland was a monumental game in my career. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was one of those moments that would come to define my career.
Rock On: Starting a winery does seem like a logical, and solid next step for a successful restaurateur. Would you explain how 7Cellars began?
Elway: I had my Elway Steakhouses for nearly 10 years by the time we started our wine business. I began appreciating wine more with my meals. My longtime agent and partner, Jeff Sperbeck, and I believed that a quality wine was a natural extension to complement my restaurants.
Rock On: How involved in the winemaking process are you? For example, do you pick grapes?
Elway: We have an amazing wine making team, led by Rob Mondavi Jr. and Mari Coyle. They understand my tasting profile, and they create beautiful wines around it. I taste all the wines during the process, and before they’re completed. It has my name on it, so I want it to be great.
Rock On: Which one is your favorite?
Elway: I really do like them all, but the one that I drink most often is the Elway Reserve Cab. It’s a big, tannic, steakhouse cab that pairs well with steak, particularly ones from my restaurants.
Rock On: Where can people find your wine?
Elway: The easiest way is to go online to www.7cellars.com, but we carry the wine in many liquor stores, wine shops, and restaurant locations throughout Reno, Incline, and Lake Tahoe area. There is a locator on the website.
Rock On: Thanks for speaking with us, it's been a blast!
For more info on Elway’s Reserve Collection
Please Visit www.7cellars.com