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The Next Step: ESPN's Adam Schefter on Owner Pat Bowlen's impact on Denver, NFL TV deals

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During Pat Bowlen’s 35 years as the owner of the Denver Broncos, he has left his mark on the team, the Denver area and the larger NFL community. The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Contributors Committee recognized his remarkable accomplishments — which include a winning legacy and immeasurable contributions to the league’s growth — by selecting him as a finalist for the Class of 2019. As the final vote approaches, DenverBroncos.com will speak with a number of people who have seen firsthand Pat Bowlen’s impact on the Broncos and the NFL.

We continue with ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, who covered the Broncos for more than 15 years for The Rocky Mountain News and The Denver Post. Schefter joined NFL Network in 2004 before moving to ESPN in 2009. He remains perhaps the most-respected NFL reporter. During his time covering the Broncos, Schefter got to know Pat Bowlen and saw Bowlen's impact on Denver and the NFL community.

Schefter describes, in his own words, why Bowlen deserves to take the next step and be elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“I don’t think there was an owner in Colorado — maybe in sports — who cared more about his sports team than Mr. Bowlen did. The Broncos meant so much to him. His life was all about his family and all about his football team, and his football team was his family, which is what made it so important to him and made him such a great owner. I would argue that Pat Bowlen is one of the greatest owners in all of sports and has been. Certainly one of the most-underrated owners. People talk about some of the more well-known names that we hear out there, but nobody cared about his team more than Pat Bowlen. Nobody was better to his team than Pat Bowlen, and nobody was a better owner than the great Pat Bowlen.

“It was not just what Pat Bowlen did for the Denver Broncos, but what he also did for the National Football League. He was on the Finance Committee, he was on the Broadcasting Committee. Every committee that mattered, everything that had any meaning in the NFL — nothing got done without his blessing. When the NFL was negotiating new television contracts that ushered in this new era of huge rights fees, Pat Bowlen was at the forefront of that leading the way. And people can talk about all these other names involved like Paul Tagliabue and Jerry Jones, [but] there was nobody who was more important to driving up the rights fees to the NFL games than the man who led that Broadcasting Committee himself, Pat Bowlen. The NFL would not be as wealthy and as well off as it is were it not for the many decisions that Pat Bowlen made.

“So often, I would walk up to his office on the second floor in the Denver Broncos’ training facility, and he wasn’t there because he was back in New York. He was always back in New York for another league meeting, for another negotiation of another TV contract, for another key decision that had to be made at the NFL level. Pat Bowlen is one of the most underrated people that’s ever been involved in growing the popularity of this sport to where it is today. It’s one of the most popular sports in the country in large part because Pat Bowlen helped make it that way.

“As a reporter for the Denver newspapers, I was never allowed to fly on the Broncos’ team plane, but they always flew the TV station that was affiliated with the team. So I would always be all over Pat about that. And I said, ‘If you ever win the Super Bowl, I want to fly home on the team plane.’ Because it was something I never, ever got to do. And he said, ‘Adam, if we ever win the Super Bowl, you’re flying home with me.’ And I said, ‘Deal.’ And sure enough, the Broncos won Super Bowl XXXII in San Diego, I cancelled my flight — my domestic flight from San Diego into Denver — and I got to fly home, not only on the Broncos’ team plane but in first class, with Pat Bowlen with the Lombardi Trophy next to us.

“I don’t know how I went from being this young kid who grew up on Long Island to flying home with [the man] who helped bring Colorado its first ever Super Bowl trophy. But he made a promise, he kept his promise. Pat Bowlen was a man of his word, and it’s something I always will remember.

“There is no way I would be in the position I am today were it not for Pat Bowlen. The NFL Network — which was a part of his idea, which he helped get going — was hiring, and they came to me, and if Pat Bowlen did not provide his blessing, I would not have left the Denver newspaper wars to go into television. To a certain extent, I owe a large part of my career to everything Pat Bowlen did as the owner of the Denver Broncos, as somewhere who was out front on the NFL Network. He enabled me to grow from the young cub reporter that the Broncos referred to me as, into a television reporter and the job that I currently am fortunate enough to have today.

“When people think about what Pat Bowlen’s legacy will be in Denver, it’s greater than what anybody could ever imagine it to be. He, more than anybody, is responsible for bringing three Super Bowl titles to Denver — the first three Super Bowl titles that ever came to Colorado — because of his commitment, his care, his concern for that team, his dedication to the Broncos. That enabled that franchise to bring three Lombardi Trophies and three parades back to downtown Denver.

“I don’t think that people can put into words how much Pat Bowlen has meant to that city, the people in that city and one of the most beloved organizations in all of Colorado, that being the Denver Broncos. If it was some other owner that bought the Broncos, he might have moved them. Pat Bowlen wouldn’t have done that. He was determined to keep the Broncos right where they belong, with the great fans that they have. He always will be thought of as a man in Colorado who brought three Super Bowl titles there, [and] nationally grew the popularity of the sport, helped raise the revenue involved in football and helped make the game of football what it is today.”

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