ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Jason Elam returned to the team that drafted him into the NFL on Wednesday to say goodbye for good.
Elam signed a one-day contract with the Denver Broncos before announcing he was ending his 17-year NFL career. The Pro Bowl kicker spent his first 15 years with the Broncos and the last two with the Atlanta Falcons, who waived him nearly four months ago.
"It was very important to retire as a Bronco," said Elam, who had to stop at times to wipe away tears. "You can't spend 15 years with one organization and not feel a special bond."
The Broncos drafted him in the third round in 1993. It was something he hadn't expected because he was never contacted by anyone from the Denver organization, never brought in for a workout.
It was to be a deep-rooted relationship for both sides.
"Jason was everything you'd want in a player and everything you'd want in a kicker," Denver president and CEO Pat Bowlen said.
Elam, 40, was a member of the Broncos' two Super Bowl championship teams.
The three-time Pro Bowler finished his career ranked fifth in NFL history with 1,983 points and 436 field goals. He is the all-time leader with 16 seasons of 100 or more points.
"He's definitely going into our Ring of Fame," Bowlen said. "I think he is a Hall of Famer, but kickers getting in the Half of Fame is damn near impossible."
Elam also shares an NFL record with Tom Dempsey of New Orleans for the longest field goal (63 yards).
Elam listed three kicks as the most memorable of his career.
At the top was a 51-yard field goal in the Broncos' Super Bowl victory over Green Bay.
"We were such underdogs, and it meant so much to this organization, the team and city," Elam said. "I remember feeling the pressure of the one kick and the momentum it helped give us."
He said his most dramatic was a 42-yard field goal as time ran down in a 15-14 win in Buffalo.
"We didn't have any timeouts," Elam said. "I had missed a couple earlier and heard the Buffalo fans counting down for me."
"And then the 63-yarder was obviously a highlight," Elam said.
He acknowledged he had some rough times this past year in Atlanta. It made his decision to retire easier for him.
"It was time. I don't think I could do it now," Elam said. "I started warming up at 11:30 in the morning for a 1:30 practice, just constantly stretching and keep my body right and it's not fun anymore."
He said he has plenty on his plate in retirement. He will continue to write novels from his home in Anchorage, Alaska, and be involved with some ministries.
"There's a little bit of everything," Elam said. "So I'm not going to be bored."