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Sacco Sez: The Prince of Palo Alto

Posted Feb 10, 2016

With a week of practice at Stanford leading up to the Broncos' Super Bowl 50 victory, John Elway returned to the ground where he first made a national name for himself.

After an achievement as fabulous as what the Denver Broncos just accomplished, someone could just pick any angle and focus a column on it.

I am choosing this one because I have been waiting for years to use the above headline. Seriously, I am writing it because I think it's a cool headline, but I think we all agree there is a lot of substance there.

In my longtime role with the Broncos, I always tried to make time to talk with fans who cared enough to call long distance, and one of those was "Bennie from The Bronx."

Bennie not only calls talk shows in New York regularly, but he has made a lot of team and league contacts over the years.

One day he said to me, only half in jest, "What is it with the Elway guy? He plays for 16 years and you do nothing but win. Then he retires and you win not so much. Then he comes back, and you win all the time, all over again!"

Bennie was so right.

There is plenty of credit to go around in the Broncos' third World Championship — which, by the way, puts Denver into the top nine teams in number of Super Bowl wins — but John Elway certainly is at the center of the wagon wheel in terms of putting this together.

Since Elway became the Broncos' general manager, Denver has had the best record in pro football, from 2012 through 2015.

Twenty-one of the 22 starters were acquired by Elway, who recently told national sportswriter Peter King that "We don't draft all-pros. We develop all-pros."

And Elway made the single greatest free-agent acquisition in NFL history in signing Peyton Manning, who took his legacy and legend to a new stratosphere in this Super Bowl win, becoming the first quarterback to lead two different teams to the title, in addition to a myriad of other career factoids.

But this is about John Elway.

He has joined the ranks of Jerry West in basketball and Ozzie Newsome in football as Hall of Fame members who became general managers and then won a World Championship in that capacity.

Of course, John is the only Hall of Fame quarterback to become a general manager and win a Super Bowl with the same team that he quarterbacked to back-to-back World Championships. It seems pretty safe to say that mark will stand for a long, long time.

But wait — with Elway, there is always more.

During the 2015 football season the Pac-12 Conference named its All-Century team, celebrating its 100 years of history by looking back at the best players its schools have had through the past century.

Not only was Elway the quarterback, but the Broncos' general manager was named the Pac-12 Player of the Century, a staggering honor for its accomplishment and scope.

Then, with the Broncos reaching Super Bowl 50, Elway actually returned to his old stadium and campus, the very site where he earned Player of the Century honors, because the AFC team was assigned to practice at Stanford University.

It is a lot to digest, but with John, there always has been a lot to digest.

One day about 30 years ago, one of the sportswriters in our press room said, "I just don't know what to write for tomorrow."

A wise old writer, Joe Sanchez of The Denver Post, kind of turned his chair around halfway, peered over the top of his reading glasses and said, "Let me tell you something, kid. Always write about Elway. And the next day, follow it up."

The thing is, we are in our fourth decade of John Elway providing plenty of reasons to keep him in the headlines.

And it is why, in a football sense, he truly is The Prince of Palo Alto.

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