ENGLEWOOD, Colo. —** Before Peyton Manning became a Bronco, he was a frustrating opposing force for Denver. His 6-2 record in the regular season was difficult enough, but Manning also helped lead the Colts to two postseason wins by a combined score of 90-34. For the competitive Pat Bowlen, Manning must have been one bothersome, though respected, competitor.
"I got to meet Mr. Bowlen a couple of times when I played for Indianapolis. I don't think that he liked me all that much, to tell you the truth," Manning said, with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek. "That's who he was. He was a competitive guy and he liked the Denver Broncos. I get it and I respect that."
That devotion to be consistently competitive ended up helping sell the Broncos as the top free-agent destination for Manning in 2012, and Bowlen flew back from vacation to welcome him.
"He flew back from Hawaii when I signed here with Denver," Manning said. "I had a good conversation with him, which I enjoyed, and I still get a chance to visit with him."
With Mr. Bowlen's induction to the Ring of Fame during halftime on Sunday, the weekend will be an emotional one, especially for people who have felt his impact for years, like Head Coach Gary Kubiak.
"It means a lot. Just to have the opportunity to be back—if I was somewhere else, I wouldn't get a chance to be around that  team coming back or have a chance to see Annabel [Bowlen], see the family and tell them, 'Thank you,'" Kubiak said. "I feel very fortunate to have a chance to be back. I know it's a big weekend for the family, big weekend for the former team, but we're all proud of him.
"I know I'm very, very thankful as a coach and a player to have had an opportunity to work for him. It's been very special."
Though Manning only had a couple seasons in Denver before Mr. Bowlen stepped away from managing the daily operations, he's familiar with the long list of Mr. Bowlen's accomplishments and accolades.
"When you go into the Ring of [Fame], you have a chance to read about all that he's accomplished as an owner," Manning said. "I can't do it justice in this short press conference, but what he's done for Denver, for this community, for the Broncos and for the NFL, it's as impressive as it gets.
"I think that I speak for any player just to say that it's an honor to play for a team owned by Pat Bowlen. It's a special weekend. I'm sorry that he won't be there to truly participate, but I know that for his family, it's special for them and it's special for a lot of people."