DENVER — Ahead of a halftime celebration during the Broncos' Week 7 game against the Jets, dozens of players, coaches and staff members from Denver's 1997 championship team gathered at Empower Field at Mile High on Saturday night to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the first Super Bowl victory in franchise history.
The close bond the team formed during the 1997 season has never faded, and their reunion was a joyous sight. Many of the players had not seen each other in years, and they reveled in the opportunity to reconnect with their former teammates and reminisce on their championship run.
Owner and CEO Greg Penner and Owner Carrie Walton Penner both attended the celebration, and Penner noted in remarks to open the program that the legacy of success forged by the Super Bowl XXXII team was one of the reasons why the Broncos appealed to the Walton-Penner Family Ownership Group.
"When we first got a little glimmer in our eye about purchasing this amazing organization, a significant part of the allure was the amazing history here — and that's both on the field and off the field," Penner said. "And that really starts with everyone here, including our Ring of Famers, Hall of Famers and Super Bowl Champions. You all are the reason why the Broncos are one of the winningest franchises in sports history."
Penner's remarks were followed by a panel hosted by Voice of the Broncos Dave Logan. Ring of Fame head coach Mike Shanahan and Pro Football Hall of Famers John Elway, Shannon Sharpe, Steve Atwater and Terrell Davis shared their stories from the 1997 season and the team's improbable win over the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XXXII, giving insight into the culture in the locker room, some iconic play calls and what they remember from the Super Bowl.
As the players reunited and reminisced, it seemed as though no time had passed since they made history 25 years ago.
"It's super cool," Atwater said during the event. "All of the guys that I haven't seen — it's been what, 25 years? I've seen some of the guys throughout the years. [Former Broncos DE] Trevor Pryce, I got the chance to see him — he lives in Maryland — a couple of times, but besides that, he hasn't been back here, really. That's really the case for a lot of the guys, but it's always good. We have a group chat with quite a few of us, so we all kind of communicate with each other, make sure everybody is doing okay. It's always good to see guys face-to-face."
Other players who no longer reside in the Denver area see their former teammates even less frequently, which made this reunion that much more special.
"[It feels] amazing," Pro Bowl linebacker Bill Romanowski said. "To see the guys — a lot of people I haven't seen literally for 20 years, and it just brings back probably the greatest memories of my life. I remember when I got drafted by the 49ers, I won two Super Bowls back to back. I was like, 'This is easy to get drafted, and you win Super Bowls.' Then I waited eight years to get back. ... [The 1997 Super Bowl was] the single best game of my life, and not because I played the best game of my life, but a group of men came together to do something special. It was for the organization, it was for John, it was for all of us, it was for [former Broncos owner] Pat Bowlen and it was for our fans. It's just something I will never [forget]. A lot of people ask me, 'What's your favorite Super Bowl?' By far, it was when we beat Green Bay. That stands out to me as the best memory of my life."
Romanowski noted that it did not feel like 25 years had gone by since Super Bowl XXXII, because the memories of that season and their victory are still fresh in his mind.
"This thing called life seems to go fast," Romanowski said. "When you're younger, it seems like it doesn't go very fast at all, but then as you get up in age a little bit, it seems to go like that. As I stand here, being 56 years of age, and looking back, my best years of football were here in Denver. I got to play for four organizations, but this was the best."
On Saturday, the Broncos welcomed members of the 1997 team back to Denver for a 25th anniversary celebration of the Super Bowl XXXII season. At Empower Field at Mile High, the franchise's first Super Bowl champions relived their accomplishments over dinner and a program in their honor.