Crowd Cheers as Stadium Takes John Elway’s Name
John Elway--Denver Bronco quarterback and future football Hall-of-Famer--needn’t have worried about forgetting where he came from. The people here had no intention of letting him.
Elway’s alma mater, Granada Hills High School, on Thursday unveiled the new football scoreboard bearing his name. And for good measure, Mayor Richard Riordan’s office sent over a sign to take back to Colorado: John Elway Stadium, Granada Hills High School, 1,007 miles.
For the record:
12:00 a.m. June 6, 1998 VALLEY FOCUS For the Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday June 6, 1998 Valley Edition Metro Part B Page 3 Zones Desk 1 inches; 29 words Type of Material: Correction
John Elway--Granada Hills High School’s football achievements were misstated in a story Friday about John Elway. The team lost in the city semifinals in 1977 and 1978, Elway’s last two seasons at the school.
“To be able to come back to where it all started for me is really unbelievable,” Elway told the crowd packing the green and white bleachers.
If it wasn’t quite Mile High Stadium, if the cheers weren’t nearly as deafening as those at the Super Bowl and the field was rocky and bare in spots, Elway wasn’t complaining. Being gracious has been his trademark back to his days as an All-America standout at Stanford University.
Earlier in the day, Elway had said he was sensitive to the concerns of some community members who had protested the name change. The stadium was named in 1971 for the school’s well-regarded first principal, Bryce Schurr, the year after he unexpectedly died. In May, the school decided to name all its athletic facilities in honor of Schurr, a move Elway supported.
“I’m really glad that it worked out and that I could be under the umbrella of the Bryce Schurr Athletic Complex,” said the quarterback who led the Highlanders to a city championship in football two decades ago. “But Mr. Schurr is still the biggest part of it.”
Which was nice of him to say, but the several thousand students and community members gathered were definitely there to see Elway.
Nick Rogers, 8, played hooky from school to see the NFL legend. Nick, who was wearing an Elway Broncos jersey, has been a big fan ever since he got interested in football last year.
In the stands next to Nick was longtime Broncos’ season ticket-holder Jennifer Kimball, who called the day they won the Super Bowl “the happiest day of my life.”
For some of the students--nearly all of whom were born after Elway’s 1979 graduation--seeing him wasn’t nearly as exciting as getting out of class for a few hours.
“I was cheering for Green Bay in the Super Bowl,” said Sean Ju, a senior at the school who was more interested in the cheerleaders taking the field than in Elway.
But other spectators cried out, “We love you, John” when the tall chisel-jawed blond took the podium to speak. The crowd cheered loudest when Elway mentioned his decision--announced just this week--to play one final season before retiring.
Elway told the crowd to chase their dreams.
“Dreams happen,” said Elway--whose team was routed in three Super Bowls before beating the Green Bay Packers this year. His success, he said, came from perseverance.
For Elway’s son Jack, 8, the highlight of the day was watching his dad’s name emerge from under the cloth covering the new scoreboard.
“That was the best,” he said, a Granada Hills baseball cap on his head and a football tie around his neck.
Former teammate Steve Duddy, the Granada quarterback before Elway, said he remembers the first day he saw Elway on the field--"a skinny boy with a big arm.” Back then, he said, he couldn’t have imagined this day. But Duddy said it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.
“There is nothing phony about John,” Duddy said, “He’s true.”