ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --Thanks to USAA, Broncos Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway spent part of his Wednesday morning chatting with overseas military men and women.
On a conference call were 23 soldiers with the second armored brigade and fourth infantry from Fort Carson, stationed in seven different camps throughout the Middle East in three different countries.
"I'd just like to say it's a pleasure for me to be talking to you guys today," Elway said to open the call. "I appreciate your work and everything you do for this country, the sacrifices that have been made by you guys over there. From the bottom of my heart, I want to wish everybody a Merry Christmas and it's an honor for me to be able to spend time with you guys today.
"So I'm looking forward to hearing some questions -- and don't be shy."
The soldiers weren't.
In fact, one soldier got straight to the point.
"What happened last week?" he asked, pointing out that he's been taking flak from the non-Broncos fans in his platoon, drawing laughs from the other soldiers.
"We just didn't play very well," Elway responded. "I think that it was a short week, but that's not an excuse either because the Chargers were on a short week. We came out and we were just flat and offensively they did a good job. They kept the ball away from us. They had the ball 40 minutes to our 20 minutes. And on offense we didn't do a good job on third down, and anytime you're not picking up third-down conversions, you're not going to stay on the field. That's what happened to us in that second quarter with three three-and-outs. And then they did a good job running the ball. We weren't able to stop their running game, which allowed them to eat up the clock – and they did a good job on third down.
"I think overall, as I said, it was a tough loss for us but I think it's a chance for us to kind of reboot and refocus on where we are and what we have in front of us. In the long run I think it's going to be a good thing for us as long as we take it as a wakeup call. Hopefully these next four, five weeks into February you'll be doing all the talking in the platoon."
Elway was asked more than 20 questions in the nearly 40-minute phone call, with topics ranging from his biggest fear (heights) to his biggest pet peeve (not taking advantage of opportunities), what he would be if he didn't get into athletics (an accountant) and whether he can still hit the crossbar with a throw from the 50-yard line ("I think I could, it would just take me a lot more tries these days.")
Other questions stuck to football.
One soldier asked if wide receiver Wes Welker would be back on the football field by the time the playoffs roll around.
"We're going to be safe with Wes and make sure that he's completely healthy before he comes back," Elway said. "So it's going to be a day-to-day thing."
Another asked for Elway's memories of the helicopter run in Super Bowl XXXII.
"That was one play in my career that when I talk about it, I still kind of get shivers about it," Elway smiled. "Because I remember the first thing I did once I saw I got the first down is looked over to the sideline and saw our sideline jumping up and down – and the excitement level that was on the sideline. So as far as getting a change out of something, there was nothing close to that in my career that came close to getting that when I got that first down."
Elway talked Knowshon Moreno: "He's a guy that's tough, a guy that plays hard and he's passionate about what he does. We'd love to have 53 guys like Knowshon."
He even gave some advice to a Raiders fan whose boyfriend is a Broncos fan.
"I'm just hoping you come to the good side -- I'm hoping your boyfriend can talk you into coming over to be being a Broncos fan," he laughed. "But I can understand your loyalties to the Raiders because they've been a big part of this league for a long time. I don't have an answer for you other than I know you'd be happy being a Broncos fan."
By the end of the call, the soldiers were out of questions, and Elway was grateful for the opportunity to speak with the men and women serving the United States of America overseas.
"I appreciate the time and appreciate all that you do," Elway said to close the call. "I know that over there it's a little bit tough sometimes, but I want you to know that the Denver Broncos and this organization are 120 percent behind you and we really do appreciate all your hard work and sacrifice that you've made for this country. We know we couldn't do what we do unless you're doing what you guys do. So we appreciate it so much and it was a pleasure to spend time with you.
"I want to wish everybody a happy holidays and we're going to do our best to bring home a World Championship."