Six years ago, a great thing happened in my life. The Broncos finally won a Super Bowl. And, after that game on the field, I kept saying to myself or asking myself, "We actually won a Super Bowl?" After we beat the Packers that night, our owner, Pat Bowlen, raised the Vince Lombardi Trophy and told everyone, "This one's for John." Well, I'm here today to say this one's for Pat and this one's for every Bronco fan out there.
First of all, I'd like to congratulate all my classmates. Barry Sanders, I'll call him the best to ever play the game, even though his dad wouldn't agree. Bob Brown, I wish I could have played with Bob Brown, that's for sure - and I'm glad I did not have to play against Carl Eller, let's put it that way. Congratulations.
Someone asked me the other day if I had any regrets about my career. There's only one, and that's that my father, Jack, and my sister, Jana, couldn't be here. My dad wasn't just my best friend, he was my hero, my mentor, my inspiration. He was the keeper of my reality check list, the compass that guided my life and my career, and he taught me the No. 1 lesson of my life - always make your family proud. Now that he's gone, I thank God every day for letting him see the Broncos win two Super Bowls.
My dad didn't so much teach me how to play football but why to play. He taught me to compete, to never give up, to play every down like it's your last. He taught me to appreciate the game, to respect it, to play it like it was meant to be played. He taught me to enjoy my successes and learn from my failures. And above all, he told me to make sure when you go out with your offensive linemen, you pick up the tab.
My dad isn't here today, but my other hero is. You've always been there for me, Mom. Thank you. I hope I've made you proud today and every other day. You think going 98 yards in the fourth quarter against the Browns was tough? Try cooking breakfast and dinner every day and raising three kids, while your husband is off coaching; try driving your son all over town so he can chase his dreams; and try doing it in your spare time after working 40 hours a week.
I'm gonna tell a little secret that my mom and I had, and it was when we were going to Super Bowl XXXII, against the Packers. My mom was over at the house, and she sat in my house and offered these heartfelt words of encouragement, words only a mother could say to her son: "Do we really have to go back to the Super Bowl?" I knew it right then we better win that one or she would never go back, so fortunately ... Thanks, Mom, I love you.
For me, the worst part about going to college was leaving my two sisters. My twin sister, Jana, who obviously got all the looks. She always kept me out of trouble when I did my best to get into it. I was so nervous before my first high school game, I lost my mouthpiece. Sure enough, she was the one who found it. Trust me, it wasn't the last time she was there to keep an eye on me. And I know she's looking down here today, and I wish you were here, Jana.
My sister Lee Ann, she was always the responsible one. She didn't have much choice, since she was the oldest. You always put me first, Lee Ann, and your little brother will always appreciate it. Thank you for your love, your friendship and your unwavering support.
I have so many people to thank today. I want to start with my high school coaches, Jack Neumeier and Darryl Stroh. Coach Neumeier, I know it wasn't easy for you to be here, but I'm sure proud you are. Thanks for seeing me for what I might be, and for showing me how to get there. Coach Stroh, thanks for your leadership and toughness, it really went a long way.
I thought I was a pretty good quarterback when I got to Stanford. As things turned out, I had a lot to learn. Thankfully, Jim Fassel was there to teach me the techniques that got me to the NFL and carried me through 16 seasons. Little did I know almost 15 years later, we'd be reunited with the Broncos. (Fassel was Denver offensive coordinator in 1993-94).
As NFL players go, I was truly one of the lucky ones. I got to play my entire career with the same team, I got to play in the greatest football town in America, and for the greatest fans. To top it off, I got to play for the greatest owner in professional sports. Player and owner doesn't even begin to describe our relationship. Pat, you've been a great boss and an even better friend. Thanks for giving me a chance, for the opportunity to pursue the dream we all have as players and that's to be world champs.
I'd also like to thank my many teammates. Granada Hills, Stanford University, the Denver Broncos. I'd like to name every one of you here today, but time won't allow. Just know I'm proud to have called you my friends and my teammates. This bust here would not be here, and neither would I, if it weren't for you guys. People sometimes don't realize how dependent the quarterback is on his teammates to do their jobs. For every guy who ever stepped on the field with me, I accept this honor today on behalf of all of you.
Thanks for protecting me, catching my passes, defending our goal line, for sharing my highs and lows. And more than anything, thanks for not losing confidence in me when I lined up for a snap as a rookie behind the left guard.
Then there's Mike Shanahan, who other than my father is the single biggest influence on my career. Thanks, Mike, for your honesty, your friendship, your never-ending attention to detail. Thanks for restoring hope in me when, I have to admit, I was running on empty. Thanks for making me the best player I could be, and thanks most of all for not making me come work out even after I retired.
This weekend has been an emotional time for me, and I'm particularly glad to see my old coach, Dan Reeves, could be here. Dan, I regret we couldn't win a Super Bowl, but we went down fighting, that's for darn sure. And I appreciate all the wins we did have together, and I want you to know, I fed off your competitive spirit. Thank you.
One of these days, Pat Bowlen, Mike Shanahan, Dan Reeves, will all be inducted into this great place. Take it from someone who worked beside them for most of his career: If I belong here, they belong here.
I'd also like to give special thanks to my coach, my teammate, my room dog, Gary Kubiak. Kube, thanks for the support and understanding through the years, and listening. And thanks for not listening each year in training camp as I tried to quit.
Nor would I be standing here, literally, if it weren't for our trainer, Steve Antonopulos. Thanks for all the Band-Aids, "Greek," and thanks for convincing me I wasn't hurt as much as I thought I was.
And thanks to our PR man, Jim Saccomano. Sacco, somehow you always managed to lock my lips before I sank the ship.
My best friend, Dennis Engel. You were there from the very beginning, as an offensive guard at Stanford, then a buddy through the years and all the support. I just appreciate you being a friend, and I appreciate you, more importantly, for making me the scrambler that I was.
This is a proud day for Denver, for the Rocky Mountain region, for the Broncos. My only wish is that it had come earlier. I am the first Bronco player to pass through these doors, but it is my sincerest hope that others will soon follow. The Broncos have played in six Super Bowls, more than any other AFC team. No team could do that without having great players worthy of the Hall of Fame.
I've only lied to the media twice, that I recall, in my career.
Halfway through my career, I started getting questions about whether I might someday find my way to Canton. Every time I said, "I hadn't given it any thought." That was the first lie. It's every player's dream to be here, and I was no exception. I'll leave my legacy up to others, but I can tell you this: I've never felt more proud than the day my coach, Wade Phillips, called me the Lou Gehrig of quarterbacks. As a quarterback, I didn't always have a great game, nor was I always healthy, but my teammates knew I would always show up. I didn't always succeed, but I persevered. And finally, after 14 seasons, with the help of my coaches and teammates, I got to experience the feeling of winning a Super Bowl.
And here, my media friends, is the second lie. I said my career would not have been complete without a Super Bowl victory. I obviously said that without ever experiencing the feeling. It was a feeling like few others, and just so we never forgot the feeling, we did it twice.
The only bigger thrill in my life is the birth of my children: Jessie, Jordan, Jack and JuJu. They're what gets me up in the morning, I'd like to thank them most of all. Thanks, guys, for jumping in the bed on Monday mornings when I was too sore to get up. Thanks for keeping me young when my body felt old. Thanks for giving me perspective and keeping me grounded. Thanks for teaching me about life and reminding me what really matters. And thanks, most of all, for remembering your grandpa's No. 1 lesson: Thanks for making your family proud. I love you very much.
And last but not least, to all those Bronco fans out there, thank you for everything, and this final Mile High Salute is for every one of you out there.