ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Change is never easy, and Wednesday was a day of major change in Broncos history.
There was no getting around the emotion brought on by the announcement that Pat Bowlen would be stepping back from the team's daily operations as he fights Alzheimer's disease.
That sentiment was particularly apparent when Broncos President Joe Ellis and Executive Vice President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway met the media and talked about the man who has run the Broncos since buying the team in 1984.
"All of us won't be able to see him every day, which is hard because he made that fun," said Ellis, who represented Bowlen at the owners' meetings in March and now assumes operational responsibility of
the club. "He loved this team and he loved everything about what he did and he was really good at it — really, really good at it."
Elway echoed Ellis' sentiment, trying to hold back the emotion.
"What a sad day it is around here," Elway said, visibly choked up with his voice near a whisper. "This place will never be the same."
"It's going to be very hard to not see him walk through the front doors every day."
Both men spoke with lumps in their throats at times, reflecting just how close they've grown with Bowlen in the last few decades.
Ellis started working for the Broncos in 1983 and has been the team's president since Jan. 5, 2011. Elway joined the Broncos as a player just a year before Bowlen bought the team and played 15 seasons for him. Bowlen hired Elway to his current position when Ellis was named president. Both Ellis and Elway referred to Bowlen as a mentor and a friend.
Elway described the trophy presentation after Super Bowl XXXII -- when Bowlen announced, "This one's for John" and handed him the Lombardi Trophy -- as "the most humbling, thrilled feeling I've ever had in my life." He also credited Bowlen's encouragement as the thing that convinced him to join the team's front office three years ago.
"I wouldn't be anywhere close to where I am today if it wasn't for Pat Bowlen," Elway said.
A look at Owner Pat Bowlen's 34 years with the Broncos.
Ellis voiced similar feelings, saying he had "just learned everything" from Bowlen over the years.
"Everybody is trying to follow his lead," Ellis said. "I guess the one thing is in a position of such power that he had, he is such a humble and modest and shy guy. He has great humility."
As the team moves forward with heavy hearts, it's clear that Bowlen will remain at the front of people's minds, regardless of how often he can be around Dove Valley.
"There has been an outpouring of support already," Ellis said. "I know it will continue. And we will do right by him and in turn he would tell us you do right by the fans. And you do right by this community and you do right by the National Football League. And that's what is going to happen."
"When he's not here, he'll still be here in soul," Elway said.