ENGLEWOOD, Colo. —As news broke Thursday that Owner Pat Bowlen was nominated by the Contributors Committee as a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, two members of the Broncos organization delivered the news to him personally.
President and CEO Joe Ellis and Ring of Fame safety Steve Atwater visited Bowlen in his home, where Atwater shared the good news.
"It was great," Atwater said. "Joe Ellis allowed me to go over with him, and I was just able to tell him the good news. He looked up and he smiled a little bit and it was like he knew something big was going on and that he was a part of it. I was very honored to be able to deliver the news to Mr. Bowlen. He's so deserving of it, and it's just really a wonderful day."
The moment, as expected, was an emotional one for Atwater, who played on Bowlen's team from 1989-98.
"Extremely," Atwater said. "Extremely emotional. You know, knowing all that he did for the team, so many players, the league — and just personally how he treated people was really something special, something that I try to model [myself after] him, the way he was. He had a huge impact on my life and a bunch of people's lives. Again, just to know that he's being finally recognized for it — it's really a great day."
Ellis, who said he hopes to soon see Atwater's name in the Hall of Fame, as well, asked Atwater to accompany him to Bowlen's home to deliver the news.
"Steve came, and he sat down next to Pat and he delivered the message," Ellis said. "It was really special. And I was just honored to be able to witness it."
The Hall of Fame selection process still includes one more step for Bowlen, who must receive 80 percent of the vote from the 48-person Hall of Fame committee when it convenes on Feb. 2. On Thursday, though, Bowlen took an important step toward induction.
And Ellis said he thinks that while Bowlen was known for his humility, he would be "very, very proud" to hear that he was named a Hall of Fame finalist.
"He was pretty modest and pretty shy and humble about all things, as I've said to you many times before," Ellis said. "But I know this. I know he'd be very, very proud and honored to be considered now in the final steps to be among so many great people that have come out of this game, especially players, coaches, owners and other contributors.
"It's a tremendous honor, and he'd be very, very proud. And he should be."