clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

'This one's for Pat'

Among the many big story lines this weekend at the Broncos-Packers matchup on Sunday Night Football will be the man who is most responsible for the team being the perennial contender it is - Pat Bowlen.

Tim DeFrisco/Getty Images

When the Denver Broncos take the field in their blue jerseys on Sunday night to face off against the Green Bay Packers, the main storyline for the national media will be the battle of two unbeaten teams - a powerhouse offense against one of the flashiest defenses in recent history.

It will be hyped, overhyped and billed as epic.

A much less hyped - but no less epic - storyline will be featured off the air at halftime when the Broncos induct beloved owner Pat Bowlen into their Ring of Fame.

It's fitting the induction will be this game - a re-match of the Super Bowl that proved Bowlen's Broncos were contenders and made the owner famous as much for his words, "This one's for John" as for the improbable victory itself.

It's fitting the ceremony will come at halftime of a game between two unbeaten teams. Bowlen's motivation for everything was to give his team this kind of chance - the chance to fight among the best to be the best.

And it's fitting that the celebration will be almost exclusively for Broncos fans. If anyone truly bleeds Orange and Blue, it is the Canadian-born Bowlen.

Broncos' president and CEO Joe Ellis noted the "perfect intersection" of this game and the Ring of Fame celebration for Bowlen.

"There is a lot of significance to it," Ellis said, adding the team will wear the blue jerseys and white pants with the orange stripe - the uniform Bowlen helped design. "I think that's somewhat symbolic and should be great for everybody, as well."

The Ring of Fame induction will be a culmination of weekend events to pay tribute to the man who built the Broncos into a major contender year after year, and it will seemingly have nothing to do with the "epic matchup" being played on the field before and after.

But in reality, it will have everything to do with it.

Being undefeated and boasting the NFL's top defense this season, fighting to be a postseason contender practically every year, having more trips the Super Bowl than losing seasons ... these all come back to Bowlen and his vision to build up his "team."

And one of the greatest attributes of this man is that "team" to him has been defined by every person associated with the Broncos - from Hall-of-Fame players to people handing out programs at the game. And it most definitely includes the fans.

Bowlen, who stepped down last year to concentrate on his fight against Alzheimer's, would love where his Broncos sit today - undefeated, facing many challenges ahead but excited to fight for the top.

And he is no doubt proud of all he has done to help make this possible, because he has understood more than most owners (more than too many) that building up the team and its players is the way to build up the franchise - and ultimately the NFL.

Ellis was asked what he thought Bowlen would say if he were giving remarks at his induction ceremony. Bowlen's first response, the CEO said, would have been to wonder why he was the one being honored.

"He wouldn't have wanted the attention on himself," Ellis said. "He would have thanked his staff, he would have thanked his coaches over the years, he would have thanked his players and he would have most importantly thanked the fans. He always said, 'I feel that I'm a custodian of the team and it's really your team,' to the fans. He believed that. He understood that. I think that's a great thing for an owner to understand. He just would have been grateful."

There will be 35 players and seven coaches from the 1997-98 Super Bowl team at Mile High this weekend to honor their owner.

As much as that game meant to the Broncos players who achieved it, and the fans who experienced it, it meant the world to the man who was able to provide it.

He will be the first to tell you he is defined by Super Bowl wins and winning games. When asked what to put in his bio, he said 'Just put in there that I want to be the best at everything.'   -Broncos President and CEO Joe Ellis on owner Pat Bowlen

"He's such a competitive guy that that game kind of got him over the hump, as well," Ellis noted. "[Bowlen] will be the first to tell you that he is defined by Super Bowl wins and winning games. That's how you achieve success in this business. It's not about dollar signs. It's about wins on the field. That was the ultimate win, obviously."

When the Broncos announced this spring that Bowlen would be inducted into the Ring of Fame, Ellis said the owner was asked what to put on his ROF bio. The down-to-earth owner responded, "Just put in there that I want to be the best at everything we do."

