The Way I See It

Pat Bigold

By Pat Bigold

Tuesday, December 22, 1998

Denver man in desperate
need of new shoes

CHRISTMAS is a time of need for some folks, and I feel charitable at this time of year.

There's a 28-year-old man in Denver who needs shoes.

Size 10.

He's married with children, for heaven's sake.

If you can help him, contact the Denver Broncos administrative offices.

Name is Jason Elam and shoes are important to him because he gets paid for kicking a football through the uprights at NFL stadiums.

He's good at his job. This season, he tied the NFL record for the longest field goal -- 63 yards -- and he owns the franchise record for PAT kicks.

Recently, he was picked to play in his second Pro Bowl here in Hawaii.

Actually, for what he's done this year, I'd classify Elam as one of the NFL's underprivileged. He's underpaid. But that's in my estimation, not his.

He gets $425,000 a year while kickers like Gary Anderson (Minnesota), Morten Anderson (Atlanta) and John Carney (San Diego) are in the $900,000 range. Oilers punter Craig Hentrich (Tennessee) gets $1.1 million.

Elam said Denver has always been really good to him, though, and he doesn't worry about the money.

"I got a really nice signing bonus several years ago when I signed with them, so I couldn't be happier with the way they've treated me financially," he said.

But he still needs shoes.

Now listen, this is why Elam might soon be shoeless in the dead of Colorado's merciless winter.

The Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, is taking the shoe he wore to kick the 63-yarder. So forget that pair.

His backup pairs have holes in them.

"Now I have to go find something else and Nike (his sponsor up to this season) wouldn't make me another shoe," he said.

"They claim the mold to that shoe burned up in a warehouse fire several years ago and they don't want to invest money in remaking the mold."

THAT mold created Elam's ultra-thin kangaroo leather kicking shoe, which had converted all but one of 258 career point-after attempts. That's the best career percentage in NFL history.

"It's called a Nike Tiempo (pronounced tam-po) and the newer model Tiempo is nothing like the old one they made," Elam said.

"The new ones are a real thick, padded shoe, and kickers like to have that glove feeling. You don't want to have a lot between your foot and the ball. It's a feel thing. The thinner the better and the softer the leather, the better."

So it has to be the old model.

"It's the shoe I've used forever and ever," he said. "The 1988 model Tiempo, not the 1998 model."

I happened to see distance running legend Alberto Salazar the other day working out at the Iolani School track. Since he works for Nike, I thought he might know what it would cost to remake the mold.

He stunned me by answering that it could be in the vicinity of $500,000. Just an estimate, but I got the picture.

Elam has ended his association with Nike and is seeking another shoe company. He's desperate.

He said he tried a lot of other Nike shoes and none worked for him.

Elam confessed the shoe concern has plagued him all season, and some friends in the kicking fraternity have called to say they might have his size in those kangaroo shoes laying around the house somewhere.

If Elam doesn't find a size 10 pair of kangaroo leather Tiempos, one of the NFL's greatest kickers could be trotting out to kick field goals in the Super Bowl looking like a homeless person.

Do we want that fate for a former Rainbow player?

Of course not. So let's get the word out across the community and the Internet and find Jason Elam some shoes this Christmas.

He's realistic though.

"I don't really think anyone will be breaking out the violins for me."

Pat Bigold has covered sports for daily newspapers
in Hawaii and Massachusetts since 1978.

E-mail to Sports Editor

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