Pat Bowlen is honored with the 2013 Community Enrichment Award from the Mizel Institute

The Colorado Statesman

Football, politics — they’re both contact sports, right? So it was fitting that the May 22 dinner honoring Denver Broncos Coach Pat Bowlen with the Mizel Institute’s 2013 Community Enrichment Award combined them both.

We’ll start with the politics, since we are essentially a political newspaper.

The setting at the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum was as vast and as crowded as a jammed political convention hall during an election year — filled with some 2,100 guests, of which some 300, more or less, were elected officials. Others had ties to Colorado politics in one way or another, as well as ties around their necks which bore the Bronco orange trademark color. Attorney General Tom Horne may have come the farhest, all the way from Arizona.

Larry Mizel, right, warmly greets Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, left, as the 2013 Mizel Institute’s annual Community Enrichment Award recipient as Gov. John Hickenlooper, center, shares in the camaraderie on May 22. Bowlen is also chairman of the Denver Broncos Charities, which has donated more than $25 million to charitable organizations in the Denver area since 1993.

Elected state officials mixed with local legislators, lobbyists and consultants eyed current and potential candidates — it was prime political pickin’.

Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, recipient of this year’s Mizel Institute’s Community Enrichment Award, with Denver Broncos lobbyist and former Rep. Bill Artist and Sharon Owings proudly pose for the camera at the May 22 event at Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum.

And the timing of the event, coincidentally, was barely a couple hours after one of the most awaited political decisions of the year: Gov. John Hickenlooper’s announcement whether he would grant convicted killer Nathan Dunlap a reprieve or allow the state to carry out the death penalty.

Denver Broncos Vice President of Operations John Elway, Steve Demby and Steve Farber from the law firm of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, and Denver real estate developer Jim Sullivan at this year’s dinner.

With the political world buzzing about the Governor’s decision to grant Dunlap a “temporary” reprieve while he remained in office, Hickenlooper had set off a flurry of debate, and it was only natural that it would spill over to the assembled crowd at this evening’s event. Seems that just about everyone wanted to talk about it and everyone seemed to have an opinion.

Bob and Phyllis Hanfling chat with Denver Police Chief Robert White and his wife Valerie at the Mizel award dinner for Pat Bowlen.

And Hickenlooper, who seemed outwardly relieved and almost playful after his eventful day, added — unwittingly or not — to the politics of the moment by singling out and very publicly praising his chief of staff, rumored to have played a major role in convincing her boss to not fulfill the death penalty. In commenting about Roxanne White, Hickenlooper heaped on the praise, calling her the best chief of staff in “all of the United States of America.”

“This one’s for you, Pat” exclaims Larry Mizel to the recipient of the 2013 Mizel Institute’s Community Enrichment Award.

Shifting easily from politics to sports, Hickenlooper explained that he jokingly refers to himself “on a good day” as the governor of the entire state of Colorado.

“Larry Mizel, center, stands with some of the Denver Broncos former super stars, all members of the NFL’s Hall of Fame: Shannon Sharpe, left, John Elway, Gary Zimmerman, Floyd Little, Tom Jackson and Billy Thompson.

But on this special occasion, he told the guests, his staff was calling him the governor of “the entire Bronco nation.”

Colorado Springs developer and former Republican gubernatorial candidate Steve Schuck with currrent Gov. John Hickenlooper.
Photos by Jody Hope Strogoff and John Schoenwalter/The Colorado Statesman

It was a title Hickenlooper gladly accepted. Colorado, he said, “has arguably one of the most popular and fanatical sports teams in the history of sports. There is no more beloved franchise in the United States than the Denver Broncos and a good part of that is Pat Bowlen.”

Hickenlooper talked about watching the Denver Broncos from the owner’s box with Bowlen, who he called the “most charming and gracious host that ever lived.” That is, until the game starts. At that point, Hickenlooper quipped light heartedly, don’t bother to offer commentary or observations to the attentive coach: “You’ll suffer the consequences.”

Pat Bowlen, Hickenlooper said, makes Denver and Colorado better places in which to live.

Aside from his legacy with the football team, which he has owned since 1984, Bowlen serves as Chairman of the Board of Denver Broncos Charities, which has donated more than $25 million to charitable organizations in the Denver area since the inception of the fund in 1993.

Bowlen served as the Honorary Chairman of the Colorado Special Olympics for 19 years and as Honorary Chairman of the Stadium Stampede (formerly the Colorado Family Classic) benefiting St. Joseph’s Hospital Foundation for 28 years.

Forgive us as we refer to Bowlen’s official biography — we could never master this lengthy list of achievements without crib notes.

Other organizations benefiting from Bowlen’s leadership and participation include the University of Denver, Capuchin Friars, University of Northern Colorado, Rose Medical Center, American Ireland Fund, Irish Community Center, Hawaii Maritime Center, Alberta Bar Association, Law Society of Alberta and the Young Presidents’ Organization.

Bowlen was elected to the University of Denver Board of Trustees in 1987 and is currently a member of the DU Athletic Affairs Committee. Previously, he served on the Institutional Advancement Committee and the Institutional Advancement/University Relations subcommittee.

Under Bowlen’s leadership, the Denver Broncos partner with and support numerous causes in Denver communities, including Bonfils Blood Center; Play 60, the NFL’s campaign aimed at encouraging kids to be active for 60 minutes a day in order to reverse childhood obesity; the Inner City Health Center; HealthONE’s Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children; Food Bank of the Rockies; the Denver Metropolitan chapter of Susan G. Komen for the Cure; the Denver Rescue Mission; the American Heart Association; Boys & Girls Club of Metro Denver; Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver; The United Way; and Denver Public School Athletics.

“Previous honorees have been remarkable individuals—distinctive in their accomplishments — professionally, civically and philanthropically,” said Mizel, founder of the Mizel Institute. “This year we pay tribute to a genuine leader in the sports industry and our community. Pat Bowlen has contributed substantially to enriching the lives of Coloradans along with football enthusiasts around the world. It is appropriate that we honor him for his profound and longstanding devotion to our community.”

Proceeds from the $1,5 million raised at the dinner go towards operating expenses for the Mizel Museum and the Counterterrorism Education Learning Lab.

See the May 31st print edition for full photo coverage.