Broncos Owner Pat Bowlen Dies at Age 75 After Struggle with Alzheimer's Disease

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured ColumnistJune 14, 2019

ENGLEWOOD, CO - MARCH 20:  Majority owner, president, and CEO Pat Bowlen speaks during a news conference announcing quarterback Peyton Manning's contract with the Denver Broncos in the team meeting room at the Paul D. Bowlen Memorial Broncos Centre on March 20, 2012 in Englewood, Colorado. Manning, entering his 15th NFL season, was released by the Indianapolis Colts on March 7, 2012, where he had played his whole career. It has been reported that Manning will sign a five-year, $96 million offer.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen died at the age of 75 on Thursday after suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

"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," the Bowlen family said in a statement on the team's official website. "His soul will live on through the Broncos, the city of Denver and all of our fans.

"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."

Broncos president and chief executive officer Joe Ellis also issued a statement, per the team's official website:

"This is a very sad day for our organization, our community and the National Football League. Pat Bowlen was the heart and soul of the Denver Broncos. Not only was Pat a Hall of Fame owner—He was a Hall of Fame person. His competitiveness, kindness and humility are the qualities that I will always remember. Even during his battle with Alzheimer's, you could still see that same strength and dignity in Pat that he brought to the office every single day for more than 30 years.

"Pat was the driving force in establishing the championship culture of the Broncos. He was also an extraordinary leader at the league level during a key period of growth. It wasn't all about what Pat did as an owner, but it was the way he did it. The relationships he enjoyed with his players were real and sincere. Pat truly cared about the players in a very genuine way and always wanted them to get the credit. He preferred to be in the background and put every resource toward winning Super Bowls. With the fans, Pat felt in many ways that his team belonged to them and approached things with that in mind. There will never be another owner like Pat Bowlen. My heart goes out to his wife, Annabel, all of his children and all of our fans."

The Broncos later announced the team will hold an open-house public tribute to Bowlen at Broncos Stadium at Mile High on Tuesday.

Woody Paige of the Gazette reported in April 2018 that Bowlen's "physical health is declining dramatically." Bowlen gave up day-to-day control of the organization in July 2014.

Bowlen told the Denver Post in 2009 (h/t NFL.com's Judy Battista) he had been suffering from short-term memory loss.

Bowlen bought the Broncos in 1984 and helped take the organization to new heights. Denver had made the playoffs just four times in its 24-year history prior to Bowlen's tenure, reaching the Super Bowl once. It proceeded to earn 18 postseason berths, 13 division titles, seven Super Bowl appearances and three Lombardi Trophies in Bowlen's 35 years as owner.

According to the Broncos' official website, the team averaged more than 10 wins per season under Bowlen, and its .596 winning percentage was the second-best in the league during that span. He was the first NFL owner to record 300 victories in his first 30 years, and not one NFL owner had more winning seasons (21) than Bowlen in the last 35 years.

Bowlen was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a contributor in February. The class of 2019 will be enshrined Aug. 3.