And he has come pretty darn close to doing just that. His Broncos' resumé - not to mention his larger contributions to the NFL - is so good, it's easy to overlook how remarkable each achievement has been:

  • Two Super Bowls (XXXII and XXXIII)
  • Six AFC Championships
  • 12 AFC West Championships
  • 17 playoff appearances
  • First team owner to have 300 wins in 30 years.
  • The Broncos have sold out every game during Bowlen's ownership - a streak of 257 consecutive games (regular season and postseason) - third longest active streak in the league.
  • Denver has led the NFL in attendance during Bowlen's 30-year period as owner, drawing nearly 20 million fans to home games from 1984-2014, marking the highest total in the NFL.
  • Bowlen ushered in a new era in Denver Broncos football history in 2001 when the state-of-the-art Sports Authority Field at Mile High opened. Bowlen contributed more than $150 million to the construction of the new stadium and helped fund a $30 million upgrade during the 2013 offseason.
  • Overseeing the Broncos Charity that has donated $25 million to community causes for more than 20 years
  • The Broncos recognized as "America's Team" in 2014
  • Elected to the Denver Broncos Ring Of Fame in 2015 and inducted Nov. 1.

But what would probably make Bowlen the most proud is to hear how so many players and coaches revere the man who believed in them and did whatever he could to make the team better - whether it was state-of-art facilities, healthier food, the best staff or just creating a competitive yet supportive atmosphere.

Broncos' new head coach Gary Kubiak has had the honor of playing and coaching under Bowlen's reign.

"I'm very proud to be a part of it. It's awesome to be here and watch that happen," Kubiak said, noting that the team playing well and focusing on the game will be the best thing they can do for Bowlen this weekend. "He's been deserving for a long, long time. It will be a special day for him, his family and this organization."

Special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis got his first coaching start with Bowlen and the Broncos in 1988, and he says it is an honor to be back at the Broncos organization.

"It's an honor to be here, no question. After coming back and seeing the way that this organization has really blossomed, it's all due to the guy at the top," says DeCamillis. "The really cool thing about it is, once you get here and see all of the departments working - the video guys, the trainers and equipment - it's just so top-notch and that has to come from the top, which it has with him. It's an honor."

He brought me here and had trust in me for seven years thus far. I know I'm going to give it all I have, not only for my teammates but also Mr. B.   -David Bruton, Jr.

David Bruton, Jr., who often talked with Bowlen on the sideline about his alma mater Notre Dame or Bowlen's latest cowboy boots, said the team wants to play a good game for a lot of reasons, one of the big ones being their owner.

"We need to go out there and play well, especially for him being honored in that game," Bruton said. "He brought me here and had trust in me for seven years thus far. I know that I'm going give it all that I have, not only for my teammates, but also Mr. B."

Demaryius Thomas has a similar appreciation for the man who took a chance on him.

"He's the reason I'm here right now. I can't say I talk to him much, but when I'm always around him, he's always a nice guy," Thomas said. "I always speak to him and he shakes my hand. He just means a lot."

Jake Plummer, former Broncos quarterback, loved playing for Bowlen.

"His main focus was always on the players. He wanted us to be comfortable, not worry about anything but be ready to play. Whatever we needed, he'd make it happen," Plummer told MHR, adding that Bowlen loved to hang out with the players. "He'd hang out and talk shit and laugh with us. But not only did he treat players with respect, he treated everybody with respect."

Peyton Manning, who first met Bowlen as a quarterback on a team that all-too-often knocked Bowlen's Broncos out of contention in the playoffs.

"I got to meet Mr. Bowlen a couple of times when I played for Indianapolis. I don't think that he liked me all that much, to tell you the truth. That's who he was. He was a competitive guy and he liked the Denver Broncos," Manning said. "I get it and I respect that."

But once Manning joined the Broncos, Bowlen was all in on his new quarterback, and even flew back from Hawaii to meet Manning when he signed.

"When you go into the Ring [of Fame], you have a chance to read about all that he's accomplished as an owner," Manning said, noting he can't do it justice in a press conference. "What he's done for Denver, for this community, for the Broncos and for the NFL, it's as impressive as it gets. I think I speak for any player just to say that it's an honor to play for a team owned by Pat Bowlen."

Brandon Marshall, one of the newer Broncos in Bowlen's 30-year tenure, certainly thinks so.

"Definitely. He's done a great job. As the owner, he's provided us, I would say, one of the best organizations in the NFL," Marshall said. "With him going into the Ring of Fame, we want to win one for him."

This one's for Pat.