Wednesday, November 14, 2001
[ NFL ISLANDERS ]
Getting his kicksJASON Elam of the Denver Broncos is about as close to the consummate National Football League kicker as you can get.
Jason Elam has quietly become
one of the NFL's best
By Nick Abramo
He's in the record books and he's been on two Super Bowl championship teams. In a nutshell, he's accurate.
Hawaii people don't need to be convinced of this. Elam is also considered one of the best players (not just kickers) to have played at Manoa. Some even go as far as saying he's the best player to ever put on a Rainbows uniform.
But Elam is low-key, just a pro doing his job.
The first Super Bowl victory over Green Bay in January 1998 is by far his biggest highlight in the NFL.
"That was pretty incredible," he said. "But, to be honest, it didn't change my life in any way. It was just another game that we won. And we got a pretty ring."
Elam wasn't trying to be condescending. He was being humble and sounding a lot like a placekicker -- those undersized, part-time players who are taken for granted and are under enormous pressure and who must place a ball into a finite space, using their foot from various distances away. His focus has to be intense and not too broad, because the task of putting the ball through the uprights is a must-do thing, whether it's a cozy exhibition game or a charged-up championship game.
Height: 5 feet 11 inches
Weight: 200 pounds
Born: March 8, 1970, Ft. Walton Beach, Fla.
High school: Brookwood High School, Snellville, Ga.
Acquired: Third round, 70th overall, 1993
Pro Bowls: 2
>> Tied NFL record for longest field goal in 1998, at 63 yards
>> The Broncos' all-time leading scorer (949 points)
>> Scored in all 124 career games
In a loss to the Oakland Raiders on Nov. 5, Elam kicked his 1,000th career point, a fact that went virtually unnoticed because of the hullabaloo that was made out of the same field goal, which happened to also mark the 20,000th point scored on Monday Night Football.
"I went to get the ball, and I found out that I couldn't get the ball," Elam said.
That's because the ball is going to the Hall of Fame. Elam may eventually follow that ball to the Canton, Ohio, shrine, but it's not something that concerns him.
"I'm happy the way things have gone," the nine-year veteran said. "When I got here (in Denver), if I wrote down on a piece of paper a bunch of things I'd like to accomplish and if I looked at that paper right now and never played again, I'd be very happy."
Elam made it clear that Denver would be gunning this past Sunday for the San Diego Chargers, a division rival the Broncos lost to a few weeks earlier.
"We've got our backs against the wall, and we really need this win. It's a desperation thing," he said a few days before the game.
And sure enough, the Broncos came out firing and beat the Chargers 26-16, with Elam scoring 14 points on four field goals and two extra points.
Elam fully respects coach Mike Shanahan, who is considered one of the more passionate NFL head men.
"He (Shanahan) expects perfection," Elam said. "I don't think there's anyone better (in coaching). Football is his top priority, and it shows in the way we play. We're always ready to play."
Elam feels fortunate to have played with John Elway, who is a lock for the Hall of Fame.
"I kind of felt like a fan, during my rookie year especially," Elam said. "It was weird being his teammate all of a sudden after watching him for years and years, and then having a locker right down from his. His presence was so overwhelming, and you knew you were never out of a game with him around."
The 31-year-old Elam has made 216 of 276 career field goals for a .783 percentage and another 10 of 12 (.833) in the postseason.
During the regular season, he has missed just one extra point in 356 tries. His only miss came in his rookie season, and he has since made 331 in a row, an NFL record.
In 1998, Elam tied Tom Dempsey for the longest field goal in NFL history with a 63-yarder, and his 65-yard attempt to break that record in the first game of this season against the New York Giants went wide left.
"I want to go 80 percent (in field goals) and if I can continue to do that, I will be in the league a long time," he said. "I want to be able to make all field goals under 40 yards and most field goals over 40 and all of the real critical fourth-quarter field goals.
"The team counts on me for points. When the offense stalls, I've got to come away with something. One of my roles is to be a weapon, to score three points when the team needs it."
Elam still keeps in touch with some of his Rainbows teammates, especially running back Travis Sims, his roommate for five years.
And his biggest moment at Hawaii was the 56-14 victory over Brigham Young in 1989.
Elam has been with the Broncos longer than any of his teammates, except for punter and special teams holder, Tom Rouen, who came on board the same time as Elam.
"People come and people go, but I've made some lifelong friends here," he said. "I hang out a lot together with some of the offensive lineman, because I like to hunt and fish and they also do a lot of hunting and fishing."
Elam is also a licensed commercial airplane pilot who plans to fly full-time when he finishes his playing career.
Kicking footballs. Flying airplanes.
Obviously, he likes things that go up in the air.