WASHINGTON, D.C. — Just as DeMarcus Ware prepared for his first season with the Broncos after signing with the team in 2014, Owner Pat Bowlen stepped away from the day-to-day operations of the team to focus on his battle with Alzheimer's disease.
But though Ware didn't interact with Bowlen on a daily basis, he felt Bowlen's impact on the organization during Ware's three seasons in Denver.
"It was hard to see him pass, but I know that he's still living amongst all of us," Ware said Tuesday at the 2019 Jefferson Awards. "He left something [behind] that's really big in not just the Denver Broncos but how to really live life."
Bowlen passed away Thursday night after a lengthy battle with the disease.
"You go into an organization knowing how much the owner put in to it," Ware said. "He wasn't just an owner that said, 'Well, I'm just going to put my money in to it.' He said, 'I'm going to put my money into the community too, and I'm going to etch my name in stone in Colorado.' When you have an owner that cares not just about the community, but about the team and the little meticulous things that make a team great, [it's special]."
During Ware's 12-year career, the likely future Pro Football Hall of Famer played for two Hall of Fame owners.
In Dallas, where Ware started his career, he donned the star for Jerry Jones, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2017.
Then, when Ware signed with the Broncos, he joined an organization led by Bowlen, who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in August.
Both men showed Ware how championship-level organizations should be run.
"I think the expectations were really high, and they sacrificed everything they had so everybody else could benefit," Ware said. "They worked hard. Working for Jerry, he worked hard. Working for the Bowlens, they worked really hard. Everything was about that team, the players, about everything in the community and bringing the community into the stadium and saying, 'This stadium is your home.'"
Ware turned in one of his most memorable performances on the evening when the Broncos honored Bowlen as a Broncos Ring of Famer. In November 2015, Ware and the Broncos held the previously undefeated Packers to one touchdown in a 29-10 win. Ware had a thundering sack of Aaron Rodgers that he punctuated with a Hulk-esque celebration.
Ware was in Washington D.C. on Tuesday to introduce Von Miller, who accepted the 2019 Jefferson Award for Outstanding Public Service in Sports.
Miller, who was drafted in 2011, saw the same devotion to winning as Ware.
"In the NFL," Miller said, "you want an owner that wants to win. Mr. B, he not only just talked about it, he was about it 100 percent."
Miller also said that he's grateful that he had the opportunity to get to know Bowlen before he stepped away.
"It was great," Miller said. "I was fortunate to get to know Mr. B before his sickness. I feel like he knew me, as well. ... I think it was my second year in the league, I was walking right in front of the equipment room and he said, 'Von.' He said my name, and he was like, 'Have a great day today. Go out there and kill them this week.' And I was like, 'Whoa! Mr. B talked to me!' This was right at the point when he was dealing some of the issues that he was dealing with, but for him to remember me and talk to me and pull me to the side, it meant the world to me."
"… I feel honored and blessed to be able to be one of the last few ones to get to know him."