***Below is the transcript from today's Jason Elam retirement press conference, compliments of the Denver Broncos PR Staff***
PRESIDENT & CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER PAT BOWLEN
Remarks on Elam
"As I look back on Jason's career it really registered with me today that we were going to have this retirement ceremony and I really get emotional about it because when I think of all the games we won and Jason being a huge part of those wins, it really touches my heart. Jason was everything you want in a player, everything you'd want in a kicker. He's definitely going into the Ring of Fame. I think he is a Hall of Famer, but kickers getting into the Hall of Fame is nearly impossible. I'll try and use some influence if I can to see that he gets there. I believe he deserves it, and I just hope, Jason, that down the road we get another Jason. Because if I could have another 15 years of you that would be, I suppose, as good as I could ever hope for. Thank you."
"I'd like to thank the Broncos so much for putting this together. To Mr. Bowlen, this is a dream come true for me to go out like this. This gesture is huge. It's huge for me. I was talking to (Director of Football Administration) Mike Bluem earlier today when I signed my one day contract and he mentioned something about it being bittersweet, but there is nothing bitter about it. I am so excited to be able to go out like this. When I came into the league I never could've imagined that it would have lasted 17 years. I was just hoping to catch on with a team. I remember at the University of Hawaii, Mr. Bowlen and myself had some common acquaintances. I remember thinking to myself, "Wow, I would love to play for Mr. Bowlen. I would love to play for the Denver Broncos." I got the opportunity. On draft day I had no idea they were looking at me. They never tried me out, they never called me, nothing. Then I got a phone call that they had taken me as a third-round pick, and it was just a dream come true. The whole time it's been a dream come true for me. Some people were asking why I was retiring and when you know, you know. I don't think I could do it now, even if I wanted to. I've got so many little issues going on from kicking since I was 13 years old. I just feel like I'm a mess, physically, mentally and emotionally. You just know when you're done. It's been an awesome, awesome journey for me and to go out like this, I just very much appreciate it."
"There are so many people that I want to thank and I definitely want to start with Mr. Bowlen. Mr. Bowlen, you are an owner that always gives his players everything possible for us to be successful on the field, and that does not go unnoticed. I've been in the league long enough to hear other players, some of the complaints, and that is not true of the Denver Broncos. That is not true of your ownership. I appreciate what you did while I was here with Denver. To all the fans, Mr. Bowlen is truly an owner that wants to put best possible product on the field for this city and something that you can be proud of. Mr. Bowlen, there is no better owner."
"I want to thank my football agent, Jack Reale, for his advice over the years and talking me through different situations. I really appreciate your friendship. To my high school coach, Coach Hunter for giving me self esteem. For many of my early years I was told that I wasn't really Division I quality, that I would have to walk on somewhere. But Coach Hunter always encouraged me and pushed different colleges by telling them I had talent. So I very, much appreciate you. Coach Johnson for recruiting me to the University of Hawaii. Who could've asked for a better college experience than the University of Hawaii? Coach Bob Wagner, my head coach there for my entire stay. I really appreciate your leadership and your friendship along the way.
"To Wade Phillips, for taking a chance on a kicker out of the University of Hawaii, coming to the cold weather of Denver and trusting me with that and for taking a chance in the third round on me. I'm so very appreciative of that. To Coach Mike Shanahan. What can I say about him? A Hall of Fame coach. You never really knew where you stood with Coach Shanahan. I thought for 15 years straight, every day I was going to walk into this building and get cut. He kept you right on the edge but he got the best out of you. I appreciate his leadership over the years and for keeping me on the team. To all my special teams coaches over the years, Richard Smith, Rick Dennison, Ronnie Bradford, Frank Bush and Scott O'Brien. You guys were such a joy to work with over the years. It dawned on me today that there's never really been a coach that-at times you disagree with them in the heat of the moment-that I haven't completely admired and loved playing for. Just blessing after blessing.
"Ross Kurcab and Troy Smith, the turf managers here with the Broncos, just for their countless hours of helping me-hold the balls for me and shag the footballs for me. Troy set up a little office for me over in the turf room because kickers do meet all the time. So all my down time I had to do something, so I'd go over and just kind of hang out with Ross and Troy over the years. I just appreciate your friendship and being able to stay in touch with you guys. You guys were a huge part in just helping me prepare every single week. Bill Rader, our team chaplain. How many times did we just hang out on the sideline and talk? I just appreciate your friendship so very much.
