SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Eighteen years ago, when the Broncos won their first Super Bowl, owner Pat Bowlen stood on the podium in the middle of the field and handed the Lombardi Trophy to his longtime quarterback. “This one,” he announced, “is for John.”
Sunday night, John Elway returned the favor.
“This one’s for Pat!” Elway said after winning his first title as a general manager.
Bowlen stepped away from the team in July 2014 because of complications from Alzheimer’s disease.
Elway noted that Bowlen would not want him to make that declaration or dedication, but that didn’t stop him from doing so.
“I feel very lucky to be able to say it back to him,” Elway said later. “To be able to get back here and win it and have the opportunity to say this one is for Pat, it’s what I wanted to do. I owe everything to Pat. Pat has given me the opportunity as a player. He has given me the opportunity as an executive. I owe him a tremendous amount.”
Annabel Bowlen, Pat’s wife, spoke before Elway and said: “If Pat was here today, he would say he is very proud of his team and the best fans in the NFL.”
Denver has been to seven Super Bowls while Bowlen has owned the team and his team now has three Super Bowl wins as a franchise.
Head coach Gary Kubiak said he has not interacted with Bowlen for several months, but that did not stop him from expressing his appreciation for the man.
“I can’t describe how proud I am that we can bring this trophy back to him,” said Kubiak, who played for Bowlen as a quarterback, as well. “He;s a wonderful man, a wonderful owner. I wish he was here. I’d give him a big hug.”
Many of the players who won Sunday night’s game have never known or dealt with Bowlen in a significant way. But his influence reaches beyond that.
“It’s great to go out and do something for somebody else,” Super Bowl 50 MVP Von Miller said of his feelings for the owner. “Mr. Bowlen believed in me first. He loved me first. He brought me here, gave me this opportunity to go out there and be with my teammates and influence guys around me and allowed me to be me, with my personality and everything that I do. I can’t really put into words what Mr. Bowlen means to this team.
“It’s been a magical night and I would like to say it, too: This one is for Pat!”