ESPN Network: ESPN.com | NBA.com | NHL.com | WNBA.com | ABCSports | EXPN | INSIDER | FANTASY   
  MLB
  NBA
  NFL
  NHL
  College Football
  Men's Basketball
  Golf
  Motorsports
  Women's Basketball
  Tennis
  Boxing
  College Sports
  Olympic Sports
  U.S. Soccer
  Horses
  Poker
  Outdoors | BASS
  ProRodeo | WNFR
  ESPNDeportes.com
  Action Sports
  Other sports

ALSO SEE
Sanders basks during final chapter of career

Four Canton inductions include emotional Elway

Notes from HOF induction of Class of 2004

Frei: Elway's city

Kreidler: Clear thinking

Ratto: Destiny detained

After long wait, Eller headed to Hall

Elway, King of Comebacks, headed to Hall

Sanders juked his way into Hall of Fame

Brown muscles his way to Canton

Elway: Start to finish

Football: Hall candidates





Sunday, August 8
Updated: August 9, 10:08 AM ET
Fans salute first Bronco inducted into HOF
By Wayne Drehs
ESPN.com

CANTON, Ohio -- Seventy-two jerseys. Some orange and blue. Some blue and orange. Some with stripes. Some solid. But all of them with the No. 7.

That's what walked past the main entrance of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in one random minute before Sunday's 2004 induction ceremonies.

Say what you will about this being a weekend to honor all four members of the Hall of Fame's Class of 2004, but the outpouring of support for Elway, the first Bronco ever inducted, made it seem like the weekend was just about him.

John Elway was introduced by his daughter Jessica on Sunday.
Canton, just some 50 miles away from Cleveland, the city that Elway so famously torched in the postseason, the team on the wrong side of the "The Drive I" and "The Drive II," spent its weekend draped in a sea of Bronco orange and blue. Jerseys. Hats. T-shirts. Signs. Car flags. An estimated 17,000 fans made the trek from Denver to hear Elway speak for all of seven minutes.

At one point, during the induction speech of Carl Eller, each of the 10 urinals in the men's bathroom were occupied by men who were wearing Elway jerseys. An 11th fan in an Elway jersey took a picture.

"The Denver fans never cease to amaze me," Elway said. "It's very flattering to know that so many people came from so far to share in this special day."

Even though he had a police escort and rode in a van with tinted windows, Elway even struggled to get to his pre-induction news conference on time. At the same news conference, when nobody asked inductee Bob Brown a question during the first few seconds of his time slot, he said what was on everybody else's mind.

"Hey everybody -- we'll be up to John in a minute," Brown joked.

You would have thought it was a pep rally. Or that the Broncos were actually playing. Periodically throughout the pre-ceremony production, the fans in the north and south end zone would take turns yelling, "Go" and "Broncos" like some sort of "Taste Great," "Less Filling" commercial.

When Elway finally did step to the podium Sunday afternoon, the fans greeted him with a standing ovation that lasted more than a minute.

"I have to be honest. I've never heard that before in Ohio," Elway said.

It was fitting that Elway was fourth. The day was a Sunday. And when the ovation came to an end, the clock had pushed a few minutes past 3:20 eastern time, just about when Elway would have been working his fourth-quarter magic if it were a 1 p.m. kickoff. It couldn't have been more fitting.

He started out with watery eyes, admitting that his biggest regret was that his father Jack, who died last year, wasn't able to be in attendance.

"Dad wasn't just my best friend, but he was my hero," Elway said before pausing to gather himself while the fans roared. "He was my mentor, my inspiration."

He poked fun of the fact that he lost three straight Super Bowls before winning two.

"When we were getting ready for Super Bowl XXXII, my mom offered these words of encouragement, like only a mother could give her son, 'Do we really have to go back to the Super Bowl?,'" Elway recalled.

And he confessed about the two lies he told the media in his career.

The first: That he didn't care about the Hall of Fame. "It's every player's dream to get here," he said. "I was no exception."

The second that his career would have been complete without winning a Super Bowl. "I said that without experiencing the feeling," Elway said. "I was wrong. And just so we never forgot the feeling, we did it twice."

But the Elway induction highlight may have been his 18-year-old daughter Jessica, who became the first daughter to introduce her football-playing father for induction and had several colorful quips of her own.

"What's the coolest part of having John Elway as a dad?" she asked. "That's easy -- we're too young to remember the first three Super Bowls."

And …

"When we look at my dad, we see a different man than everyone else sees. We see a man that used to be able to beat his daughter in 1-on-1. Used to."

Jessica also told the story about how she asked her dad to quit after the Broncos won Super Bowl XXXII.

The Denver fans never cease to amaze me. It's very flattering to know that so many people came from so far to share in this special day.
John Elway

"I wanted him to be happy. I wanted him to go out on top," Jessica said. "Well dad, let me tell you something I never told you before and will never say again -- thanks for not listening to me."

That one sent the Broncos faithful into a frenzy, just like everything else Elway did this weekend. Even two hours after the ceremony had come to an end, when the chairs were folded up, the stage was broken down and the Fawcett Stadium was being prepared for Monday's Hall of Fame Game, one group of Broncos fans refused to leave -- sitting on the front step of the Hall's main entrance while watching another group of Bronco backers play catch in No. 7 jerseys.

"We just don't want to leave," one said. "We don't want it to end."

Nobody could blame them.

Wayne Drehs is a staff writer for ESPN.com and can be reached at wayne.drehs@espn3.com