CANTON, Ohio -- When the Pro Football Hall of Fame presented the gold jackets to the members of its 2019 class, it saved the most poignant presentation for last.
After the other seven members of the class received their gold jackets, the Hall of Fame presented Owner Pat Bowlen's coat, framed for display, to three of his children: Beth Bowlen Wallace, Brittany Bowlen and Annabel Bowlen. Together, Brittany and Beth held the frame aloft, displaying it to the thousands on hand for the jacket presentation at the Canton Civic Center.
Bowlen's presence was felt throughout the evening, never more than when former NBC Sports President Dick Ebersol spoke midway through the dinner.
Ebersol, the winner of the Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award, worked closely with Bowlen on myriad broadcast projects, including the 2006 creation of Sunday Night Football as the NFL's flagship primetime broadcast.
After thanking his parents, his wife and longtime NFL color analyst John Madden -- who advised Ebersol that "less is more" -- Ebersol turned his thoughts to Bowlen, his longtime friend and business associate.
"Pat Bowlen would be the most excited about what I am about to say next: What did I mean by less is more? I've thrown away the script," Ebersol told the audience. "And if there was ever anyone in big-time life who wanted no part of the ego, or the small things or looking for more praise, it was Pat Bowlen.
"He was the real deal when it came to being a man."
Twenty-eight minutes later, Champ Bailey, one of Bowlen's favorite players, donned his gold jacket for the first time. As applause poured upon Bailey, he paused to gather himself, overcome with emotion.
When NFL Network's Steve Wyche interviewed him a moment later, Bailey revealed that the emotion was due in part to thinking of Bowlen.
"It's hard, man," Bailey said. "I wish Pat was here."
Nevertheless, Bowlen's presence was undeniable Friday night.