Dads, Super Bowls, and HOF Speeches


ELWAY One of my favorite moments of Super Bowl XXXII between the Green Bay Packers and Denver Broncos was late in the game when the camera zoomed in on Jack Elway in the box.  As a proud father who dedicated his life to family and football, he knew how important this game was to his son and it could barely stand to watch. He awkwardly leaned sideways, stirred about, and covered his eyes a bit.  Frankly, most of us Broncos fans felt the same way.  We had been embarrassed in so many Super Bowls up to that point and we could hardly stand the thought of losing another one.

Before too long, John was doing helicopter spins, Steve Atwater was knocking out several players at a time, and finally that moment came when John Mobley knocked down a Brett Farve pass and victory was finally on our side.  In between all the pots and pans banging, toilet paper throwing, and friends joyfully tackling each other in my house, i watched John Elway and his dad embrace in the locker room for a brief moment.  As a son who learned everything about sports from his dad, i knew how special that moment was. It brought me to tears. There has always been something special about sports and dads that seems to make everything in the world right.

Sadly a few years later, Jack Elway would pass away with a heart attack.  During his HOF induction, John remembered his dad  “Someone asked me the other day if I had any regrets about my career. There’s only one, and that’s that my father, Jack, and my sister, Jana, couldn’t be here. My dad wasn’t just my best friend, he was my hero, my mentor, my inspiration. He was the keeper of my reality check list, the compass that guided my life and my career, and he taught me the No. 1 lesson of my life – always make your family proud. Now that he’s gone, I thank God every day for letting him see the Broncos win two Super Bowls.”

In 2008, another Bronco great who lost his Dad earlier in life was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Gary Zimmerman had this to say about his dad on that momentous day. “I have one other person I’d like to acknowledge who is watching from a better place. That would be my dad. I knew from a very young age I wanted to play professional football and this would drive my dad crazy. Because he understood the probability of failure and the great odds ahead. Today I’m sure he has a great big smile on his face and I’m extremely honored to be the 247th member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.”

But it hasn’t always been just Hall of Fame players talking about their dads in Canton, Ohio.  Marc Little, the son of Broncos legend Floyd Little, honored his dad as he introduced him during the induction ceremony.

Marc and Floyd Little
Marc and Floyd Little

“My dad had a calling to greatness, a divine call that predestined this very moment.  His leadership also impacted our family. My sisters and I are all college graduates today. That’s success. That’s dad’s legacy. But year after year, nomination to the Hall eluded dad until one night in August of 2008, his old friend, Joe Biden, stepped out on the stage at INVESCO Field for the Democratic National Convention, and Joe said, “Ladies and gentleman, I’ve always dreamed I’d stand in this place, but I was hoping I’d be standing next to my friend Floyd Little. “My heart of hearts I believe that dad’s prayers to be considered by the Hall, as one of the best to ever play the game, were being answered and I was right. Dad, your blood, sweat and your tears, as a player and even as a father were not in vein. Congratulations pal; you’re the wind beneath our wings. I am honored to present a giant of humanity, my best friend, an uncommon man, and my dad, Floyd Little, for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame”

As I reflect on Father’s Day this special day i am thankful for all those dads who took the time for their sons.  I am glad my heroes like John Elway had a dad who wasn’t too busy to throw catch.  I am thankful for dads like Floyd Little who didn’t always have that but decided to overcome it and become a great dad himself.  And mostly, i am thankful for my dad.  I know as both Gary and John have learned, life is very short, and every moment with your dad is an important one.  So if you are blessed enough to still have your dad around, take a moment to pick up the phone or jump in the car and connect with him today.

Happy Fathers Day Everyone,

Shadd, Bronco Planet Blogger