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"San Diego has the cards," says a member of the Oakland Invaders' front office. Ah, yes, the USFL is in the hunt, too. The Invaders made an offer to Elway in December. The opening bid included an annuity, a $1 million life insurance policy and base pay of $200,000 per season for five years. Elway turned the offer down—at least for the '83 season. The Invaders are now talking to the Elways about '84.
Even Brandt concedes, "San Diego's got the edge." But that won't stop the Cowboys from meeting with Demhoff after the Yankee offer is presented and dickering with Irsay and Kush. "But there are problems with making a trade," says Brandt. "He could sign with the Yankees, or he could sit out a year and then go back into the draft. If he goes with the USFL, then he can play for whatever NFL team he wants in four years, though the team that drafts him has right of first refusal. You'd better have your deal with him done before you trade for him." If no deal is worked out between a team Elway favors and Elway himself before the draft, NFL insiders believe Elway will go with the Yankees.
And indeed he might decide to become a Yankee, for the sheer challenge of it. He believes he could do fine in the major leagues, despite that bane of the phenom, the breaking pitch. "I'm not going to say I can't hit it," Elway says. "It might take two or three years to get to the big leagues, but I think I could."
Says Jack, "John felt that pressure of playing for money in Oneonta. He slumped, and he called me and said, 'Dad, I think my goal is to hit .100.' I told him to be aware of his mistakes but not to let them crush him." Elway found his swing, finishing the six-week tour by hitting .356 in July and .318 overall, with 25 RBIs and no errors in 42 games.
"The Yankees have been extremely good to John," says Demhoff, "but they must be aware that he would be passing up a tremendous opportunity. In football, he could be the best player ever at the most dominant position in the game."
John's sisters, Lee Ann, 24, and his twin, Jana, 22, want him to play football, and that can't be discounted, given the close-knit character of the Elway family. John credits his father with everything from his football talent to turning him around to hit from the left side with his plastic bat when he was a small boy. "He's like his mother more than me," says Jack. "Built like her, athletic like her. She's the one who kept the whole thing together while I coached." He was an assistant at Montana and Washington State before becoming head coach at Cal State-Northridge and then San Jose State. "From the time John was a boy," Jack says, "he's been bouncing on the ball bags at football practice. Watching. Absorbing. Now he amazes me with what he knows about football."
Jack insists he doesn't care which sport his son chooses. "I just want him to be excited, and dollars won't decide that," says Jack. "You can't be great playing on a dollar basis. You've got to have your heart and soul in it.
"When he decides, I'll get the ice and vodka and toast with him. It's his life. He should celebrate it. I'd feel real successful if I could just preserve for John the joy of playing ball. Because that's where he'll find his greatness."