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John Elway Drama in Buildup to NFL Draft Unlikely to Be Equaled Ever Again

31 Jan 1999:  Quarterback John Elway #7 of the Denver Broncos celebrating after winning the Super Bowl XXXIII Game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Pro Player Stadium in Miami, Florida. The Broncos defeated the Falcons 34-19.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistApril 24, 2013

Remember when LeBron James almost joined the NFL?

You don't, because it never happened. Top prospects in the draft have often played two or more sports in high school. With a professional career hanging in the balance, they had to decide which sport would be left behind. That's not unique.

What's not common is the situation John Elway presented prior to the 1983 NFL draft.

It's become common knowledge how Elway refused to play for the Baltimore Colts, but few could have remembered or known exactly how close Elway came to suiting up for the New York Yankees instead.

Elway also played baseball at Stanford and did very well, which led to the Yankees taking him in the second round of the 1981 draft.

He was in a position where he could dictate his future in a way no prospect will be able to in the future. A player demanding a trade before a draft isn't uncommon.

Eli Manning refused to play for the San Diego Chargers and was subsequently traded to the New York Giants.

That Elway could legitimately threaten to hang up his pads in favor of a baseball glove is what makes his situation so unique.

As a result, he created the kind of buzz and drama no draft will be able to match. His flirtation with baseball was very serious. Sure, he used it as leverage against the Colts, but the organization would have called his bluff if it didn't believe his interest in baseball was for real.

If the Colts didn't trade Elway, he simply wouldn't have played football anymore. Manning had some leverage, but nowhere near as much as Elway. What was Manning going to fall back on? If San Diego couldn't have worked a good deal with another team, Manning would have inevitably been a Charger.

You can't say the say about Elway should the Colts have decided to hold on to him.

Elway wasn't the first, nor will he be the last two-sport star in college. Deion Sanders and Bo Jackson are two of the more famous examples. Jackson was a freak of nature, so he's a bit of an exception. It's a testament to their physical skills that they had extended pro careers in two sports.

More recently, Russell Wilson dabbled in baseball while at NC State. Julius Peppers and Ronald Curry both played basketball at North Carolina. All three chose football in college and made it known they would pursue professional careers in the sport.

These three are as close as fans will get to seeing anything close to Elway. When push came to shove, Curry, Wilson and Peppers all chose to focus on football in college. When they were drafted, there wasn't the threat they might drop the sport in favor of baseball—or, in the case of Peppers and Curry, basketball.

They weren't proficient enough in two sports to put themselves in a position where they could hold possible suitors ransom in order to either draft them or work a deal so that they wouldn't play for a specific team. In order to become football stars, they had to sacrifice their other sporting interests.

The chances of seeing a top prospect, on the eve of the draft, talk about how he could very well choose another sport is extremely minute. With the amount of money to be gained by being selected in the first round of the draft in any sport, potential prospects aren't going to waste their time spreading themselves thin over two sports. Plus, there's no need to risk further injury and wreck the chances of getting a nice payday.

Never again will a parallel to Elway be seen.

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