ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — As the Broncos celebrated their Super Bowl XXXII victory, Owner Pat Bowlen lifted the Lombardi Trophy into the air and declared "This one's for John!"
Bowlen and John Elway had worked for more than a decade for the franchise's first world championship, and on that January evening in 1997, Bowlen dedicated the win to the quarterback.
Elway, who ended up playing 15 seasons for Bowlen, rejoined Bowlen's Broncos in 2011 and led the team to two more Super Bowl appearances and another world championship.
Bowlen and Elway, both Broncos Ring of Famers and Pro Football Hall of Famers, both have clearly defined spots in the history of the NFL.
And after Bowlen's passing on Friday morning, Elway made sure to express what the longtime Broncos owner meant to him as both a member of the Broncos organization and a person.
"Pat gave me so much and he was someone that I always looked up to," Elway said Friday. "He gave this team everything we needed to be the best and compete for championships, and the focus was always on football. That's all you can ask for in an owner — yet he did more. He was a tremendous mentor to me and a tremendous friend. Pat was a great listener, always asking what was going on, and I learned so much from watching him. He was a terrific leader. Whether things were going right or things weren't going right, he would always let you know what we needed to get better. He did a great job of applying pressure at the right times but always trusted his football people to make the right decisions. Other than his family, nothing meant more to Pat than making sure the Denver Broncos were successful. What he did for this team, this city and the entire NFL will never be matched. His shoes will never be filled.
"I will miss Pat greatly and will always treasure the times we had together. We'll continue to take care of his team as if he were here today. My deepest sympathies are with Annabel and the entire Bowlen family."