looking for a five-on-five scrimmage? Hunt no further than the Highlands Ranch, Colo., home of Broncos defensive tackle Luther Elliss, football's answer to Tom Bradford, Dick Van Patten's character on Eight Is Enough. When Elliss leaves the Mile High field, he comes home to his wife, Rebecca, and their brood of three girls (Isabelle, Sophia, Olivia) and five boys (Christian, Isaiah, Jonah, Kaden, Noah), four of whom are adopted. "You know how you always have to be aware of who's around you on the football field?" says Elliss, who's played in two Pro Bowls. "For me that doesn't let up at home."
Rebecca and Luther, who met at the University of Utah, had talked about adopting when they got married in 1994 ("There are just so many kids that wind up in foster care their whole lives," says Rebecca) but decided to wait until their biological kids were old enough to help raise the little ones. Then four years ago, when Luther was with the Lions, Rebecca heard about a biracial infant whom the agency, A Act of Love, was having trouble placing. She couldn't resist. With the help of NFL securities, which maintains extensive background information on players, the Ellisses were able to bring the baby home fairly quickly. Since then they've adopted twice more from A Act of Love; they are also raising Luther's cousin's child.
While Luther is on the job--the Broncos are in Cincinnati this week--Rebecca goes it alone, shuffling the athletically inclined group in a 12-passenger van to school, dance lessons, soccer, karate and gymnastics. So is eight really enough? Maybe not. "It's expensive to adopt," says Rebecca, 30. "But Luther's job gives us the luxury to help out. How can we say no?"
¬†THE BRADFORDS 1970s¬†
WILLIAM R. SALLAZ (ELLISSES)
¬†THE ELLISSES 2004