Pat Bowlen, who won three Super Bowls over three decades as owner of the Denver Broncos, died Thursday at age 75 after a battle with Alzheimer's disease. The Broncos revealed in a statement shortly after midnight local time Friday that Bowlen passed away at his home in Denver.
The Bowlen family released a statement via the team that said: "We are saddened to inform everyone that our beloved husband and father, Pat Bowlen, passed on to the next chapter of his life late Thursday night peacefully at home surrounded by family. His soul will live on through the Broncos, the city of Denver and all of our fans. "Our family wishes to express its sincere gratitude for the outpouring of support we have received in recent years. Heaven got a little bit more orange and blue tonight.
"Pat Bowlen had a competitive spirit with a great sense of humour. As fun-loving as he was, he always wanted us to understand the big picture. We will forever remember his kindness and humility. "More important than being an incredible owner, Pat Bowlen was an incredible human being."
Bowlen bought the Broncos in 1984. He served as the team's CEO until 2014, when he stepped down from day-to-day operations after announcing he was fighting Alzheimer's, a disease his wife, Annabel, was diagnosed with last year. Longtime executive Joe Ellis has run the team since 2014. "This is a very sad day for our organization, our community and the National Football League," Ellis said. "Pat Bowlen was the heart and soul of the Denver Broncos. Not only was Pat a Hall of Fame owner, but he was also a Hall of Fame person. His competitiveness, kindness and humility are the qualities that I will always remember. Even during his battle with Alzheimer's, you could still see that same strength and dignity in Pat that he brought to the office every single day for more than 30 years."
Bowlen will be inducted posthumously into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August along with the 2019 class. Since Bowlen purchased the team, the Broncos have as many Super Bowl appearances as losing seasons (seven) and the league's third-best winning percentage (.597), claiming three Lombardi Trophies in 1997, 1998 and 2015 seasons. Bowlen also helped negotiate the league's wildly lucrative television contracts while serving on the league's broadcasting committee.
"Pat was the driving force in establishing the championship culture of the Broncos," Ellis said. "He was also an extraordinary leader at the league level during a key period of growth. ...There will never be another owner like Pat Bowlen." One of many moments famously linked to Bowlen came after the 1998 Super Bowl, when Bowlen shouted out "This one's for John," after quarterback John Elway engineered the 31-24 victory over Green Bay for the franchise's first title.
Elway, now the team's president of football operations and general manager, remembered Bowlen Friday morning. "Pat gave me so much and he was someone that I always looked up to. He gave this team everything we needed to be the best and compete for championships, and the focus was always on football. That's all you can ask for in an owner -- yet he did more," Elway said.
"He was a tremendous mentor to me and a tremendous friend. Pat was a great listener, always asking what was going on, and I learned so much from watching him. He was a terrific leader. Whether things were going right or things weren't going right, he would always let you know what we needed to get better. He did a great job of applying pressure at the right times but always trusted his football people to make the right decisions. "Other than his family, nothing meant more to Pat than making sure the Denver Broncos were successful. What he did for this team, this city and the entire NFL will never be matched. His shoes will never be filled. I will miss Pat greatly and will always treasure the times we had together. We'll continue to take care of his team as if he were here today."
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