This one’s for Pat, too.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame contributors’ subcommittee will meet Wednesday and determine the two nominees for 2019.
Pat Bowlen will be one. He is most deserving.
The full board of selectors will convene in Atlanta on Feb. 2, a day before the Super Bowl, and vote on the Class of ’19, including players, coaches, the contributors and senior candidate Johnny Robinson, a former Chiefs safety.
It would be appropriate if Bowlen was joined in the Hall of Fame induction next year by three defensive backs who played for the Broncos’ owner.
Champ Bailey is expected to become a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He spent a decade with the Broncos after being acquired from the Washington team and earned 12 Pro Bowl appearances in 15 seasons. He was named to the 2000 All-Decade Team, and was a member of the Broncos in Super Bowl 48.
John Lynch, now the 49ers general manager, also played 15 years in the league – 11 with Tampa Bay before coming to Denver in 2004. He was a nine-time Pro Bowler and owns a Super Bowl ring with the Bucs. He has been a finalist for Canton five times.
Steve Atwater, drafted by the Broncos in 1989, was chosen for the Pro Bowl eight seasons of his 11, the first 10 with the Broncos. He was a vital safety on the back-to-back Super Bowl champions in 1997-98.
How sweet would it be to have four former members of the Broncos’ secondary elected in two years? Brian Dawkins, who got his bust last month, finished an illustrious career with three seasons as a safety in Colorado.
Honoring five ex-Broncos (including Terrell Davis), and the owner, from 2017-2019 would be right after decades of wrong by the Pro Football Hall of Fame committee. (Full disclosure: I served on the committee in the 1990-2000s.)
Three other Hall honorees who played the significant seasons of their Super-Bowl-winning careers with the Broncos – John Elway, Shannon Sharpe and Gary Zimmerman – were signed by Bowlen.
And Floyd Little was in the inaugural foursome of players selected for the Broncos’ Ring of Fame, which was one of Bowlen’s first significant accomplishments when he took over ownership of the franchise in 1984.
In March of that year, NFL owners approved the sale of the Broncos from Edgar Kaiser Jr. to Pat Bowlen, who, oddly enough, owned a home in an exclusive beachfront enclave near Diamondhead, only a few miles from the hotel where those winter meetings were held.
The Broncos won 13 games in Pat’s first season and never stopped winning – 19 postseason appearances, nine AFC title games, seven Super Bowls, three World Championships. There have been just six losing regular seasons since Bowlen, who never owned a team or was in sports management before coming to Denver, began his era of greatness.
Four years after Bowlen risked all his funds, and the Canadian company his father had created, to invest in a passion, the owner and I dined in Honolulu at a restaurant he owned.
“What if you lost it all?” I asked bluntly.
“Never would happen. Football became my life and my love,’’ said Pat, who was just 43 then. “I’ll die with my boots on with the Broncos.”
I wondered if the Ring of Fame and the Hall of Fame were personal goals.
“The only goals that matter for me are Super Bowl championships.’’ His team had lost one the previous season. They would lose another one that season, and one more in the 1989 season.
He did have a personal goal at that point. He wanted to participate in the prestigious IronMan competition in Hawaii. He competed twice and finished respectably. Pat also entered the Oahu Country Club mini-triathlon, won the bike division and ended up third overall. He prized that ribbon around his neck.
However, he and the Broncos won the ultimate prize 10 seasons later, and again the next, and a third in Super Bowl 50, seven years after Pat shockingly had brought up to me in a phone conversation he was experiencing “short-term memory loss. I don’t remember a lot about the (first two) Super Bowls.’’ He is suffering from the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s and declining health.
Ultimately, Pat will be on the Ring of Fame and in the Hall of Fame, goals he never dreamed of or really wanted.
He’s a true champion.