"The video department, the Gary McCunes and Kent Ericksons, just for their countless hours of their video and helping me to prepare. The equipment staff-I remember the second phone call I got from the Denver Broncos when I got drafted was from the equipment room. They said, 'Hey, we're calling-what number would you like?' I was No. 7 in college, and that didn't really go over too well. So they said, 'We'll give you No. 1' and click on the other end of the phone. Just countless hours, Doug West and Flip (Chris Valenti), just all the equipment guys, I appreciate you guys. That's one thing about the Denver Broncos, it's always been such a family-type organization that Mr. Bowlen has instilled in this organization.
"The PR department with Sacco (Jim Saccomano) and Paul Kirk and Patrick (Smyth) and you guys-you guys are phenomenal. You always made us look good and helped us out in every possible situation. To Greek (Steve Antonopulos) and all the trainers, just for over the years all the nicks and bruises, and some of the bigger nicks and bruises, I appreciate you guys. All the down time, just going into the training room and all the laughs we had and the joking around. Rich Tuten and Greg (Saporta) in the weight room, Fred Fleming, what a joy it was to be around you. To Mike Bluem-I remember Mike and I came in about the same time, and Mike would come down and help with hang times and get-off times, just anything he could do to help me prepare for the upcoming game. Mike, I really appreciate your friendship so very much.
"Ted Sundquist, that's another guy. I remember when I got off the plane, my first time in here coming straight from Hawaii, Ted was the first one to meet me. I just appreciate your encouragement and your friendship over the years. To the fans here in Denver, you are the best. I really mean that. I've had a chance to play in a bunch of football games. I just heard Jim (Saccomano) say the number, and I can't remember what the number is, but half of those are on the road. So I got to see other fans, and you guys are outstanding. I think that much of the reason why we had so much success here in Denver and why we've had so many winning seasons is you guys-the fans here. The city, there's no better city to play in. Colorado-I just couldn't imagine. I've been so very blessed to have been able to play college ball in Hawaii, to be able to come to Denver and have such a long career and have so many relationships and friendships and play in such a beautiful place with such great fans.
"As I read off all these things, there's just a flood of memories that just keep coming back to me, and that's what I had hoped today would be about. I just continue to think about my family and my friends and all their support over the years. My friends that are here today. I think of the media and some of the great relationships that I have in the media. I think of Gary Miller, the people that have been here so long. Pat Graham, Eric Goodman, Adam Schefter and Mike Klis, I just appreciate your fairness and your professionalism that you've always carried yourself with.
"I can't get out of here without thanking my snappers over the years, and I had a lot of them. Dave Widell, Jeff Robinson, David Diaz-Infante, Matt Lepsis, Tom Nalen, Mike Leach, Mike Schneck, I had so many and you guys made me look good when I just shouldn't have looked good. My holders over the years with Tommy Maddox, Jeff Campbell, Jason Baker and Micah Knorr, Jay Cuter and Todd Sauerbrun and Tom Rouen. I can't leave off Tom, my holder for 10 years. We had such a great working relationship, a great friendship. I kind of became his coach, he became my coach and we were able to at times get each other out of our little funks. Tom, if you're watching, I really appreciate you and your friendship. And to all my teammates, what a pleasure it was to be able to play with all of you. I've gotten to play with some absolute awesome, awesome people as a person and their athletic ability. I got to sit out there on the field and watch these guys. Obviously the John Elways, I can remember one of my kicker duties was to sit out there and snap to John, and just to be able to see him and see what he made look so incredibly easy from the front row, it was awesome. The people like Rod Smith and Ed McCaffrey, Mark Schlereth, Gary Zimmerman, Shannon Sharpe, Terrell Davis-the list just keeps going on and on and on. I feel so blessed to just be able to have been a part of that, to have been your teammate. Thank you guys over the years.
"Like I said, there are just so many memories, and that's what I had hoped for today, that this wouldn't be just a celebration of a career, but it would be a celebration of relationships and friendships. And that's what I'm really grateful for. That's it. Thanks."
On why he decided to retire
"I turned 40 just a few weeks ago and you just know. I know when I go out there and I kick, especially this last year. I started to feel it when I was about 35, that I just wasn't as strong. But I felt like I was maybe even more accurate. I was able to pull back a little bit and I was much more of an accurate kicker. Even, not this past year but my first year with the Falcons, it was my best statistical year and I wasn't nearly as strong as I used to be. There more (time) you spend in the training room-I started warming up at 11:30 in the morning for a 1:30 practice-just constantly stretching and trying to keep my body right. You just know. It's not fun anymore when every time you go out there you swing your leg and it hurts. You just know and you're not having the results that you used to. To be honest with you, I knew coming into training camp (in 2009) that this was probably the last one, and it surely was. I just wasn't the same guy and I struggled to keep myself healthy. I had a calf issue, I've got a meniscus issue in my left knee, I've got a right hip problem. So I looked like Tin Cup when I walked out there on the field and had stuff hanging off all over-wraps and ointments and all kinds of stuff. So it was time."
