One year ago today, we lost the great Broncos Owner Pat Bowlen.
He obviously had a magnificent career, as represented by his membership in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His many accomplishments both as steward of the Broncos and as a leader at the league level are well documented, but this one-year anniversary brings to my mind a flood of personal memories that remind me of what a humble and great man he truly was.
I remember Mr. B, and ever so fondly.
I remember when he had just bought the team, and while this seems inexplicable now, it was I and I alone who picked him up for his first official visit to team headquarters.
I was naturally nervous, but he put me at ease right away with his calm manner and "every-man" style, and I remember thinking as I drove, "Boy, this might be a really good thing."
And, of course, it was way beyond good, for more than three decades.
We each have people who pass through our lives, but he was one who made a lasting impact that I know will be with me forever, and I am sure many share their own memories of him.
I remember during his first year of owning the team that I was traveling to San Diego, and, like me, he was arriving earlier than the team. There was a great deal of hand-wringing in Denver to make sure his suite was "just right."
It turned out that he arrived unannounced, just by himself, hours before he was due. He was alone, no cadre or posse of assistants.
When I told him his suite was not yet ready, he said, "I don't care about that stuff. If I go for a run, can I shower in your room?"
I reached for his bag to take it up and he grabbed it away, saying, "Jim, I can carry my own bag."
He was such a regular guy. I thought there were a lot of people back in Denver who did not realize how much Mr. B identified with, and really had, the spirit of the common man.
We all remember him hoisting that Super Bowl XXXII trophy skyward and proclaiming, "This one's for John."
That was Mr. B, always thinking of somebody else, someone whom he thought more deserving than he.
I remember that his office door was always open. Often when I walked by he could be heard on the phone with the commissioner (Paul Tagliabue or Roger Goodell), or Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, and he did not necessarily close the door unless asked to speak privately by the other person.
He was blunt and candid, genuine and caring.
I remember more than once taking a local charity to him and asking Mr. B if he could give something to it.
He always seemed to say, "I'll pay the whole thing. Find out how much it is. But," — and he was quite serious about this — "NO PUBLICITY. And I do not want them doing some kind of press release thanking me. You give because it is the right thing to do, not to pat yourself on the back."
His door was always open.
If I had any kind of public relations issue I could take it right to him, and he would always give me or endorse a common-sense solution.
There were times when I said, "The coach might not like that," and he would say, "You do the right thing, and I'll take care of the coach."
He always had my back and he always had everybody's back.
Even now, one year after his passing, Pat Bowlen is a transcendent individual whose presence looms over the Broncos.
Joe Ellis does a great job embodying the spirit of Mr. B, and John Elway has often invoked his name in reference to the Broncos standard, what we are and what we want to be. When John has said he wants us to win now and forever, he is perfectly expressing the words Mr. B said one night years ago when I walked down the hall to his office.
I remember it like it was yesterday.
"I'm doing your media guide bio, Pat. Anything special you want in it?" I asked.
"Nah," he said. "Put in whatever you want." And then he added the words that would not only lead off his bio that year but became his mantra forever.
"I just want us to be number one in everything."
We are striving to live and play to your standard, Pat.
It is a real high one, but that's the only kind the Broncos will ever have.
Godspeed, Mr. B.
Remember the life of Broncos Owner Pat Bowlen through this collection of photos from moments both big and small throughout his career leading the Broncos.