You will not believe this, dawg.
Maybe the Pro Football Hall of Fame really loves Denver. Or at least it has begun to compensate the less represented NFL team in Canton, Ohio. For the first time, two Broncos will be admitted during the same year. But aside from a piece of football immortality and a date for a golden jacket, do you know what Pat Bowlen and Champ Bailey share?
Well, you probably have heard how fond Bowlen was for Bailey from the moment the cornerback entered team headquarters after arriving at an exchange from Washington in March 2004.
What darling Well, Bailey had trouble believing it when I told him.
"Oh, you have to be kidding," Bailey said. "A dog? Really?"
The dog is a Samoyed 13 years old. A regal and resilient animal, whose ancestry pastured reindeer in Siberia. She's fluffy, white and Pat Bowlen's best friend.
Related: Pat Bowlen selected for the Pro Football Hall of Fame
The name of the dog?
Champ. Named after the best defensive player in Broncos history. Of course.
"Oh, my God," Bailey said. "I had no idea."
How many players in NFL history have 52 interceptions in their career, 12 trips to the Pro Bowl and a dog named after them?
I'm guessing just one. So it's no wonder that the 48 Hall of Fame voters felt compelled to give Bailey a place of honor in Canton during his first year of eligibility.
"When I arrived in Denver in 2004, Mr. B was always present, he was an owner who was much more than the guy who was above signing the checks, I saw him in the morning, working with us. He always had time to talk, he never stepped on anyone's toes or wanted to be the center of attention, but you knew how much he cared, "Bailey said.
The game knows game. Bowlen possessed the vision and strength to push the owners of the NFL and the league into the 21st century, helping to transform our national pastime into a goliat that defines American culture. Bailey was the coolest cat he played in high school in Denver, a tight corner so dominant he did not have to show his neon lights ability, because that 100-yard interception against quarterback Tom Brady speaks for itself , do not you think?
The best is not to boast. Bowlen never told Bailey that there was a dog named Champ, just as the owner of the franchise never mentioned to the star cornerback that Bailey was his lover, a personal favorite that Mr. B revered as few players in the last 30 years.
"He never told me, not with so many words," Bailey said. "That's not something that two men really sit down and talk about, but it got understood."
Soccer is a brotherhood, in a way that the Broncomaniacs who despise the Chiefs or Raiders probably can not fully understand. So when Bailey enters the Hall of Fame as Denver's first defensive stalwart to be consecrated, he owes a humble debt of gratitude to fellow cornerbacks Darrell Green and Deion Sanders, who showed him the ropes when Bailey was a young professional at Washington.
Related: Champ Bailey voted in Pro Football Hall of Fame
"The Hall of Fame was always my goal," said Bailey, with the supreme self-confidence that never required braggadocio. "From the beginning of my NFL career, it was always something I was working for, I wanted to be the best in my trade, that's the way I'm taking myself, I want to be the best."
Here's why I find it especially appropriate for Bailey to join Bowlen in the 2019 class at the Hall. While everyone at Broncos Country has been lobbying for a long time on behalf of Mr. B, sick with Alzheimer's disease, to enter the Hall before he passes away, the father of three victories at the Denver Super Bowl never believed that the game should be about him.
The Broncomania that fills the Federal Boulevard stadium is built on players like Bailey, who caused fans from Pueblo to Greeley and from Limon to Grand Junction to treat a football team as if it were a family. Bowlen got it. He understood that a closed corner, not the type in the owner's box, was the champion of the people. At the NFL level, the weirdest thing is to see an athlete that everyone else in the group knows is above. In that sense, the only true partner of John Elway in the history of the Broncos is Bailey.
During the first weekend of August, the city of Canton, Ohio, will be painted orange. Let us praise Mr. B with gratitude and encourage Champ.
You're going to love this, dawg.