If you’re a football fan, you’ve probably never thought about how hard NFL quarterbacks throw. You’re used to watching them throw the ball far and accurately, but have you ever considered how hard a quarterback has to throw the ball?
As you might expect, quarterbacks have to throw the ball hard, but you might be surprised by how hard they throw. There are some interesting stories about how quarterbacks throw, including one about former quarterback and current Broncos executive John Elway.
John Elway impresses college teammates
Elway is a Pro Football Hall of Famer who won two Super Bowls and was the league MVP in 1987. But he started impressing people with his throwing ability as soon as he was a redshirt freshman at Stanford. College teammate Rod Gilmore recalls Elway impressing his teammates with his throwing ability.
Gilmore recalls the first time Elway through the ball, others on the team though “he’s for real. The guy has a cannon attached to his shoulder.” In fact, Elway threw the ball so hard during his first official day of practice that he broke the fingers of two of the team’s wide receivers.
After just a few practices, the No. 2 and No. 3 quarterbacks on the depth chart transferred because they could tell Elway was the real deal.
The ‘Elway cross’
There is a legend surrounding Elway that is known as “the Elway cross,” and Gilmore confirms that it is all too real. Due to the aforementioned broken fingers, when given a choice between catching an Elway pass with their hands or their chest, his college receivers opted to use their chest.
While that may have protected the players’ digits, it left a mark — literally. When Elway threw the ball, he threw it so hard that the seams on the point of the ball would leave the imprint of a cross on the receiver’s chest. That cross became known as “the Elway cross.”
So when given the choice of potentially broken fingers or a cross imprinted on your chest, Elway’s teammates would usually choose the latter, less painful, method of catching his passes. Not exactly the type of choice most people would want to have, though.
Hardest throwing quarterbacks in the NFL today
While Elway may be one of the hardest throwers in NFL history, he hasn’t played in more than 20 years. So who is the hardest thrower in the league today?
That is one aspect of a quarterback’s game that scouts measure at the scouting combine ahead of the NFL draft. One way of measuring how hard a quarterback throws is by clocking their throwing velocity, as measured — in miles per hour — by a radar gun.
Here’s a look at some of the hardest throwers at the combine over the last several years, among quarterbacks who started in the league last season.
Josh Allen, Bills
Josh Allen is known for being quick with his feet as much, if not more than, his throwing ability. But that doesn’t mean he can’t throw the ball hard. In 2018, the current Bills quarterback was clocked at 62 mph.
Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs
While Super Bowl LIV MVP Patrick Mahomes may be the best quarterback in the league, he’s not the hardest thrower. That, however, doesn’t mean he’s not among the NFL’s hardest throwers. When he threw at the 2017 combine, Mahomes was measured at 55 mph.
Gardner Minshew, Jaguars
Gardner Minshew started the season at No. 2 on the Jaguars’ depth chart, but an injury to Nick Foles made Minshew the starter for much of the season. The rookie quarterback threw at last year’s combine, reaching 55 mph.