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'An Awesome, Awesome Journey'

Posted Mar 31, 2010

Jason Elam reflected on his 17-year NFL career on Wednesday, when he signed a one-day contract to officially retire as a Denver Bronco. He said he walks away from the game with no regrets.

Elam


ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- After 263 games in 17 seasons, Jason Elam came back to where he spent 236 and 15 of them.

The kicker stepped to the podium in Dove Valley on Wednesday, having signed a one-day contract to officially retire as a Denver Bronco.

A bittersweet moment?

"There's nothing bitter about it," he smiled. "It's a dream come true for me to be able to go out like this."

And he's used to ending on a high note. Elam made 26 career game-winning or game-saving field goals, accumulated 152 wins in a Broncos uniform -- the second-highest total in team history behind Elway -- and won two Super Bowl trophies.

But after the wear and tear of kicking since he was 13 years old -- Elam just turned 40 on March 8 -- he said that "physically, mentally, emotionally, you know when you're done."

His retirement was reminiscent of the way he played his career -- for his teammates.

Every game-winning field goal he made wasn't just for him, it was so he could "look over to the sideline and see how excited your teammates were and see how excited the fans were."

Consequently, Elam spent the majority of his retirement press conference focused on other people.

He thanked his coaches, from high school to college to the NFL, his long snappers, his holders, the equipment staff, the turf staff, the trainers, the PR staff, the team chaplain, the video staff, the front office, the media and the fans.

"That's one thing about the Denver Broncos, it's always been such a family-type organization that Mr. Bowlen has instilled," Elam said.

He thanked his friends and family for being in attendance, and said he appreciates Matt Prater for what he has already been able to do in Denver with the talent he possesses. ("That was huge," Prater said. "I couldn't believe it. My heart started beating a little bit.")

Elam did all he could to share the celebration with everyone he crossed paths with along the way. Sure, there was a video highlighting some of the biggest moments of his career to start the press conference. Vice President of Corporate Communications Jim Saccomano stepped to the podium to remind the crowd of some of the gaudy statistics Elam put up over the years.

Among those statistics are his games played in Denver -- 236, a franchise record -- and his 15 seasons as a Bronco are tied with Tom Nalen for the second-highest total in team history behind John Elway. In every single contest Elam touched the field, he scored at least one point. The 263-game streak is the second longest in NFL history. Elam made sure the Broncos were never shut out as long as he was on the club.

He retires in fifth place in league history in most points scored and most field goals made, holding the league record with 16 consecutive seasons with 100 or more points, and he made what is tied for the longest field goal in NFL history -- 63 yards. Through it all, he earned three Pro Bowl selections, was voted a second-team All-Pro on three occasions and was named the NFL Special Teams Player of the Year in 2001.

But for all the accolades he accumulated, that wasn't what Elam wanted this day to be about.

"There's just so many memories, and that's what I had hoped for today, that this wouldn't be just a celebration of a career, but it would be a celebration of relationships and friendships," he said. "And that's what I'm really grateful for."

President and CEO Pat Bowlen said he is grateful that a player -- and person -- of Elam's caliber spent so much time in Denver.

"I really get emotional about it, because when I think of all the games we won and Jason being a huge part of those wins, it really touches my heart," Bowlen said. "Jason was everything you want in a player."

Now, Elam will move on to other ventures. He and his family have a home just south of Anchorage, Alaska, and as a licensed commercial pilot, he spends plenty of time in the air. In addition, he has already written three novels with friend Steve Yohn, and expects to continue to do so in the future.

In fact, he is holding a book signing on Saturday from 2 to 4 p.m. at Crosswalk Bookstore and Cafe in Parker, Colo.

"There is a little bit of everything that I really enjoy doing, so I'm not going to be bored at all," he said.

The kicker, who Bowlen said is "definitely going into the Ring of Fame," stepped away from the game on Wednesday ready for the next chapter.

"I'm very happy with the career that I had," Elam said. "I gave it everything I've got and I feel good about it."

"This has been an awesome, awesome journey for me."

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