How John Elway made my day

And what I learned about him as a result

It’s funny what people remember. Or maybe it’s just what I remember, but I think I’m pretty much like everybody else.

I loved to fly private airplanes and did so a lot from the time I came to Colorado in the 1960s until I lost my medical clearance about eight years ago because I had developed atrial fibrillation. But from the ’60s through the ’90s, nobody enjoyed it more than I did. We flew all kinds of airplanes all over this hemisphere. I worked at being good at it and was very proud of my ability.

There were a couple of old airplanes I thought were more fun than the others. One was the old World War II DC-3 and the other was the De Havilland Beaver. Of course, the DC-3 was a big twin that carried some 30 paratroopers in WWII, or whatever else needed moving. I liked the Beaver so much that I used it sort of as a taxi to go back and forth from Denver to Gunnison because we had a cabin in Crested Butte.

About a dozen years ago, I went to Crested Butte to play in a golf tournament. Though I was never a very good player, it was fun. As I was leaving I said goodbye to the guy who was running the tournament and told him I had to leave because I was flying and had to get back to Denver, for some reason that now escapes me.

He said, “You know John Elway is finishing up his round, don’t you? He was our special guest.”  I nodded. “He needs to get back to Denver soon. Can you take him?”

I told him sure and went to get the Beaver ready, and Elway was delivered to the airstrip an hour later. Our trip consisted of going from Crested Butte to Gunnison where we picked up a more competent but not as fun machine for the trip over the mountains to Centennial.

He turned out to be a very pleasant man. Our conversation was mostly small talk about golf and mountain flying. But as you might imagine, my thoughts were mostly about not messing up a short flight with John Elway in the right seat.

It was a beautiful afternoon as we came down the valley from Gunnison. There was little wind and not a cloud in the sky. I had flown this airplane into this airport literally hundreds of times, and I checked everything. Nothing could go wrong.

And it didn’t. The landing was almost perfect.

And that would have been the end of it and this column would never have been written, except John Elway said, “Pat, you have done that before.” He said it in a very complimentary way. It made me feel terrific. So much so that I still remember it vividly. I also remember thinking at the time that Elway was probably an excellent manager. One who finds ways to make people feel genuinely good about themselves, and then tells them clearly.

Let’s you and I do the same, every day.

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