CANTON, Ohio — When members of the Bowlen family and Director of Sports Medicine Steve “Greek” Antonopulos walked on stage to unveil Pat Bowlen’s Pro Football Hall of Fame bust at Saturday night’s enshrinement, President/CEO Joe Ellis sat just a few feet away.
As a long-time Broncos employee and friend of Bowlen, the moment was emotional.
“It was something else,” Ellis said Saturday. “I think for all of us, me personally, it was pretty special, pretty moving. … It was really neat the way they put together the video with the interspersing of the kids all saying great things about their father and to have Steve be the presenter, it’s just a fitting way to go into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Steve was, I think, the guy Pat trusted the most in the organization for all of his years as owner. I’ll tell you, it was really special to sit there and watch that and take it all in.”
Ellis was just one of several members of the Broncos organization — both past and present — who were in attendance on Saturday. Former Broncos head coaches Mike Shanahan and Gary Kubiak were among those who made the trip.
“I go a long way back with Pat, all of us do,” Ellis said. “So many different people have been there for so long at the Broncos. A lot of them were here tonight. It’s pretty special.”
Hall of Fame owners Eddie DeBartolo and Jerry Jones also showed their support for Bowlen, as they stopped by Bowlen’s enshrinement party on Friday night.
“That group of three, they were really instrumental in getting Paul Tagliabue elected as the commissioner after Pete Rozelle,” Ellis said. “Eddie was at Pat’s party last night, so was Jerry. Jerry showed up at 2 a.m. I’ll put that on the record. The three of them had a kinship and it was wonderful to catch up with them last night. Pat’s part of that regime.”
In all, the enshrinement served as a final capstone for a months-long process — and it didn’t disappoint.
“It’s sensational,” Ellis said. "And all the fans that are here coming up to everybody in the organization, talking about Pat, talking about Champ, talking about the love for the team and the love for them, it’s been really overwhelming, rewarding and great to see. It’s just been a wonderful weekend for all of us."
And Ellis said Bowlen’s enshrinement elevates the Broncos’ standing among NFL franchises “to a certain extent, maybe.” But he also made clear that Saturday was about Bowlen’s legacy, one that now stands among the NFL’s best.
“Pat’s legacy speaks for itself and all that he accomplished,” Ellis said. “It comes from tremendous support from the best professional football fan base in the country. We’re very, very lucky, very grateful, and I know Pat would feel that way if he were with us tonight.”