Nov 7, 2013, 5:28 PM PST
It’s a moment 30 years in the making. On Thursday, the Stanford Cardinal will retire John Elway’s No. 7 jersey at halftime. Elway will join Jim Plunkett and Ernie Nevers to become just the third football player to have his number retired by Stanford University.
In this edition of Throwback Thursday, we’ll take a look at Elway’s accolades at Stanford and why it took so long to finally retire No. 7.
Elway was a highly-touted football and baseball player when he arrived at Stanford University in 1979. While he succeeded statistically with the Cardinal, he never reached a bowl game and finished with just a 20-23 record. He was Pac-10 Player of the Year in 1980 and 1982, but he never won a Heisman Trophy. He still did enough to be enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame in 2007.
The closest Elway came to reaching a bowl game was in 1982, his final year in college. That year the words “The Band is on the field” would be forever seared into his brain. After leading his team down the field in the fourth quarter to set up a go-ahead field goal with four seconds remaining, the Golden Bears ripped off the most improbable play in football history. “The Play” would end Elway’s college football career with a 25-20 loss.
After 30 years, the Denver Broncos Executive Vice President of Football Operations told the Denver Post that he was surprised when he heard the news that his jersey would be retired.
“Realizing the history, it wasn’t something that happened a whole lot at Stanford. And that’s why it was a great surprise and thrill to learn when coach David Shaw called me a few months ago and told me that they were going to retire the number,” Elway said by phone this week. “I think that makes it so much more special now than if they’d done it earlier.”
Elway found plenty of success in the NFL. He was inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame in 2004, and won two Super Bowls with the Denver Broncos. He threw for 9,349 yards and 77 touchdowns as a Cardinal, but that pales in comparison to his professional accomplishments.
He’ll finally get his shining moment on the Stanford campus as the Cardinal takes on the Oregon Ducks in a huge nationally-televised matchup.
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