I was born and raised in Denver. More specifically, I was born and raised a Bronco fan. I remember watching games as far back as 1983. (I was 3.) The constant during that time, even more than the great John Elway, has been one man — Pat Bowlen.
When Bowlen took over, the Broncos facility was a tiny, makeshift complex near the mousetrap. Now it’s a state-of-the-art (still under construction) masterpiece.
Before Mr. Bowlen, the Broncos attracted such big-name signings as Craig Morton. Now the Broncos are the first choice of NFL greats with names like DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib, and some guy named Peyton.
The biggest change came in the 1997-98 season. That was the year the Broncos took home their first of two Super Bowl titles. Bowlen knew that at the time, the city of Denver, all of Colorado, heck, all of the NFL (except Cleveland) was rooting for the John Elway to finally get the monkey off his back. That made it all the more special when he hoisted the trophy and spoke for all of us, announcing “this one’s for John!”
The Broncos will never be the same without Mr. Bowlen roaming the sidelines in a mink coat (admit it, that’s how you will remember the man.) We won’t remember him as the man who made the decisions, at least not when it came to football. He was the anti-Jerry Jones.
Bowlen didn’t micro-manage the team. Instead, he did what an NFL owner should do. He hired the right people. He made Denver an attractive home for free agents. He turned the only team playing in the Mountain Time Zone into an NFL powerhouse.
The news that broke about Mr. Bowlen’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease is tragic. Because it has robbed the Broncos of an owner. Because it has robbed a family of a father, husband, grandfather. Because it has robbed Pat Bowlen of himself.
If Peyton Manning et al do what they should do this season, there will be no finer tribute than seeing John Elway standing on the podium holding up the beautiful silver trophy and telling the world that “this one’s for Pat.”