Way Back Wednesday: The Broncos' greatest win

The Denver Broncos have had some memorable moments playing against the Green Bay Packers.

There was the famous "Snow Game" at Mile High Stadium in 1984, as well as the last tie game ever played at Milwaukee County Stadium, in a sea of mud in 1987. But in Broncos history, nothing can and ever will top the first world championship ever won by Denver, a 31-24 win over the Packers at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego in Super Bowl XXXII.

That game was legendary for a variety of reasons.

It was the first Super Bowl win ever for the Broncos, who had lost in each of the four Super Bowls they'd played in prior to that matchup. We entered the game as 11-point underdogs, making us one of the greatest underdogs to win a Super Bowl.

For many of our fans, that — Jan. 25, 1998 — was a long time ago.

But to me, there are so many vivid memories that it seems like it was last week.

It was a storybook situation in so many ways, and anecdotal things stand out to me as much as the final score.

Running back and future Hall of Famer Terrell Davis was the game's Most Valuable Player with 157 yards rushing on 30 carries, including three touchdowns.

But adding layers to his tale was the fact that he was the first Super Bowl MVP ever who accomplished the feat playing in his hometown, as Terrell is a San Diego native and graduate of Lincoln High School in that city.

In fact, during the week of the game we arranged an unheard-of event. He attended a school assembly at his alma mater — can you imagine? A future Hall of Fame running back taking time off from Super Bowl preparations to attend a high school assembly at his hometown high school, in the actual Super Bowl host city?

If I had not lived it, the entire situation would be too surreal to imagine.

After the game I put Terrell in a golf cart with veteran public relations man Rick Smith, handling the MVP duties for the NFL, as was Smith's normal assignment.

But no one knows more about high school sports in San Diego than Smith, who immediately chatted Terrell up, not about winning the MVP, but about the Lincoln Hornets and how Rick had watched him in high school.

I watched the game from the press box, of course, and sat adjacent to Jack Elway, a wonderful individual, superior personnel man and of course the father of John Elway.

How many PR guys can say they watched their team win a Super Bowl with the father of the future Hall of Fame quarterback directing the win?

The fact that we won came as no real surprise to us.

View photos from all six of the Broncos' previous trips to the Super Bowl, including their World Championships in Super Bowl XXXII and Super Bowl XXXIII.

We were a great team, as proven not only by that win but by the fact that we were in the process of going a calendar year without a defeat as we followed up this win with another in Super Bowl XXXIII over Atlanta.

So much credit has to be given to the game preparation that head coach Mike Shanahan used for that Green Bay game, not just in game planning but in establishing the team's mindset.

We had won road playoff games in Kansas City and Pittsburgh to advance to Super Bowl XXXII, and I can still remember what Mike told the team in their first Super Bowl preparation meeting.

"You guys have already done the hardest part," he said. "You won on the road at Kansas City and Pittsburgh, both real tough road cities in playoffs. Now, we just have to go and win in San Diego."

Shanahan continued, "Hey, we always win in San Diego. It's like a home stadium for us. And it's the Super Bowl, so not only will a lot of Bronco fans be there, but half the stadium will be cheering for Denver."

Of course, he did not mention the point spread or the fact that we were facing the defending world champions.

But the mindset was established, and the confidence permeated that meeting room and continued unabated for the next two weeks. There still were lots of meetings and practices, but with that approach in mind, the Denver Broncos won the first of our three world titles in San Diego.

No Bronco fan can ever forget team owner Pat Bowlen standing on the championship stage and holding the Vince Lombardi Trophy above his head as he said, "This one's for John."

There is nothing like the first time, and that is without question our most significant moment ever vs. the Packers and in franchise history.

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