Longtime Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen passed away Thursday at the age of 75 following a lengthy fight with Alzheimer's disease.
Super Bowl-winning quarterback Peyton Manning shared that Bowlen's drive to win convinced him to sign with Denver after his time in Indianapolis ended. Manning expressed his gratitude to the late owner in a statement issued Saturday.
"My deepest sympathies go out to the entire Bowlen family," Manning said. "I met Mr. Bowlen for the first time when I played for the Indianapolis Colts and I was over in Hawaii at the Pro Bowl when he was also there at his Hawaiian home. I saw him several times throughout the years and had short, brief conversations with him that I really enjoyed.
"Coming to play here for Denver, even though his health was declining, I did enjoy a couple of conversations with Mr. Bowlen. In my first year in 2012, I was here a lot in the offseason. As soon as I signed with the Broncos, I was basically living at the facility -- studying film, rehabbing and working out. I was usually one of the last to leave the facility during that time. I say, 'I thought I was the last to leave,' but Mr. Bowlen was still there. He'd usually be in the training room on the elliptical, and I would go in there and have conversations with him. He was asking me if we found a place to live yet, and I remember once I told him we found a place to live, he told me he used to live right near there, and we talked a little about that. Just short, brief conversations, and I enjoyed that time with him.
"It was an honor to play for Mr. Bowlen's organization, as I've said numerous times. I always had great respect for the Denver Broncos during my time playing for the Colts competing against his organization. So much of that credit goes to Pat Bowlen and his desire to be the best and to win. That had a lot to do with me signing with the Denver Broncos -- that I knew Mr. Bowlen was all about winning and I knew the people that he had hired would carry on that tradition and legacy. It was a great decision to come play here -- we still live here today. I'm grateful for Mr. Bowlen and the legacy that he's established with the Broncos, in the NFL and certainly in this Denver community. He will be missed by many. It was an honor to know Mr. Bowlen and a real pleasure to have played for his team -- the Denver Broncos."
Bowlen will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame with the 2019 class this August in Canton, Ohio.