The Nobody Football League Name Stars of the NFL Getting Old

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The Nobody Famous League got a jolt Monday night when John Elway left the field with his right arm hanging like a gull's broken wing. Hey, the Nolan Ryan of the two-minute offense is older than most downtown Denver buildings, but he's still near the top of the short list of NFL icons.

Despite a ruptured biceps tendon that probably would sideline a Phillies pitcher until next February, Elway is miraculously expected to be ready to open the season Aug. 31 against Kansas City.

And did I really write Aug. 31? Tell me it's a misprint, that there's a chance the World Series will still be in progress when the Eagles play the Dallas Cowboys. I mean, play them for the second time.

In San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge has been painted three times since Steve Young came to town as Joe Montana's backup.

And after the National Park Service stone masons finish the literally monumental task of rehabbing Mount Rushmore, they can go to work on the NFL's quartet of quarterback legends.

The first thing they will notice when they start patching those crumbling monoliths is that Jim Kelly has slid off the mountain. The surviving troika of Dan Marino, almost 36, Elway, 37, and Young, almost 36, has survived a total of 40 NFL seasons.

The stars of the Nobody Famous League are getting old. And, quickly, who's the No. 1 star in the league right now?

I'll bet there are 15 names floating around on that one. Brett Favre? He's charismatic, only 27 and has a new Super Bowl ring. Barry Sanders? Emmitt Smith? The league's premier runners are 29 and 28, respectively. Which in the context of NFL tailback longevity has them stepping gingerly goalward on mid-30s wheels.

I'll bet some folks with a lot of midnight green in their wardrobes said Ricky Watters. And why not? Just remember that Ricky-please-lose-that-number turned 28 himself in April. That he seems significantly younger than Smith or Sanders is a tribute to his durability and multidimensional skills.

Some of you probably have caught on to the fact that the NFL is turning into an over-30-league and mentioned young guns like Jacksonville's Mark Brunell and Carolina's Kerry Collins as future superstars. As fading icons like Marino, Elway and Young go wheezing toward Canton, the only established QB in his prime with star quality is the Cowboys' oft-concussed Troy Aikman. And the Ache Man is staring at a 31st birthday in November. …