When a person is being honored, and the nature of the relationship one has had with that individual is deeply personal, where do you begin in making any comments?
For me, regarding Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, it all comes down to two separate statements that he made to me on separate occasions.
The Broncos officially dedicated their indoor practice facility the Pat Bowlen Fieldhouse Saturday night. (all photos by Eric Bakke)
One offseason day many years ago, I was sitting in his office talking to him about our upcoming media guide, and specifically about his biography in that publication.
I asked him if there was anything special he wished to have in his bio, and as per his norm he said, "No, just handle it however you wish."
But then as we continued to talk about the team and NFL in general, Pat uttered the legendary words, "I just want us to be number one in everything."
That statement so embodied his spirit as owner of the team, then and now, that of course I led his bio with it, have used it many times, and wrote it right under his name in the copy that accompanies his statue at Ring of Fame Plaza.
The words embody the man, along with another comment he made, many years later.
As he was beginning to receive accolade after accolade for his great career, he said in his office one day, and repeated many times over, "It's not about me."
Those two sentences, taken together, say it all about Mr. B and, in fact, provide advice as solid as I have ever heard about living a life, about being a human being on earth.
"It's not about me" and "I want us to be number one in everything."
But Pat was actually wrong about it not being about him.
Because of his passion for the Broncos, his players, coaches and staff, his fans, the NFL, and his willingness to provide all the financial and emotional resources imaginable to make things better for all those entities, it has always been all about him.
Pat will be inducted at halftime when we play the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night, a fitting intersection for he has been called the father of Sunday Night Football.
He was the first and remains the only NFL owner to win 300 games in his first 30 years of ownership. Consider the difficulty in that accomplishment, beginning with the fact that one is not even eligible until he or she has been the owner of a team for three decades.
The Broncos' Ring of Fame honors those who have most impacted the franchise to be cemented in team history. (All photos from Denver Broncos photo archives unless noted as from AP Images)
His entry into the Ring of Fame is so deserving. When he bought the team in 1984, one of the first things he did was to create the Ring and bring honor to all our alumni, from our greatest players to those who played just one game.
His door was always open to any and all of them.
The Broncos have won more than 60 percent of their games during his ownership, a percentage that is the best in the NFL and ranks as third-best among more than 150 pro sports teams in America.
One person provided the drive, passion and financial resources to win those games.
We have never had a non-sellout during his tenure and have had some of the highest TV ratings in the NFL.
The Broncos' charitable contributions are well-documented elsewhere, but I can think of several times when he paid for something far in excess of what might have been asked, and directed me to make absolutely sure no one would ever know. "Just give, do the right thing, and shut up about it," he said in an extreme desire to never blow his own horn.
Since he would never do it, who can blow Pat's horn but us?
Another sentence that I once wrote in his bio, but cannot reiterate often enough, is that whether he is judged by his team's success or by his accomplishments on behalf of the league, Pat Bowlen is one of the greatest contributors in the history of pro football.
I was honored to emcee a Broncos Legends Luncheon Friday and listen to heartfelt comments from Ring of Famers like Gary Zimmerman, Floyd Little, Tom Jackson, Billy Thompson and Gene Mingo, players talking to other players, all of them telling stories about the little things the owner did for each of them, things he did and things he said, all of which said more about Pat Bowlen as a man than as an owner.
He has always given his team every chance to win, and during his ownership the Broncos have had more Super Bowl appearances than losing seasons.
You have done this, Mr. B.
It is all about you, it always has been and always will be.
No one has ever been more deserving of induction into the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame.