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Old 02-25-2009, 10:05 AM   #1
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Default Nice Rick Reilly story about John Elway

http://sports.espn.go.com/espnmag/story?id=3930609

Life of Reilly
Hey, pro, don't want to be a role model? It's not your choice.

This is a story I want to tell ALL athletes who think that what they do, how they act, the little kindnesses they give or withhold from fans don't matter.

It'll take only a minute.

My wife, Cynthia, is adopted. At 36, she found half her biological family on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana. Turns out she had four half brothers, one named Lil Bob, who was as big as a tree.

Lil Bob, a bar owner, could pick a man up with one hand and throw him out the front door. He was gregarious and funny and always seemed to have his son, Jake, hanging onto one of his huge legs. Unfortunately, he was also a full-blown alcoholic. Many were the days that started and ended with a quart of Jack Daniel's, although you could never tell.

In size and in heart, Lil Bob was one of Montana's biggest Broncos fans. His hero was John Elway. He joked that he wanted to be buried in an Elway jersey, with pallbearers in Elway jerseys, and an Elway football in his huge hand. His one regret was dropping out of school in eighth grade, ending his football career. His one dream was to take Jake to a Broncos game. Sometimes on the reservation, the dreams come small.

Last March, Lil Bob's liver failed. One awful hospital day, Jake, now 13, walked up to the bed, took his dad's head in his hands, put his mouth on his forehead and told him he couldn't go yet. Told him he needed him to stay and take him to a Broncos game. Stay and watch him grow up and play for the Broncos.

Lil Bob's death, a few days later, seemed to send Jake into that shapeless, black sinkhole where boys go when their best friend is gone for reasons they can't understand. "I tried to talk to him, but he was closed to it," says Jake's mom, Lona Burns. "He started doing bad in school. Kids picked on him. Every day I fought him just to go. His grades dropped. He didn't even care about going to football practice, didn't want to play."

Worse yet, since the day Lil Bob died, Jake hadn't cried.

And then, this past October, one of Lil Bob's best friends—a restaurant owner named Christopher Hamlet—decided to make good on an unfulfilled dream: He bought two plane tickets, packed up Jake and flew to Denver. Jake was finally going to a Broncos game.

As locals, Cynthia and I took them to lunch at one of Elway's restaurants so Jake could see all the jerseys and photos. The kid was so excited he hardly ate. And that was before a certain Hall of Fame QB walked in, all keg-chested and pigeon-toed. Immediately, Jake turned into an ice sculpture.

We introduced them, and it took a few seconds before Jake could even stick out his hand. Apparently, 13-year-olds are not used to meeting gods.

Elway took the time to sign Jake's football and pose for a picture. He even made us all go outside, where the light was better. Then, as we said good-bye—Jake's feet floating a foot off the ground—Elway turned and said, out of nowhere, "Hey, why don't you guys come by the box today?"

And the next thing Jake knew, he was in John Elway's box, asking him any question he wanted, all with a grin that threatened to split his happy head in half.

Then Elway said, "Comin' to dinner?"

And suddenly Jake was having his lettuce wedge cut for him by the legend, who tousled the kid's cowlick. Like a dad might.

Halfway through the night, a guy came out of the bathroom and said, "Are you guys with that kid? Because he's in there talking to his mom on the phone, crying. Is he okay?"

Yes, Jake would be okay.

"Jake came back a changed boy," his mom says. He started climbing out of that hole. He started making A's again. Started loving football again. He told his mom, "When I make it to the NFL, I'm going to buy you a big house in Denver so you can come to my games."

And I ask myself: Why did Elway do all that? Maybe because his late father, Jack, was his best friend too? Maybe because his own son, Jack, went away to college last fall? Or maybe because that's how he is. In my 26 years of knowing him, I've never seen him turn down an autograph request, a picture request, a Can-I-just-tell-you-something? request.

A lot of athletes don't want the burden that comes with being a role model. But what I want to tell them is: You don't get to choose. You don't get to tell 13-year-old boys with holes in their hearts who can help them heal.

