John Elway's Controversial Draft-Day Saga Relived in ESPN's 30 for 30 Special

Jesse Reed@@JesseReed78Correspondent IApril 23, 2013

25 Jan 1998: Quarterback  John Elway #7 of the Denver Broncos scrambles with the football against the Green Bay Packers during Super Bowl  XXXII at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California.  The Denver Broncos defeated the Green Bay Packers 31-24. Mandat
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

John Elway's NFL career got off to a bumpy start when he was drafted No. 1 overall to the Indianapolis Colts.

ESPN's 30 for 30 series will chronicle Elway's draft saga in its "Elway to Marino" special on Tuesday night at 8 p.m. ET. 

Elway was the first of six quarterbacks selected in the 1983 NFL draft. He didn't want to play for the Colts—a team that hadn't had success for quite some time—and had warned the team not to select him with the first overall pick. 

Having played one summer of minor league baseball for the New York Yankees, Elway had a bit of leverage over owner Robert Irsay. George Steinbrenner wanted Elway as his starting right fielder, and the quarterback's threat to take Steinbrenner up on his offer to play professional baseball was far from idle. 

We all know what happened next.

The Denver Broncos worked out a trade with the Colts to acquire Elway, and the rest is history. 

Elway went on to win two Super Bowls with the Broncos, was a nine-time Pro Bowler and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004.

What you may not know, however, is that Elway was almost traded to the Oakland Raiders instead (h/t Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post). 

Elway's draft saga paved the way for Eli Manning to pull a similar stunt in the 2004 NFL draft. Manning refused to play for the San Diego Chargers, which ended up trading him to the New York Giants in return for Philip Rivers and two draft picks. 

It's fascinating to ponder what might have been if Elway hadn't been able to convince the Colts to trade him. Would he have truly gone through with his threat to play baseball?

We'll never know, but there's no question Elway's refusal to play for the team that drafted him changed the NFL for good. 

Make sure to tune in to ESPN Tuesday night for more details on Elway's draft adventure. His isn't the only story this upcoming 30 for 30 special will tell, and you won't want to miss it. 

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