For years, a gold jacket signed by the Broncos' Hall of Famers has hung outside Owner Pat Bowlen's office at UCHealth Training Center.
"To our Hall of Fame Owner, Mr. B," it reads.
On Thursday, Bowlen moved one step closer to making that sentiment a reality, as the Contributors Committee nominated him and Gil Brandt as finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2019.
Bowlen now stands just a step away from induction into the Hall of Fame.
"This is an exciting day for our family and the Broncos fans who have been so supportive of Pat Bowlen for the Pro Football Hall of Fame," the Bowlen family said in a statement. "Pat would be the first to say it's not just about him but a credit to the many players, coaches and executives he worked with over the years. We're thankful to the Contributor Committee for recognizing the incredible impact Pat's had on the NFL. As we look forward to the final vote, our family also congratulates Gil Brandt on his well-deserved nomination."
In early February, 48 Hall of Fame voters will review his candidacy and cast their votes for induction. The Broncos' owner, who needs 80 percent of the vote to be named a Hall of Famer, is certainly a worthy candidate.
On the field, Bowlen's Broncos teams have enjoyed success seen by few NFL teams.
Consider the following:
- Bowlen is the only owner in NFL history to win 300 games during his first 30 seasons. His 348 total wins are tied for fifth in league history among owners.
- Since 1984, when Bowlen began his tenure as owner, the Broncos have more Super Bowl appearances (7) than losing seasons (6). As Broncos fans remember well, the team won world championships at the end of the 1997, 1998 and 2015 seasons.
- Under Bowlen's leadership, the Broncos have earned the second-best winning percentage (.602) of any NFL team and the third-highest win percentage among all American professional sports organizations.
His role in helping propel the NFL forward is equally as impressive.
When it came to positioning the NFL for success on TV, few had the wide-reaching impact of Bowlen. During his time with the NFL's Broadcasting Committee, Bowlen was responsible for negotiations for the NFL's new $18 billion TV contract.
No single-sport television contract had ever been as lucrative.
He chaired the Broadcasting Committee for years before serving as the co-chair of the NFL Management Council Executive Committee from 2001-2011. In all, Bowlen spent a combined 91 seasons on 15 different committees—a record of service to the league exceeded only by Hall of Famers Dan Rooney and Lamar Hunt.
But as he helped the NFL flourish, he never forgot about the community in Denver or the larger Rocky Mountain region.
A look back through Broncos history at some of the most memorable photos from Broncos Owner Pat Bowlen's tenure leading the team.
Through his role as the chairman of the board for Denver Broncos Charities, Bowlen has donated more than $30 million to causes in the Denver area since the fund was created in 1993.
That includes providing funding for 14 years for the Denver Broncos Boys & Girls Club. The Broncos remain the only NFL team to fully fund their own Boys & Girls Club branch.
The Boys & Girls Club helped honor Bowlen in 2017 for these contributions by naming a new youth development park "Pat Bowlen Field."
Bowlen was also recognized for his contributions to Denver and Colorado in 2013 when he was presented the Mizel Institute Community Enrichment Award.
The ties between Bowlen, the Broncos and the community, though, have long been strong.
Bowlen's team also holds the best home record in the NFL over the last 34 years, and it's not difficult to identify part of the cause.
The Broncos have sold out every one of the 292 home regular-season and playoff games during his tenure as owner, and the team has led the NFL in attendance during that same span. Since 1984, more than 20 million fans have attended Broncos games.
Those unable to attend Broncos games in person have long had the opportunity to watch their team on TV. Denver's 344 national television appearances under Bowlen are the most in the NFL.
Now, it's time to add another line to his already impressive resume, as Bowlen tacks on Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist.
And while the next step — from finalist to enshrinee — is not a guarantee, the Contributors Committee's decision represents the most significant step yet for Bowlen's Hall of Fame candidacy.
Perhaps more importantly, when the Hall of Fame voters convene, precedent should be on Bowlen's side. Since the Contributors Committee began to nominate individuals in 2014, six of the seven nominees were later inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Should Bowlen join those six former nominees, he'll enter rarified air.
He would become the 15th owner or team founder to enter the Hall of Fame, and while many speak to Bowlen's humility and desire to avoid the spotlight, his election would certainly mean a great deal to his family, to each member of the organization and to the state of Colorado.
"We're absolutely thrilled for Pat and the entire Bowlen family," President/CEO Joe Ellis said in a statement. "There's no question that Pat elevated the NFL, the Broncos and our region over the last three decades. He's always had such modesty and humility, but he's incredibly deserving of this selection and we appreciate the contributor committee nominating him. It's very special to see Pat take such a significant step toward the Pro Football Hall of Fame."
For years, Broncos Country has hoped this day would come — and it did Thursday, providing an opportunity to celebrate and honor Bowlen's contributions to both the game and the community.
The man who helped make the Broncos — and the NFL — what they are today has taken another step toward the Hall of Fame.
He's taken another step toward a gold jacket of his own.