I know it's a hassle, but it matters. Because you never know when you might just lead a kid out to where the light is better.
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Old 02-25-2009, 10:10 AM   #2
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Excellent. For kids, those moments make a large impact. Get this into Jay's hands quickly.
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Old 02-25-2009, 10:13 AM   #3
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awesome
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Old 02-25-2009, 10:14 AM   #4
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Old 02-25-2009, 10:16 AM   #5
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Nice story indeed. Athletes may not want to be role models, but if a kid picks them to follow, they got no choice. Sorry but thats the business you chose.
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Old 02-25-2009, 10:17 AM   #6
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thanks for sharing...Elway is the man. I've always enjoyed Reilly's takes too.
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Old 02-25-2009, 10:18 AM   #7
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Great story. I mean terrible, sad story, but great.
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Old 02-25-2009, 10:24 AM   #8
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Awesome story! I love the fact Rick Reilly is friends with John Elway. When most of the national media ignores the Broncos, he atones for some of that by putting out pieces like this.

Thanks for sharing!
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Old 02-25-2009, 10:30 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Smiling Assassin27 View Post
Excellent. For kids, those moments make a large impact. Get this into Jay's hands quickly.
Jay's too busy parenting and scolding other people's kids for cutting into the autograph line.....it's a full-time job, you know.
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Old 02-25-2009, 10:30 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dbfan21 View Post
Awesome story! I love the fact Rick Reilly is friends with John Elway. When most of the national media ignores the Broncos, he atones for some of that by putting out pieces like this.

Thanks for sharing!
Reilly is a total Denver homer. Ironically, he's my absolute favorite national columnist.
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Old 02-25-2009, 10:34 AM   #11
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Jay's too busy parenting and scolding other people's kids for cutting into the autograph line.....it's a full-time job, you know.
my kid hasn't watched football ever since
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Old 02-25-2009, 10:47 AM   #12
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Reilly is a total Denver homer. Ironically, he's my absolute favorite national columnist.
Me too.
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Old 02-25-2009, 12:34 PM   #13
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I'm from Montana, there ain't **** nor shinola on the Blackfeet indian reservation. So for the kid to get his shot at something better in life because he met his hero and his hero did the right thing may be on of the greatestest gifts John's ever given. It's all drugs, alcohol, dropping out and despair up in the cold lonesome of the Blackfeet res.
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Old 02-25-2009, 12:38 PM   #14
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Elway needs to get some new sunglasses.
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Old 02-25-2009, 12:45 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RaiderH8r View Post
I'm from Montana, there ain't **** nor shinola on the Blackfeet indian reservation. So for the kid to get his shot at something better in life because he met his hero and his hero did the right thing may be on of the greatestest gifts John's ever given. It's all drugs, alcohol, dropping out and despair up in the cold lonesome of the Blackfeet res.
I've been to Lame Deer up there for a week-long mission trip with our church's youth group and witnessed everything you described. The context makes this story all the more significant. Not gonna lie...tear in my eye when I finished reading.
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Old 02-25-2009, 12:47 PM   #16
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Good for Elway. He get's it, and always has.
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Old 02-25-2009, 12:53 PM   #17
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Elway needs to get some new sunglasses.
Awesome take-away. Now TSI needs your help over in the clothing thread.
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Old 02-25-2009, 01:12 PM   #18
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Awesome take-away. Now TSI needs your help over in the clothing thread.
On my way!
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Old 02-25-2009, 01:16 PM   #19
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Wow!! This story hits so close to home.

I was 8 years old when my father passed away The majority of the memories I have of him are Football and Broncos related, going to games, watching games, and him coaching my flag football team.

The first christmas after he died, my Mom with the help of a family friend arranged a meeting with Elway and a personalized signed photo. I cherish those memories so much and it makes me so Happy that Elway still cares and takes a vested interest in the Kids who view him as a God.

Great Article Rick! Great Post as well
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Old 02-25-2009, 01:20 PM   #20
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That's just like your opinion, man

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And that is just one of the reasons the John was the greatest ever.
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Old 02-25-2009, 01:21 PM   #21
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That's just like your opinion, man

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Smiling Assassin27 View Post
Excellent. For kids, those moments make a large impact. Get this into Jay's hands quickly.
Jay is doing good in those situations already. i don't think he needs much help or motivation
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Old 02-25-2009, 01:43 PM   #22
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Legend on and off the field. Enough said.
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Old 02-25-2009, 02:09 PM   #23
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And that is just one of the reasons the John was the greatest ever.
QFT !
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Old 02-25-2009, 05:09 PM   #24
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Wow just a great ending to a sad story.
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Old 02-25-2009, 05:11 PM   #25
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Fantastic.
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