Recalling the depths Pat Bowlen went to make his Broncos "No. 1 in everything"

Clark Judge

(EDITOR’S NOTE: To access the Pat Bowlen interview, fast-forward to 1:07:55 of the attachment above)

When thousands of fans last week streamed through Broncos Stadium at Mile High to honor former Denver Broncos’ owner Pat Bowlen, they were surrounded by memorabilia from Bowlen’s 30 years of owning the Broncos, including the Broncos’ three Super Bowl trophies.

But they got more than that. They saw John Elway. They shook hands with the Bowlen family. And they heard of the enormous success of the Broncos during the more than three decades that Bowlen owned the team.

What they didn’t hear, however, was a story that illustrated how committed Bowlen was to making the Broncos a premier NFL franchise. Instead, they had to wait for Jim Saccomano – the Broncos’ public-relations chief for almost all of Bowlen’s tenure – divulge it on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast.

It had to do with former pass rusher Simeon Rice and how the Broncos courted him when he became an unrestricted free agent in 2007. But there was an unusual problem that Bowlen was forced to address by himself, and … well, let Saccomano explain.

“People know who Simeon Rice was. Right?” Saccomano said. “Good ballplayer in the NFL. Well, we wanted to sign him, but we didn’t have any more money. We were out.

“So Pat went to the bank and took out a loan by himself and used his money to sign Simeon Rice. He went to the bank … on his own … and used his money to sign the player when we were out.”

While Rice wound up joining the Broncos, he didn’t make an impact. But that’s not the point. This is: Bowlen was so determined to add a player the Broncos personnel department coveted that he didn’t think twice about taking out a personal loan to make it happen.

But that was Pat Bowlen.

He was driven by success. His Broncos won over 300 games during his three decades as team owner and appeared in seven Super Bowls – winning three of them. His star quarterback (John Elway) is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His star running back (Terrell Davis) is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And cornerback Champ Bailey will be inducted in the Hall in August.

Of course, so will Pat Bowlen.

“You have a favorite story (of Pat) that you think of when his name comes up?” Saccomano was asked.

“So many,” he said, “but one night – one of those dark and stormy nights – I’m working on the media guide, and he’s in his office. He was always in late, and he was always in. And I go and do his bio. So I go in and say, “Pat, anything special you want in your bio?’

“And, as you can imagine, true to form, he said, “Nah, nothing special. You do whatever you want with that.’ And he said, ‘Jim, I just want us to be number one in everything.’

“Well, not only did he give me the line that I led his bio with, but it’s a line that’s on the wall of Dove Valley (the Broncos’ training facility). It’s a huge sign: ‘I want us to be No. 1 in everything – Pat Bowlen.’

“That’s how he was. I really believe his spirit will … and does … drive this organization.”

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