Rod Smith and Terrell Davis stood before the Broncos Boys & Girls Club gymnasium Friday afternoon with hundreds of young eyes staring back to deliver a tribute close to their hearts.
The Broncos’ Ring of Famers had long planned to address this group in conjunction with the Global Children Financial Literacy Foundation. But the event gained significance when everyone woke to the news that Broncos owner Pat Bowlen had died late Thursday following a lengthy battle with Alzheimer’s. Just take a look at the large photo above the gymnasium’s entryway; it’s Bowlen smiling and hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.
Smith and Davis took turns on the microphone to promote “Wesley Learns About Insurance,” a children’s book authored by Prince Dykes and featuring Davis among its characters, although much of the conversation shifted to Bowlen and how his vision still impacts Denver-area youth today.
“I was here groundbreaking when we had the shovel and I grew up as a Boys and Girls Club kid,” Smith said. “(Bowlen) came in with a huge checkbook. I think it was over a million bucks. He was really invested in these kids and invested in this neighborhood. For me, you don’t forget stuff like that.”
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Bowlen donated over $35 million to various causes during his time as chairman of the board of Denver Broncos Charities with the Boys and Girls Club, located in the Montbello neighborhood. Bowlen’s kindness was measured by more than dollars, especially as Broncos players faced their own personal trials.
“When I had my surgery in 1999 when I tore my ACL, the first phone call I received out of surgery was Pat Bowlen,” Davis said. “Plenty of times we would just sit there and talk about life. And the first time I met him I remember it vividly because he walks up and he introduces himself as the owner. I’m thinking, ‘He didn’t have to do that.’ And he knew everything about my family. Even if he had to research it to find out those things about me, it was important because he made you feel a certain way. That’s a skill and a gift that he had.”
Smith appreciated how Bowlen deflected credit throughout his life for charitable efforts. He made sure Friday’s audience wouldn’t forget what Bowlen’s philanthropy created.
“There are a lot of great people around here and Pat Bowlen always wanted to let those people shine,” Smith said. “I want those kids to remember that this guy was a part of their life. We might not get to ever see him again in the physical (form), but his work is always here.”