ATLANTA — On Saturday morning, ESPN's Sal Paolantonio will enter a room with the 47 other members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee to choose the Class of 2019.
Among the finalists is Broncos Owner Pat Bowlen, who was chosen as a Contributor Committee nominee in August.
After Commissioner Roger Goodell's press conference on Wednesday in Atlanta, DenverBroncos.com caught up with Paolantonio to get a sense of Bowlen's chances of being elected.
Aric DiLalla: This final vote has been a long time coming for the Broncos. How do you expect this weekend to play out?
Sal Paolantonio: "I think he's going to get great support in the room. I think it would be a shock if the full committee did not recommend that Mr. Bowlen be a contributor for the Class of 2019. I certainly will speak up on his behalf. I know there are a lot of supporters within the room for him. Total shock if he doesn't get in."
AD: When you think about his impact on the game, how do you balance what he did for the NFL vs. the success of the franchise?
SP: "I think the success of the franchise speaks for itself. He's basically personally responsible for bringing professional football to the mountain west [region] and expanding the game to an audience that has obviously embraced it [and] become very important to professional football and to football in general in Denver, in Colorado, in Utah, in Kansas and Nebraska, in Wyoming and Montana and all over the mountain west. I know the Broncos have a huge following. I would call them one of the top five franchises in the National Football League under Mr. Bowlen's stewardship in the last 30 years.
"And then, globally from a standpoint of his contributions, he is more responsible than any other person for growing the game on television. That's a pretty bold statement. Pat Bowlen is more responsible than any other person for growing the game into a highly televised, successful sport on television."
AD: What do you think this honor would mean to the organization and to his family?
SP: "You'd have to ask them about that, honestly. I think it's important for Broncos fans. This is 'The Godfather' of professional football in Denver and Colorado and the mountain west. And 'The Godfather' needs to be honored by being put in the Hall of Fame."