John Elway’s Journey from Hall of Fame Quarterback to Successful Executive
John Elway is a Hall of Fame quarterback who spent his entire playing career with the Denver Broncos. During his time as starting QB he led his team to five Super Bowls while winning two. He retired after his second Super Bowl win, going out on top and on his own terms.
Elway left the playing field but kept his eyes firmly on continuing to have a role in professional football while also growing his personal business interests. Now, it seems Elway might be looking into following in the footsteps of former hockey great Mario Lemieux and becoming an owner of the very team he led to greatness.
From Hall of Fame Quarterback to Successful Business Owner
Elway’s athletic gifts (he was a top baseball prospect as well as a coveted football recruit) led him to attend the highly respected and academically rigorous Stanford University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in economics. He played both baseball and football at Stanford and was selected in the amateur draft of both Major League Baseball and the National Football League.
He elected to play professional football, but he decided not to play for the team that drafted him, the Baltimore Colts. Instead, he forced them to trade his rights away. He landed with the Denver Broncos, where he spent all 16 of his seasons as their starting quarterback. He retired from football after the 1998 NFL season at the age of 38.
During his NFL career, Elway earned over $45 million in salary and bonuses. He also received supplemental income from various corporate endorsements during his playing time and after. While playing football, he began making key financial decisions that would benefit him greatly later on.
Elway invested in a number of car dealerships and opened a chain of restaurants across the state of Colorado. The success of his investments was proven in 1997, when he sold five of his car dealerships to AutoNation for a total of $82.5 million dollars, a sum far exceeding his total earnings from football. He also founded two charities and did extensive work for other charities, including the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
Keeping His Head in the Game He Loves
John Elway has also been able to successfully combine his love of football with his business interests. He co-owned the Colorado Crush, an Arena Football League Team, for six years beginning in 2002. In 2011 he was hired by his old team, the Denver Broncos, as their General Manager and executive vice-president of football operations.
In this role he had the final say in all football-related areas, including the hiring of head coaches and the composition of the team’s roster. He used his extensive football knowledge to build the Broncos back into a serious championship contender.
Elway took over a franchise that hadn’t qualified for the playoff in five straight years and was coming off a season in which they won only four games. Two years into his tenure as GM he signed free agent Peyton Manning to quarterback the team, and a year later the Broncos were in the Super Bowl.
Two years after that Denver won its first league championship since Elway himself had retired. It was a brilliant turnaround of fortunes for the Broncos, similar to their successful reinvigoration after Elway became their quarterback.
In 2019, longtime Broncos owner Pat Bowlen died of complications from Alzheimer’s disease, and the team went into trust. While currently not on the market, most NFL observers believe that the Broncos will go up for sale in the near future. Elway has expressed his interest in becoming a part of a new ownership group.
Forbes estimated the Broncos franchise as having a worth of around $3.75 billion in 2021, so Elway would not be able to purchase the team outright. However, he has the financial resources to acquire a percentage of the team, and that seems to fit with his own desires on the matter.
“I’m not looking to be the face of the franchise,’’ Elway told a Denver television channel earlier this year. “If I can be that guy that helps the new owner understand Denver as well as on the football side, I think I can help do both for them.” Based on his previous record as both an investor and a football executive Elway would be a major asset for any group or individual looking to purchase the Broncos.
John Elway had a remarkable career as an NFL player, but his post-playing career may wind up being even more impressive. His business acumen served him well during his football career, as he used his earnings to prepare for a life after football. Wise investments earned him more money than he made from his playing days and his return to the game of football may end in him becoming part of a very elite club — that of NFL owner.