DENVER -- On a rainy Friday night outside Sports Authority Field at Mile High, 24 of the most important Broncos in franchise history were honored -- again.
The Ring of Fame Plaza officially opened on the south end of the stadium in a ceremony emceed by Broncos Vice President of Corporate Comunications Jim Saccomano.
“I think this is a great event," Hall of Famer Gary Zimmerman said. "(Owner and CEO) Pat (Bowlen) brings in all the players and I think it’s a great thing to come back and honor somebody you played with. I wouldn’t miss it for the world."
The plaza features 24 pillars made of steel honoring the Ring of Famers, and each pillar is adorned with a bronze likeness of each individual's face. The players' names and uniform numbers as well as a plaque detailing their accomplishments sits underneath each bronze face.
One by one, the pillars were unveiled Friday night.
"That's awesome," Craig Morton said as the curtain was dropped from his pillar.
Each bronze likeness of the players was sculpted by Brian Hanlon, a classically trained master sculptor who has sculpted more than 200 public art pieces. He also explained a unique feature of the base of each pillar.
“The pillars are constructed in corten steel, which was the material your original building (Mile High Stadium) was made out of, and that’s why it was so loud," Hanlon said. "So the design was amazingly creative that the architect and the designer came up with the idea that they should be this material that intimidated so many other teams."
Seeing all the pillars in a row and having so many former Broncos back together stood out to Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway -- one of the Ring of Famers honored in the new plaza.
"It’s a great night," Elway said. "Number one, we get to see old pals and guys that we played with and the guys that have been so important in Broncos history. Plus, I think with the unveiling of these heads and these statues, I think – to me I look at it as a tribute to Pat Bowlen and what he’s done in the 30 years he’s been here. For him to do this for the Ring of Famers, it’s really an honor, so I give him all the credit."
The Ring of Fame was originally created by Bowlen in 1984 to honor former players and administrators who played significant roles in the franchise's history.
After Tom Nalen is inducted at halftime of this Sunday's game, 24 names will adorn the Level 5 facade at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
Now, with Bowlen in his 30th year of ownership, the Ring of Fame Plaza stands as a unique public addition -- open at all times -- that fans can visit free of charge.
That was the most exciting part of the new addition for Karl Mecklenburg.
"That’s great. It really is," he said. "I know there are some other organizations that have kind of squares or halls or whatever honoring players and allowing people to come in without having to go in the stadium. So that’s really cool.”
After the Ring of Fame plaza ceremony, the guests of honor headed inside the Broncos locker room for a banquet celebrating the newest Ring of Famer, Nalen.
“It’s the best honor I could get," Nalen said. "It’s your team and people that know you, know how you played football, know how you carried yourself. And they decided that you were good enough to be in this select group, so it’s the highest honor you can get as a football player.”