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Elway satisfies itch sans scratching it out on field

As part owner of the Crush, ex-NFL All-Pro QB John Elway enjoys competition again.


© St. Petersburg Times, published April 20, 2003

TAMPA -- The view is the same, but the game is different. And for the first time in John Elway's storied football career, so is his role.

In 16 seasons as quarterback of the Broncos, Elway had countless opportunities to watch from the sideline. If an opponent made a good play, the NFL's winningest starting quarterback returned to the field and made a better one.

But there is little Elway will be able to do to influence the outcome of today's Arena League game between the Storm (9-2) and expansion Colorado (1-10) from his spot behind the Crush bench.

"That's the big difference being outside the lines rather than inside the lines," Elway said. "You have a lot more control outside the lines but no control inside the lines."

Elway is part of a Colorado ownership group that includes Broncos owner Pat Bowlen and Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche and Pepsi Center owner Stan Kroenke.

Elway said Kroenke approached him with the idea of purchasing a team in 2000. After attending several Arena games, Elway concluded that the league had a good product but suffered from underexposure.

"We want this to be the fifth major sport and something people can really enjoy and something people can really afford, which is not the case in other sports right now," Elway said.

As Colorado's chief executive officer, Elway is involved in everything from football operations to marketing and corporate sales. He attends practices and games but leaves most football decisions to coach Bob Beers and his staff.

"Knowing the game is a lot different than the stadium game, I tried to stay back," Elway said.

But Elway's involvement with the league is not limited to the Crush. He teamed with Rams quarterback Kurt Warner for an AFL on NBC commercial and promoted the league during interviews at the Super Bowl.

"I'm very pleased and proud that he is in the league," said Storm coach Tim Marcum, who won the league's first championship in 1987. "It's certainly been good for our league."

Elway's impact is evident in Colorado's league-high five home sellouts and merchandise sales that lead the league despite a 1-10 record.

"He's an American icon and, unquestionably, he carries a lot of credibility and is extremely recognizable, which helps to raise our awareness levels," league spokesman Chris McCloskey said.

Though the Crush has struggled, Elway knows not even the two-time Super Bowl champion Broncos were built overnight.

"It took us 15 years to do that," Elway said. "It's a matter of patience and getting the right combination and continuing to work at it."

In the meantime, Elway said the experience has helped to quench his thirst for competition.

"One thing I looked forward to was having that test week in and week out," Elway said. "Even though I'm not getting hit anymore, it definitely helped to get back into this arena."

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