John Elway's second act

"I'm so intrigued watching him," Elway says. "I see all the things he does. The double cadence, the moving people around, and I think, 'Shoot, I wish we'd have had that stuff when I played.'"

And yet together, Sunday, they can lift each other as high as men can go in this game.

Elway's fondest hope is to see Manning become the greatest QB to ever live. "One or two more Super Bowl wins and he's got a really, really strong argument," he says. Wow. Two more Super Bowl wins? And you think you have a demanding boss?

 But a Manning win vaults Elway onto the pedestal marked … what? … The NFL's Most Complete Winner? Most Valuable … Person? The Ultimate Trophy Gobbler? To lead five teams to Super Bowls as a player and win two? To go from NFL rookie executive to winning a Super Bowl in your third year? No wonder he's the original Johnny Football.

But there's even more at stake Sunday. If Manning and Elway can do this, they can lift not just each other up but also their owner, 69-year-old Pat Bowlen, whose health is deteriorating. "We all want this for Mr. Bowlen," Elway says. "We need to get this done. And we need to get it done quick. He's in a tough spot. So, it would mean so much to all of us, especially me."

After the AFC title win over New England, Bowlen and Elway approached the victory stage, with Bowlen telling Elway, "I just want to hold the trophy." Translation: "You talk for me." Elway did. If Denver wins Sunday, look for it again.

And maybe Elway would then yell, fittingly: "This … one's … for … Pat!"?

For a game played with an oblong ball, that would be a perfect circle.

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