Star-Bulletin Sports

Monday, August 2, 1999

N F L _F O O T B A L L

'I'm kind of going down there to have a good time,' says
Jason Elam of the trip to Australia.

Elam is still getting
a kick in NFL

The former Rainbow is looking
forward to this weekend's game
against the Chargers in Australia

By Pat Bigold


Jason Elam can tell you about wind directions and other environmental factors that affect kickers in stadiums throughout the National Football League.

San Diego is his favorite place because of "how the ball travels," while the hardest places to kick are Chicago and Foxboro. "It's cold and the fields are always terrible," he said.

But he admitted before taking off for the Land Down Under yesterday that he hasn't a clue about what it's going to be like kicking in Stadium Australia, site of the 2000 Summer Olympics.

Nor does he care.

"I'm going in there blind," he said with a laugh during a phone call from the Denver Broncos' training camp in Greeley, Colo.

"I'm kind of going down there to have a good time and break up the monotony of double days here."

Elam, who set virtually every school and WAC record while at the University of Hawaii and is a now a two-time NFL Pro Bowl veteran, is one of three Broncos with Hawaii ties who will play Saturday (Sunday in Australia) against the San Diego Chargers in the 11th American Bowl in Sydney.

Fox-TV will televise the game live on Saturday at 3 p.m.

Eighth-year defensive end Maa Tanuvasa (Mililani and Hawaii) and second-year defensive tackle Viliami Maumau (St. Louis School and Colorado) will also be with the two-time defending Super Bowl champions as they kick off the NFL's exhibition season.

"We'll be flying over Hawaii some time (this) morning," he said with a sigh. Being able to stop in Hawaii would be nice he said, but it's not to be.

"From L.A. to Australia is 14 hours and I'm not looking forward to that."

Elam said he'll be visiting former Rainbows lineman Paul Manera while he's in Australia, and admitted he never stops thinking about his alma mater. He even entertains thoughts of coaching Hawaii's kickers some day.

He said he would love to see Hawaii play a game under June Jones this year, but doubts that will be possible.

Told that the Rainbows have been picked to finish last in the WAC, Elam laughed and pointed out, "They picked us last my senior year and we wound up winning the WAC."

Candor has always been Elam's strong suit, and he won't lie about how hard he works in training camp.

He said that while Tanuvasa and Maumau have already poured gallons of sweat into the turf during practice at the University of Northern Colorado, he has had to do all he can do to keep busy.

"Physically, it's nothing for kickers," said the man who is tied with Tom Dempsey for the NFL's longest-ever field goal (63 yards). "We don't do a whole lot."

The most celebrated competition for his job, Spanish soccer player Jesus Angoy, up and left after a few days under contract. Angoy kicked for the Barcelona Dragons in NFL Europe.

"I think the idea was to give me some relief and give him some exposure," said Elam. "He really was good. But we didn't communicate much because he didn't know much English. I think he said he could make more back in Spain than he could make here."

"There's lots of boredom for me," said Elam, who has also had to deal with the heat. "Oh my goodness, it's terrible. But there's one thing worse than being in training camp, and that's not being in training camp."

Elam said kickers never get so bored that they resort to taking paperback novels out to the practice field to keep their minds busy.

"No, we won't do that. We help out anyway we can. Snap to the quarterbacks, and if they need a fill-in at wide receiver on the noncontact drills, we do that."

He said he is satisfied with the way hes been kicking in practice so far.

"Just getting the rust off and getting used to the snap and the hold again with everybody rushing you," said Elam.

He came into training camp about eight pounds under his usual weight.

"I was kind of having a problem keeping weight on," said the 5-foot-11 Elam. "I wanted to come in at 205 but came in at 197. I've been down to 191. But I've been changing my diet around and drinking all of these protein shakes they have here, and I'm slowly creeping back up. I'm 199 now."

He doesn't do any kicking for two months after the end of the season.

"By mid-March or the beginning of April, I'll begin my workouts, and by May 1, I'll start kicking like once a week."

Despite the slow pace of practice, the 29-year-old Elam said he finds himself suddenly more recognizable than ever before.

"It's been just since that kick," he said.

He referred to the record-tying 63-yarder he made on Oct. 25, 1998, at Mile High Stadium against Jacksonville.

"I used to be able to go out and no one knew me," he said. "But it's kind of fun now because people are really nice around here," he said.

Elam and his wife, Tamy, maintain homes in Denver and Atlanta. They have a two-year-old son and a baby girl on the way.

His family is secure. Elam is only halfway through his six-year contract. His health on the playing field has never been in question.

"They're pretty good about protecting me," said Elam, who can remember only a couple of times he's been clipped in the seven years he's kicked for Denver.

Elam said his dream remains to return to Hawaii after retiring from the NFL and fly commercially.

"Absolutely," he said. "And maybe for Aloha (Airlines)."

But Elam said raising a family doesn't give him a lot of time to get up in the air these days.

"I don't fly too much these days - just enough to stay current," he said.

He said he used to have his own plane - a twin-engine Beechcraft Baron - but he sold it last year.

Asked if the recent JFK Jr. tragedy gave him any pause about flying, he said, "That was a real tragedy, but I still think flying is very, very safe for transportation."

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