The Bowlen family and Denver Broncos invited fans to Broncos Field at Mile High to honor Pat Bowlen. Broncos Country showed up in full force to celebrate Pat’s life and express their condolences to his family. The MHR Radio Podcast (ApplePodcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher) talked about the community coming together in such a special way.
On the third-floor club level, fans were welcomed by a host of beautiful bouquets that spelled, “Mr. B.” As the line progressed, a tribute video highlighting Pat Bowlen’s accomplishments played on the jumbotron.
Then, fans marveled at Bowlen’s personal effects and team memorabilia. Amidst the impressive items on display, there were game balls including Bowlen’s first win as owner of the Broncos, and a Hall of Fame jacket gifted to him by his former players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Bowlen’s office desk was also on display, An avid golfer, his desk was accompanied by some of his favorite golf clubs. This desk was more than a beautiful piece of impressive furniture. Mr. B’s desk supported countless heartfelt conversations, and friendly advise. Behind this desk, Mr. B brought three Lombardi trophies to the, “Mile High City,” and devoted himself to the Denver community.
But one item stuck out much more than all the rest, Bowlen’s famous fur coat. Every Broncos fan has the image of Mr. B with his styling sunglasses and elegant fur coat engraved in their memory.
After all, Bowlen donned the fur coat during the Broncos comeback to win the 1986 AFC Championship game against the Cleveland Browns. While luxurious and flashy, the coat’s importance is based on the man that wore it. Bowlen always prided himself on fitness and style, but never boasted or bragged. He would later change his wardrobe to his signature orange and blue series of suits, representing his team.
The most impressive presentation of Mr. B tribute was the graciousness, and humility of his family. The Bowlens greeted fans with handshakes and hugs. Together, the Bowlens and fans were able to shed tears of sadness, happiness, and a few laughs. Some fans told the Bowlens short stories of their interactions with Pat.
His daughter, Annabel Bowlen, revealed, “We’re hearing stories about their memories of our dad and how he would sit quietly on the sidelines, and then as soon as we had a win or touchdown, he would be jumping up and down. That always made them smile.”
Some fans simply wanted to say thank you and show solidarity and support. While the event was originally scheduled from 10 a.m.-3 p.m., the Bowlen family and Broncos accommodated over 5,000 fans, well past the time restriction. Many fans opted to dress up in full Broncos apparel, including customized T-shirts in memory of Mr. B.
When asked why it was important to have a tribute open for the fans, Christianna Bowlen said, “Because my dad always said we have the best fans in the NFL, and this is what he would want to do for them.”
Former players were also in attendance to pay their respects to the Bowlen family. Peyton Manning, Rod Smith, Daniel Graham, and others all expressed their heartfelt love and appreciation for Pat Bowlen.
Rod Smith explained the influence of Pat Bowlen in his life. “It’s about being humble, just continuing to work. It’s amazing how much stuff he did, that you didn’t know he did. Humble beginnings create the humble endings, and that’s the way he was.”
Current players also paid their respects, including rookies Noah Fant, Dalton Risner, and Drew Lock.
A lifelong Broncos fan, Risner was familiar with Pat Bowlen’s success and popularity. When asked if he was surprised by the turnout of fans Risner said, “It doesn't surprise me one bit. You walk through and you have fans packed in here. It’s refreshing to see how much support we have for this Broncos football team and this Broncos organization because I don’t think it would be like this everywhere.”
Growing up a Colorado native, Bowlen’s Broncos are the reason I fell in love with football. Some of my favorite memories include watching the games with my parents on the couch, or attending games with friends. Mr. Bowlen opened his stadium to my high school football team in the mid 2000’s to play in the first high school state championship game at Broncos Stadium at Mile High (then Invesco Field).
As an adult, I have been able to share my love of football and the Broncos with my wife and daughter. Unfortunately, I never met Mr. B, nor did I ever interact with his family until Tuesday. The Bowlen family allowed Broncos fans the opportunity to mourn the loss of Bowlen together. I witnessed fans from all walks of life leave the stadium with a sense of pride after being embraced by the Bowlens. After experiencing Mr.B’s tribute, I have a different perspective of life. Mr. Bowlen’s life has taught me that the smallest act of kindness, like smiling at someone, saying hello, or holding the door for another person can mean the most to others.
While Mr. Bowlen’s passing has shed sorrow for all who loved him, his spirit and heart are undoubtedly present. The Bowlen family represented Pat with the upmost pride, and humility as they embraced Broncos Country during his tribute. The relationship between the Bowlens and Broncos Country is alive and well, as both continue to support the other.
We’ll see you in Canton, Mr. B!