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2018 Silver Anniversary Award: Jason Elam

Standout kicker followed his faith to a writing career, humanitarian efforts

Jason Elam addresses the crowd during a 2016 game at Denver’s Sports Authority Field at Mile High stadium after being inducted into the Broncos ring of honor. Joe Mahoney / AP Images

Jason Elam may be best known as a longtime star NFL kicker and two-time Super Bowl champion with the Denver Broncos, but he has devoted himself to a higher calling: He and his family have made a commitment to bring food and faith to people around the world.  

Elam will receive an NCAA Silver Anniversary Award at the NCAA Honors Celebration on Wednesday, Jan. 17, in Indianapolis. The annual award recognizes six distinguished former student-athletes on the 25th anniversary of the end of their intercollegiate athletics eligibility.

A desire to help others from an array of backgrounds and countries was fostered, in part, by his experiences encountering new people and new cultures during his time studying and kicking at the University of Hawaii, Manoa. He hopes other college athletes leave school with the type of life-changing lessons he did. “Cherish the unity and diversity you will encounter during your collegiate experience,” he said.

Finding his calling

Elam was a four-year starter at Hawaii, and finished his college career as the school’s and conference’s all-time scoring leader. He excelled in the classroom, too, but a season-ending injury in 1990 made him long for meaning beyond school and sports. As he recovered, he began searching for his life’s purpose. Elam began studying different faith systems and beliefs, worked to better himself and further devoted himself to his religious life.  

During his time at Hawaii, he came to grasp notions like unity, self-sacrifice and humility. “The deep bond was formed through training together, hurting together, winning together,” he said. “Having the opportunity to be a collegiate athlete is one of the greatest gifts I have experienced.”

Sports, writer

The Broncos selected Elam in the third round of the 1993 NFL Draft. He was a three-time Pro Bowl selection during his 17-year career. Elam kept a journal during his time in the league, logging memorable stories and events that occurred during practice, team travel and games. Elam’s brother was an officer in the U.S. Army at the time and encouraged him to write a book. It wasn’t until he was on a flight to play the Colts as his career wound down, though, that the inspiration came to him.

“I thought I may have something compelling if I could incorporate some of these stories in a book that discussed issues of my faith and current events,” he said. “So on that flight, I constructed a synopsis.”

The 2008 book that resulted, “Monday Night Jihad,” was the first in a series of four novels Elam cowrote that tracked a fictional NFL player’s efforts to combat terrorism.

Well-traveled

Elam’s professional football career ended in 2009 and his last book was released in 2011, but he is still busy fulfilling his life’s purpose. After his retirement, Elam and his family spent time living in the Middle East and Alaska, assisting with humanitarian efforts, food distribution and Bible translations. His goal is to have the story of Jesus completed in all languages by 2033.

“(My faith asks that I) display the fruit of love, peace, kindness and compassion for others,” he said. “The greatest way to demonstrate this is to be active in providing healing and hope.”