On how important it was for him to retire as a Bronco
"It was very important. You can't spend 15 years with one organization and not feel a special thought. A lot of the same people are still here. I told my agent, ‘There is no chance-I don't want to play anymore. I'm done. I want to go out now and I don't want to try to hang on.' He said, ‘Well, you know, I would love to just talk with the Broncos about that. I think that he talked to Mike Bluem about it and I believe Mike took it to Mr. Bowlen. I'm just so very appreciative that they wanted to do something like this. It just means a lot to me."
On some of his most memorable kicks
"I think the Super Bowl (XXXII), the Green Bay game-that was probably the most enjoyable. We were such underdogs and it means so much to this organization and this team and this city to finally get that win. I had one kick in that game and I can just remember feeling the pressure of that and knowing what was at stake. When I saw that one going through I felt like it just gave us a lot of momentum at the time. That would be one of them. The Buffalo (at Buf., 9/9/07) kick was probably the most dramatic kick. We didn't have any timeouts and we had to run on and I had missed a couple early. We ran on with time clicking down and I could hear all the Buffalo fans counting down for me. We made that and won that game. That was probably the most dramatic one. The 63-yarder (vs. Jac., 10/25/98) was obviously a highlight for me. It was just so fun. Some of the game-winning attempts that you had and to see it go through and look over to your sideline to see how excited your teammates were and see how excited the fans were-that stuff you can just re-live in your mind over and over. That's what I'm going to do."
On what he plans to do in retirement
"We love Colorado. We have spent a lot of time up in Alaska and that's where we are at right now. We have a home just south of Anchorage. I'm a pilot, so I've been heavily involved with some of the Christian ministries up there. We go out in some bush villages and try to do some good up there. I'm still writing novels with my friend and co-author Steve (Yohn) who is here today. Actually, we have a book signing this Saturday from 2-4 (p.m.) in Parker (Colo.) at Crosswalk (Bookstore and Café). I'd love to see the fans and just out and say, ‘Thank you' in person to any fans that want to come out. So, I hope to continue some of my book writing. I'm heavily involved in some of the Middle East ministries that we support. There is a little bit of everything that I really enjoy doing, so I'm not going to be bored at all. I've been doing this for a number of years and I hope to keep doing that."
On if he regrets playing his last two seasons with Atlanta instead of playing his entire career in Denver
"You know, I have thought about it a lot and I honestly don't have any regrets, per say. When I left here I really tried to take every precaution and everything-with the team and Mr. Bowlen, with coach Shanahan, with all the administration, with my coaches, my teammates-that I didn't want it to be a bitter thing. And I was never bitter. I was never bitter about it at all. This is a team. It's not about any one person. They had a salary cap that they had to fit people under and it just didn't work out. I left here and I think I left all of the relationships intact, or at least I felt that way at the time and I still feel like that. The Broncos-they have an outstanding young kicker in Matt Prater. He's done an awesome job and I've been able to step back and just admire what he's been able to do and just appreciate the talent and the person that he is. I guess it would have been great to have played 17 years with the Denver Broncos but that doesn't happen. That doesn't happen in the NFL in the age of free agency. Like I said before, I thought every day I came in here, ‘It might be the day. I might not be able to be a Denver Bronco by the end of the day.' So to play 15 years, that's the real blessing. That's what I look at."
On his thought process when attempting a game-winning field goal
"You're not immune to the nerves and the adrenaline. You just try to look at it like, ‘Hey, I'm going to miss some from time to time, but I'm going to make a lot more than I'm going to miss.' Trust your swing. Really that's all I try to do is I try to just not get too fast, not make things too quick and just keep the normal rhythm of my swing. Fortunately more times than not they went through."
On if he thinks about getting into the Hall of Fame
"You know, I don't know. Those types of things are so much out of a player's control, really. I know that I gave it everything that I could give. That is obviously something that every player would love to have happen to them. There are some great kickers that have been out there, especially recently-right now. When I came in the league, if you're a 70-percent kicker you're going to keep your job forever. Now if you're 70 percent you're not going to have a job next week. I look around and I'm sure Morten Anderson, Gary Anderson-those guys will be in. I look around at the Adam Vinatieris and some of those guys and there are some awesome young guys that are in the league right now. I don't know. I'm very happy with the career that I had. I gave it everything I've got and I feel good about it."