ATLANTA — They say everything happens for a reason.

Legendary Denver Broncos Owner Pat Bowlen waited far too long to get into the Hall of Fame. In 2016, when Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones got the nod as a contributor finalist over Bowlen, the committee got it wrong. In 2017, when Bobby Beathard got the nod as a contributor finalist over Bowlen, the committee got it wrong again.

But everything happens for a reason, and on Saturday, that reason became clear.

When the news came down that Bowlen will finally be enshrined in Canton, where he belongs, it came paired with more good news—legendary Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey, one of Bowlen’s all-time favorite Broncos, will be going into the Hall of Fame right alongside Pat.

Just the way it should be. The way Pat Bowlen would have wanted it.

“He would want to go in with a player, 100 percent,” daughter Britany said just Friday morning. “I always knew that my dad and Champ had a very close relationship. You could tell by the way my dad talked about Champ Bailey. He has a really strong character that my dad respected.”

“That would mean a lot to him,” Broncos president Joe Ellis said of the idea of going in with Champ back in December.

On Saturday, as Hall of Fame President David Baker introduced the 2019 class, the first member he introduced was Bailey, and right behind him was Pat’s youngest daughter, Annabel Bowlen, representing her father.

For a reason.

There’s an old myth in Canton that the when the lights go off for the night, and all the employees leave, the Hall of Fame busts talk, and on that first night in August, when their busts take their rightful place, Champ says the first conversation his bust will have will be with Pat Bowlen.

“We here, man,” Bailey said of how that conversation would begin.

“There would be a lot of laughs,” he added with a mile-wide smile.

Maybe they’d talk about Bailey’s iconic 100-yard interception return against Tom Brady and the Patriots in 2006. Maybe they’d talk about Bailey’s pick-six of Drew Brees in Week 2 of the 2005 season that helped spark a great run. Maybe laugh about the few plays Bailey got on offense with the Broncos.

They’d probably cover them all, considering they’ll be there for, well, forever.

For two guys who were very understated in the way they carried themselves, it’s even more fitting for them to take on the NFL’s highest honor together. Bowlen would have likely displayed the same modest smile and nod that Bailey did when he was announced on the stage at NFL Honors. And maybe those similarities are what brought them close, closer than the average player and owner.

“It doesn’t happen much because owners usually do their thing and players usually play,” Bailey explained. “There’s usually a middle ground with the people in the middle like the coaches.”

But shortly after the Broncos executed the trade that sent running back Clinton Portis to Washington for Bailey and a second-round pick, Bowlen invited Bailey over to his house.

“If you want something to eat, you’re always welcome in my house,” Bailey remembers him saying. “If you need a place to stay, you can always come to my house.”

“It meant the world to me,” he added. “I didn’t understand why the Broncos were a first-class organization until I got there and a feel for who Pat Bowlen was.”

That day in the Bowlen household served as a catalyst for what would become a special bond. Bowlen adored the way Bailey represented his Broncos on and off the field. Bailey respected how “sneaky competitive” Bowlen was, never one to say much about it, but always quietly displaying that fire.

It’s not talked about often, but Bowlen and Bailey went out of the league together, with Super Bowl XLVIII being the last game Bailey played in and the last game Bowlen served as acting owner of the Broncos. Now, they go to the place “where legends go,” as Bowlen often described it, together. Forever side by side in the 2019 class as the first two Broncos to ever go into the Hall of Fame together.

In the words of Pat’s daughter Beth, “It just makes this that much more special.”

Everything happens for a reason.

Ryan Koenigsberg
Author

Ryan D. Koenigsberg, was born and raised in Boulder, Colorado, and is the Vice President of Content Strategy and co-founder of BSN Denver. Ryan also covers and travels with the Denver Broncos. Education: Graduated from the University of Colorado in 2015 with a degree in both Broadcast Journalism and Communication. Career: I got my start in Journalism in 2011 with an internship covering University of Colorado athletics for a website called BuffScoop.com, a branch of the 247Sports Network. Less than one year after accepting that position, I was promoted to the lead writer of the site. After another year at BuffScoop, I was hired to a staff position covering the Buffaloes for Buffstampede.com, the CU site for the Rivals.com network. Two years later, shortly before officially graduating from CU, I was approached by a dude named Brandon Spano who was planning to revolutionize the way sports were covered in our great state. I accepted a position on the ground floor of BSN Denver that, at the time, centered—once again—around covering the Buffaloes. After another year on the Buffs beat that resulted in winning the inaugural BSN Denver Silver Slugger award—given to the writer whose stories generated the most traffic—I was promoted to the Broncos beat. In my time at BSN, I’ve had the pleasure of covering a Super Bowl, a Pac-12 Championship, a bowl game, multiple games in the NCAA Tournament and so much more. Somewhere along the way, I earned that fancy title you see at the top of all this. Most memorable sports moment: Nov. 23, 2001: Behind SIX Chris Brown rushing touchdowns, the No. 14 Colorado Buffaloes trounce the No. 2 Nebraska Cornhuskers by a count of 62-36. It was the day I fell in love with college football for good. So much so that I haven’t missed a single Buffs’ home game since. The finest sports book I’ve ever read: I don’t know about finest, but when I was in elementary school, I read every single Matt Christopher book in our school library. It was the best way to not stray away from sports while still filling those pesky reading logs. One sports movie that I can’t live without: When I was a kid, I didn’t have cable in my room but I did have a TV with a VCR. Thing is, I only had a few movies on VCR and I needed to have the TV on to fall asleep. Well, eventually I came around to the fact that the best movie I had was “Cool Runnings,” so I feel asleep to the Jamaican Bobsled team every night for years. You need sleep to live and I couldn’t sleep without “Cool Runnings” SO I guess that’s the one I can’t live without. Most memorable experience as a reporter: Pretty hard to beat the week leading up  to Super Bowl 50 in San Francisco. To be at the center of the sports world with not only the greatest athletes but also the greatest sports journalists in the world all around was a truly special experience. Between wake up calls at 4:45 am to catch the media shuttle to the Broncos hotel by 6, the 14-hour work days and the regrettable post-work festivities, I calculated that I got about 20 hours of sleep over an eight-day period… and I wouldn’t have traded one minute of it all. That was awesome. The sport that started it all: It’s hard to pinpoint one sport that truly “started it all” for me. When I was a kid, I remember people used to always ask me what my favorite sport was, and I would always answer the same thing, “Whatever sport is in season.” As long as I can remember, my life has always revolved directly around sports, from playing to watching to writing. It’s not a sport that started it all, it sports that started it all.

2 Comments

  1. Great article RK. It’s frustrated me how Jerry made it in first and then went on a media tour afterwards. Bethard was a travesty. Wish we could hear from Pat. I’m sure the news made him very happy.

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