By Keith Cummings
The measure of success in sports is invariably weighed in silver, and when you walk through the entrance at the UCHealth Training Center, you find just that, in the shape of three Lombardi trophies.
A mark of the great Pat Bowlen, is that this grand silver statement of success barely scratches the surface.
The late, great Pat Bowlen was, and always will be, the Denver Broncos. What he stood for and empowered built the organization, and all of those involved within it were forged in his image.
Not dipped in a wealth driven ego crusade, as so many of his fellow NFL owners seem to be, Bowlen always put his team first. He wanted to be first in everything, a mantra which is still evident on the walls of the Broncos’ Dove Valley training facilities.
To these words and actions, he bore true; seven trips to the NFL’s biggest game, winning three of them, and twenty-one winning seasons, including eighteen playoff berths since Bowlen took ownership of his beloved team in 1984.
All of this including over three-hundred total wins, as his team averaged around 9.5 wins per season. All remarkable but yet again, simply not scratching the surface.
Within the NFL, Bowlen served on a number of committees, ranging from work place diversity to the Hall of Fame. The latter so sadly the one he didn’t live long enough to see his own induction to.
His role as the Broncos’ owner served him well, as he and his family used the platform to aid the community with their long and humble charitable work.
Contributions towards helping those who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, the same disease that in the end claimed him, were both notable and positive.
His successful business endeavours all seemed to lead him to the bigger goal that to him was success with the Denver Broncos.
And that is where his legacy is felt like no other. The Broncos became an extension of his own passion and deep desire to get to the very top. Winning was the goal, but his players and fans were every bit as important as he was.
Bowlen himself was an ever-present figure at the stadium, within the locker room and training facilities, as he deeply cared about the cogs that drove his team.
From the embers of Super Bowl failures came back-to-back Broncos glory. Bowlen selflessly dedicated his first Lombardi Trophy to the player who became like a son. When the time came, he also entrusted that player, John Elway, to turn his team back into winners and received the same return at Super Bowl 50 from the boy he had made into a man.
Bowlen now leaves behind a team rooted in its community with a storied history, with the expectation and the will to continually win.
Team training facilities and a stadium to be proud of are simply what Pat did, it was his role. He stated he didn’t get involved with the Broncos to merely sit in the owner’s box; he wanted to live and breathe his team. In doing so the Broncos fed off his leadership and energy.
If his impact is felt throughout the NFL then in Denver his loss will be hard to overcome. A guiding light has gone and will never be replaced.
When his long over-due call is made in Canton, Ohio, Bowlen will be introduced by his long-time friend and Broncos trainer, Steve “Greek” Antonopulos. A man, who more than many, saw and understood the deep love and affection Bowlen held for all of his Broncos.
What follows now for the Broncos, and who runs them, whether it’s one of his seven children, along with John Elway and Joe Ellis, is largely unknown.
May I suggest the best way to honour the great Pat Bowlen is by running the team in his image, and to carry on striving to be first in everything.