0

Elam kickstarted NFL career at Brookwood

Denver Broncos kicker Jason Elam kicks a 51-yard field goal as Jake Plummer holds during the second quarter of the Broncos NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders in Denver Sunday night, Oct. 15, 2006. Elam kicked two field goals for 6-points in Denver's 13-3 win. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Denver Broncos kicker Jason Elam kicks a 51-yard field goal as Jake Plummer holds during the second quarter of the Broncos NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders in Denver Sunday night, Oct. 15, 2006. Elam kicked two field goals for 6-points in Denver's 13-3 win. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Jason Elam still remembers sitting in Brookwood head football coach Dave Hunter's office more than 20 years ago.

Hunter was just hired as the Broncos' coach and he saw a lot of potential in Elam as a kicker.

Elam wasn't so sure he could cut it as a kicker and wanted to switch to wide receiver.

"I was trying to play another position and he wouldn't let me do anything but kick," Elam said. "He said you need to develop this gift."

Elam did and he became one of the NFL's all-great kickers. The 1988 Brookwood grad won two Super Bowls and will be inducted into Saturday's Gwinnett Sports Hall of Fame at Gwinnett Braves Stadium.

"It's a huge honor, especially when you look at the success of Gwinnett sports teams and athletes," Elam said. "To be recognized is very humbling. I have an enormous amount of gratitude."

Elam's football career didn't begin until high school. He watched from the stands as Brookwood's special teams struggled and decided to go out for the team.

"I felt like I can do that," he said. "I knew I could kick a long way, but I had no idea where it was going."

Former state Rep. Clay Cox, R-Lilburn was a senior at the time and took Elam under his wing."He taught me how to kick," he said. "He had a gift for teaching."

Elam's junior year, Brookwood was terrible. The Broncos posted a 1-9 record and only managed to score a few touchdowns all season. That meant few place-kicking opportunities for Elam.

Hunter was hired the next year and he led Brookwood to a 10-2 record. Elam had a pair of 52-yard field goals that year and a 73-yard punt.

"I was a much better punter and on kickoffs, but I had a passion for field goals," Elam said.

Elam was a second-team all-state selection, but drew little college interest. He had scholarship offers from East Carolina, Jacksonville State, Appalachian State and Furman. Then one day Hawaii offensive coordinator Paul Johnson, who is now the head coach at Georgia Tech, showed up to recruit Elam."Coach Johnson really believed in me," he said.

Elam visited Hawaii the week of the NFL's Pro Bowl and fell in love with the Big Island.

"It really wasn't a decision. It was kind of a no-brainer," Elam said.

Elam's first game for Hawaii was against Iowa, a preseason top 10 team. As a freshman, he kicked a 27-yard field goal to beat the Hawkeyes.

"That was pivotal part because I felt like I believed in myself," Elam said.

Elam went on to become an All-American at Hawaii and grabbed the attention of NFL teams after his senior year. He had tryouts for nearly a dozen teams and thought he would be drafted by Tampa Bay or San Francisco in the early rounds of 1993 NFL Draft. Those teams came and went with their picks and then Elam got a phone call from the secretary of Denver Broncos head coach Wade Philips, who told him he had just been drafted by the team.

"Man, talk about a fulfillment of a dream," he said.

The selection was the beginning of an impressive 17-year career in the NFL.

Elam was a three-time Pro Bowl selection and helped the Broncos win Super Bowls in 1995 over Green Bay and 1998 against Atlanta.

"We were such underdogs and Green Bay was perceived as invincible," Elam said. "I think very fondly of that one."

Elam played with some of the NFL's all-time greats like quarterback John Elway, running back Terrell Davis and tight end Shannon Sharpe.

"We had a pretty phenomenal team. It was a non-stop flow of talent," Elam said.

Those weapons on offense put up a lot of points and allowed Elam do damage to the NFL record books. He holds the NFL record for 16 straight seasons of scoring 100 points or more and is tied for the longest field goal of 63 yards.

"I played on phenomenal teams," Elam said. "If I played on bad teams this would have been different. I played on great offenses that gave me opportunities."

Elam spent the last two years of his career kicking for his hometown Atlanta Falcons. Elam retired after the 2009 season and he moved to Alaska with his family.

It was a place he used to frequent on vacation, but fell in love with the state.

"I thought the place was phenomenal. I'm a big fisher, hunter, and I like to fly planes, so it's the perfect place," Elam said.

Elam became involved with a ministry in Alaska and now works for E3 Partners Ministry as the strategy coordinator for Israel.

Because of the long distance back home and his work schedule, he'll give his acceptance speech into the Gwinnett Sports Hall of Fame via a recorded interview.

It likely won't be the last hall of fame Elam will be inducted into. With an NFL career full of superlatives, he's a nominee for the Pro Football Hall of Fame and could be selected as early as 2015.

"When I came in the league, I was hoping to make it and maybe go five or six years bouncing from team to team and get a pension," Elam said. "I'm very fortunate and blessed person. I'm very thankful."