Bowlen may re­ceive call from Hall in 2018

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Nicki Jhab­vala

Fri­day af­ter­noon Terrell Davis sat in an old high school au­di­to­rium in Can­ton, Ohio, to cel­e­brate his moment and week in the spot­light, as one of the Pro Foot­ball Hall of Fame’s new­est mem­bers. The for­mer Bron­cos run­ning back re­flected on his jour­ney to the Hall, on his fa­ther, on his Su­per Bowl vic­to­ries, on a fa­mous pre­sea­son hit that launched his NFL ca­reer, and on a dev­as­tat­ing hit that left him phys­i­cally scarred and pre­ma­turely re­tired.

“I didn’t ex­pect the owner to call me af­ter I tore my ACL,” Davis said. “You ex­pect the train­ers, maybe a team­mate, maybe your po­si­tion coach to call you. Pat (Bowlen) was the first one to call. That lit­tle ges­ture that he did, it meant the world to me. I’d run through a brick wall for that man. “So I’m hop­ing he gets in.” Davis isn’t alone.

The Pro Foot­ball Hall of Fame’s nine-mem­ber con­trib­u­tors com­mit­tee will con­vene Aug. 25 to se­lect its 2018 fi­nal­ist. Bowlen is be­lieved to be near the top of the list, and the feel­ing — the hope — is that if his name is called, he will re­ceive the re­quired 80 per­cent min­i­mum vote next Fe­bru­ary so he can join Davis in the Hall of Fame.

“He’s going to get in,” for­mer Bron­cos coach Mike Shana­han said of Bowlen. “There’s no ques­tion in my mind that he’s going to get in. The ques­tion is, is it going to be next year or the year af­ter that?”

Bowlen’s legacy is wrapped in a rare com­bi­na­tion of num­bers and rev­er­ence, both spo­ken of of­ten by his cur­rent and for­mer play­ers.

No other owner in league his­tory recorded 300 to­tal games in their first 30 sea­sons at the helm. And no other NFL team has a bet­ter win­ning per­cent­age (.612) since 1984, when Bowlen pur­chased a ma­jor­ity stake in the Bron­cos for $78 mil­lion. (Ac­cord­ing to Forbes’ lat­est val­u­a­tions,

the Bron­cos are es­ti­mated to be worth $2.4 bil­lion.) And no other team has ap­peared on na­tional tele­vi­sion (337 games) more than Den­ver has.

In his 33 years of own­er­ship, the Bron­cos have won 13 di­vi­sion ti­tles, seven AFC cham­pi­onships and three Su­per Bowls. They have sold out ev­ery home game for a 387-game streak that stretches back to 1970. And the clincher? The Bowlenowned Bron­cos have had more Su­per Bowl ap­pear­ances (seven) than los­ing sea­sons (five).

“Look at not only the his­tory of the Bron­cos and the suc­cess on the field — Pat Bowlen has run a first-class fran­chise since way be­fore I got here,” Davis said. “It’s in the stats; just look at the num­bers. It’s one of the most suc­cess­ful win­ning fran­chises in the NFL.”

But Bowlen’s im­pact is still felt at the high­est level of the NFL too.

A mem­ber of nine NFL com­mit­tees, Bowlen was a cat­a­lyst in in­ter­na­tional ex­pan­sion, tak­ing the Bron­cos to Lon­don, Mex­ico City, Tokyo and be­yond to com­pete. As chair of the NFL broad­cast­ing com­mit­tee in 1998, he bro­kered the league’s $18 bil­lion TV con­tract — the most lu­cra­tive sin­gle-sport con­tract in his­tory — and was the vi­sion­ary be­hind “Sun­day Night Foot­ball,” which av­er­aged 20.3 mil­lion view­ers per game last year and has been the top prime-time pro- gram the last six years.

“The fact that Sun­day night is now the big­gest night — that goes back to Pat. That goes back to him work­ing with Dick Eber­sol, who ran NBC Sports at the time,” broad­caster Al Michaels told The Den­ver Post in 2015. “Sun­day night has about a 50 per­cent larger au­di­ence than Mon­day night does, and you can at­tribute that to Pat’s vi­sion and the fact that he fig­ured, ‘Hey, you know what, if we can make our big game Sun­day night with a flex­i­ble sched­ule and all of that, that would be the best way to max­i­mize the value of the NFL on TV.’ ”

Lo­cally, Bowlen op­er­ated qui­etly, fund­ing a Bron­cos Boys & Girls Club and con­tribut­ing more than $30 mil­lion to Den­ver-area or­ga­ni­za­tions through Den­ver Bron­cos Char­i­ties — and many more anony­mously.

“There are so many things he did where he did them and said, ‘You never tell the press about this,’ ” said Jim Sac­co­mano, for­mer Bron­cos vice pres­i­dent of cor­po­rate com­mu­ni­ca­tions. “‘The press never knows.’ ”

Nearly ev­ery for­mer Bronco has a story about Bowlen, a moment when they sat in his of­fice and talked about life, or a time they sat side by side on sta­tion­ary bikes in the team’s weight room, or a time Bowlen promised a player he would ar­range for his en­tire fam­ily to at­tend a game, no ques­tions asked. Rarely do these sto­ries in­clude foot­ball.

“I think he just loved hav­ing that per­sonal con­tact with play­ers and for­mer play­ers,” said Jim Schafer, Bowlen’s for­mer as­sis­tant and a close friend. “It re­ally meant a lot to him. It was just in­cred­i­ble to see the love that the for­mer play­ers — I’m start­ing to tear up — had for him.”

Bowlen’s dis­in­ter­est in the lime­light has gar­nered re­spect and ap­pre­ci­a­tion from his play­ers and em­ploy­ees, who say their owner was hands-on but not a med­dler.

The Bron­cos hope their owner won’t be able to avoid the lime­light any longer.

“Hope­fully this is the year,” said gen­eral man­ager John El­way. “As we talked about so many times how much he de­serves it, what he’s done for the league, his par­tic­i­pa­tion on dif­fer­ent com­mit­tees in the league and the re­la­tion­ships with the com­mis­sion­ers. What Pat has con­trib­uted to the NFL has grown it to where it is today. There is no ques­tion he de­serves to be in there.”

“He’s going to get in. There’s no ques­tion in my mind that he’s going to get in. The ques­tion is, is it going to be next year or the year af­ter that?”

Mike Shana­han, for­mer Bron­cos coach

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