Longtime Broncos owner Pat Bowlen dies at the age of 75 after battling Alzheimer's

Longtime Denver Broncos owner and Pro Football Hall of Famer Pat Bowlen died at the age of 75 on Thursday night, the Denver Broncos and the Bowlen family announced. 

Bowlen, who stepped away from regular ownership duties several years ago, had been battling Alzheimer's for the last few years.

"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," the Bowlen family said in a statement. 

"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 humor. 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, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2019, served as owner of the Broncos for 35 years. During that span, the team won three Super Bowl rings and Bowlen became synonymous with a pair of catch phrases. 

As pointed out by his family, he routinely used the line "I want to be No. 1 in everything."

"As far as the business of football, winning is everything," Bowlen once said. "It doesn't matter what it is worth. If you are worried about what it is worth, get into some other business."

When the Broncos made their Super Bowl run in 1997, Bowlen coined the phrase "This one's for John!" which he used repeatedly in discussing the victory for then-QB John Elway, who spent the majority of his career fighting to earn a title and finally got two of them on the back end. 

During the latest Broncos Super Bowl run, Elway, now the GM/head of football ops for Denver, flipped the phrase on its head and announced to Jim Nantz on CBS that "This one's for Pat!" while holding the Lombardi Trophy for a third time after Super Bowl 50. Bowlen had stepped away from day-to-day management of the team in the years prior to that victory because of his Alzheimer's diagnosis. His wife, Annabel, would later reveal she too is battling the disease.

Bowlen remains the only NFL owner to have a team appear in the Super Bowl with four different head coaches, as Dan Reeves, Mike Shanahan, John Fox and Gary Kubiak all managed to make it there while coaching Denver.

While not as high profile as other owners, Bowlen was a major contributor to league matters outside of his own team. Bowlen served in all four primary phases of ownership work: television, labor, stadium development and international play. Bowlen served on 15 different NFL ownership committees, including his work as chairman of both the NFL Broadcasting Committee and NFL Management Council Executive Committee. He also served on multiple other committees, including: NFL Films, Compensation, Pro Football Hall of Fame, NFL Network, Finance, and International and Workplace Diversity.

Bowlen was one of the chief principals in negotiating the $18 billion broadcast deal in 1998 and was once described by legendary NBC sports producer Dick Ebersol as "the single major force in the creation of Sunday Night Football."

Bowlen is survived by Annabel and seven children: Amie, Beth, Patrick, Johnny, Brittany, Annabel and Christianna.

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Will Brinson joined CBS Sports in 2010 and enters his seventh season covering the NFL for CBS. He previously wrote for FanHouse along with myriad other Internet sites. A North Carolina native who lives... Full Bio

Our Latest Stories