DENVER — Dr. Jeremy Shelton leaps out of perfectly good helicopters to ski down mountains in Alaska.

He’s a proud Coloradan, a former soccer star at Creighton, a dog lover, a Pearl Jam buff, an anesthesiologist in Denver. But no powder run above tree line, backstage pass or med school graduation can outdo the email he found — in his junk-mail folder — at 10:07 a.m. Friday.

"I check my junk mail about once a week,” he says. "Thank goodness I did.”

That was the precise moment in time when “Shelty” became a Broncos season-ticket holder.

“And I was in the operating room!” he says. “So I celebrated with a quiet shout of elation into my mask.”

Through Super Bowl parades and Josh McDaniels eras, Broncos season tickets have been Colorado’s golden ticket. They can be family heirlooms passed down through generations of superfans. And yet the myths and legends of the waiting list — and the process through which seats are acquired — remained somewhat of a mystery, at least to me.

Hopefully this clears up some of the mystery.

Right now the waiting list for Broncos season tickets is “just under 90,000” hopefuls, says Clark Wray, senior director of ticket strategy and analytics. That means if you put your name on the waiting list tomorrow, the Broncos estimate your email will arrive in roughly 13 years — or right around the time Arch Manning, Peyton's and Eli’s ballyhooed nephew, is challenging Patrick Mahomes for 2033 NFL MVP. The wait for club-level season tickets is roughly seven years, though wait times depend on a number of factors, such as team performance.

“We didn’t have a club seat waiting list until about 2012. Coincidentally it happened when a certain new quarterback arrived,” Wray says.

There is no fee for tossing your name on the general reserve seat waiting list, so it’s a safe bet some of the names on the list are there just for kicks. Wray, who began his Broncos career as an intern in 1998, says the wait list has grown by as many as 10,000 names in one offseason. Additions are usually fewer than that.

How many seats at the 76,125-seat Empower Field at Mile High become available annually?

“If there’s even 1,000 seats that open that’s quite a bit. It’s usually very few seats,” Wray says. “You’ve got to remember that each person can purchase up to four seats. It’s not a one-in, one-out type deal."

OK, the question on everyone’s mind: Will all these lucky ticket holders be able to use their season tickets for the 2020 season? In short, the Broncos don't know yet. And it probably won’t be their decision to make. It’s likely the NFL will lean on local authorities to determine fan attendance for this season. It’s not the Broncos you need to lobby. It’s the mayor’s office, the governor’s office, the so-called experts who dictate what’s open and not open during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The length of the Broncos' waiting list is not normal, by the way. The Green Bay Packers reportedly have a waiting list of over 130,000 names. As of last season, the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs reportedly do not have a waiting list for season tickets.

In 2001, when the Broncos moved into the new stadium, they made it so season tickets can only be transferred to immediate family members.

“We have a number of accounts that have an ‘add’ date of 1960,” Wray says.

Yes, there are “a few hundred” ticket holders who’ve kept those tickets since the Broncos’ first season — or shortly after, in 1961, ’62 and ’63.

“It’s a higher number than people might think,” he says.

Full disclosure: Shelty is a dear friend. He’s a gem of a man. He’s also the caliber of Broncos superfan who went hoarse through the unforgettable 2015 AFC Championship game against the Patriots. He also left Super Bowl XLVIII in the third quarter, opting for Taco Bell, because he couldn’t stand to watch the Seahawks score again. Next time fans are allowed into Mile High, you’ll find him in Section 336 — 40-yard line, Row 12, Seats 1 and 2.

“Who knows if we’ll be able to attend all the games this year due to the pandemic?” he says, fingers crossed. “But these (tickets) are something we’ll have for the rest of our lives.”

Cheers to all the lucky ones. And for the patient folks waiting among the almost 90,000, Shelty stands as proof there is light at the end of the list.

(Contact Gazette sports columnist Paul Klee at paul.klee@gazette.com or on Twitter at @bypaulklee.)

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