When Peyton Manning was elected into the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame earlier this week, many Broncos fans took it as a forgone conclusion.
Much like his selection to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the greatness of Manning makes it as close to a slam dunk as imaginable.
But as no one knows better than Manning, nothing starts out as certain in football. You have to work for everything, and sometimes it ends up like this.
It is a huge honor for anyone selected.
As the late David "Deacon" Jones once said to a group that I was honored to be a part of, "The Pro Football Hall of Fame is the place where I cannot catch John Elway, and he cannot run away from me. We celebrate the greatness of every single member."
Those words are also true of the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame.
It began back in 1984 as one of the earliest Hall of Fame decisions by Pat Bowlen, who then had only recently become the Broncos' team owner.
"I want to celebrate the greatest players of our history," Pat told me and general manager John Beake in the summer of 1984.
And so it began, with four inductees that first year, and now with Peyton Manning as the Ring's 35th member.
I have been fortunate to be a part of every meeting from 1984 to the present.
That 1984 year was the only one with four inductees, as the team wanted to kick the Ring off with a splash.
The following year was really the only one in which Pat insisted on the inductee, that being former owner Gerald H. Phipps. Phipps was a great man whom I was fortunate to work for, and Pat said it best: "Without Gerry Phipps there are no Denver Broncos."
There have been four years with three inductees (1986, 1988, 2014 and 2016).
There were two inductees in 2001, but mostly there has been either one or none, reflecting the significance of the selection.
There have been 15 years in which no one was selected, and 15 in which one was chosen.
It should be noted that the Broncos face a challenging year of honoring former team members, as Head Coach Mike Shanahan was elected last year but could not be honored at a game due to COVID-19 restrictions.
So, this year former Broncos to be honored include Shanahan and Manning, as well as Hall of Fame inductees Steve Atwater, John Lynch, and Peyton Manning once again.
There have been many moments of passionate emotional appreciation when team President and CEO Joe Ellis makes the phone calls to deliver the news.
All fans have probably seen videos of Pro Football Hall of Fame president David Baker making the famous knock on the door.
Being recognized with membership in the Ring is a close second.
As Ring of Fame inductee Tom Nalen said, "A lot of people cannot make the trip to Canton. But the Broncos are here in Denver, and our fans and relatives come here to see us. Being able to see a 7-foot steel-and-bronze tribute at our own stadium, where the Broncos play, is very special."
And I might add that that is as many words as any group ever heard at one time from the taciturn Nalen.
The amazing statistical history of Peyton Manning is well documented elsewhere on the web. There are so many that it is hard to grasp, but when you start with being Most Valuable Player in the National Football League (the only five-time MVP in league history) and the quarterback who led Denver to victory in Super Bowl 50, the rest of the astonishing list of accomplishments just fall into place.
Not every player can have as illustrious a career as Manning, but every one of the 35 members of the Ring of Fame made huge contributions to Broncos history.
There is a very pithy quote that applies very well to all of our Ring of Famers.
Billy Martin, the late, great manager of the New York Yankees, said upon having his number retired by the team, "I may not be the greatest Yankee that ever lived, but I'm the proudest."
Selection to the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame is a lifetime honor, and Peyton Manning is richly deserving of joining this group in 2021.