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President/CEO Joe Ellis reflects on Owner Pat Bowlen's career, chance Bowlen could enter Hall of Fame with Champ Bailey


LANDOVER, Md. — Normally known for its gold jackets and bronze busts, the Pro Football Hall of Fame could feature a fair bit of orange at its induction for the Class of 2019.

Owner Pat Bowlen was named a finalist Thursday after the Contributors Committee chose him as one of two nominees, and he will be elected for next year's class if he receives 80 percent of the vote from the 48-person Hall of Fame Selection Committee when it votes on Feb. 2.

Bowlen, though, may not be the only member of the organization who is recognized on that Saturday — and then again during the induction ceremony in August 2019.

Former All-Pro cornerbackChamp Bailey, who is in his first year of Hall of Fame eligibility, could be named later this fall as a finalist for the Class of 2019. Should that happen, Bailey would learn of his Hall of Fame election on the same day as Bowlen.

President/CEO Joe Ellis said Friday he thinks Bowlen would enjoy being inducted alongside Bailey.

"I know Mr. B would like that," Ellis said. "Champ was one of his favorite players. One of the players that, late in Pat's tenure before he had to step down [from running the team day to day],he had a really good relationship with. It'd be fun to share the party if that ever was to happen. We'll see."

Ellis knows Bowlen as well as anyone in the Broncos organization, and that was evident Friday as he spoke about Bowlen's nomination as a Hall of Fame finalist.

"It was just a great day yesterday," Ellis said. "When it happened, it was greater than I expected — really just the emotions that came out thinking back on all of his achievements and everything that he's done. We respect the process. There's a vote to take place on Super Bowl Saturday, the day before. He'll need 40 of 48 to get in. We're optimistic, obviously — but as I said, it was very optimistic and joyful and a fun thing to be able to take that phone call."

Should Bowlen receive those 40 votes in February, he'll earn his place among professional football's elite. Ellis, who worked alongside Bowlen with the Broncos and also through his work with the league office, has long realized Bowlen's impact on the NFL.

"I was sort of a liaison for some of the committees that Pat was on," Ellis said. "Working in the league office, I got to sit back, keep my mouth shut and listen to everything that he said and learn from him. He was a real force in the NFL. He really was. I think all of that has been documented and revealed over time.

"He was a real forward thinker, a visionary. He never really wanted or got much credit for that, but it's coming out now."

And with it, a swell of support for another Broncos great could arrive, as well.

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