Champ Bailey: Best part of playing for Broncos, Bowlen? "The love never stopped"

Photo courtesy of USA Today
Clark Judge

(EDITOR’S NOTE: To access the Champ Bailey interview fast-forward to 24:10 of the above attachment)

Champ Bailey is “grateful” he’s a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer, but he’s not surprised. He insisted he should be one before the Hall’s board of selectors met earlier this month, and he reiterated those comments afterward.

“I knew,” the former star cornerback said on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast, “without any comparisons to anybody, without a doubt I should be a first-ballot guy.”

And he was. So there was little suspense.

Nevertheless, there was drama … and emotion. Because in joining the Hall’s Class of 2019, Bailey was elected along with Denver owner Pat Bowlen and was chosen when the Hall's voters met in the state (Georgia) where he grew up and played his collegiate football.

“That’s the icing on the cake,” Bailey said. “It’s like I’m re-signing with the Broncos all over again. It’s that kind of excitement, but on another level.”

And it should be. Because without Bailey going from Washington to Denver in a 2004 trade, he might not have ended his career in Canton. With the Broncos, Bailey was named to eight of his 12 Pro Bowls, five of his seven All-Pro teams and was a first-team all-decade choice. All that was missing was a Super Bowl ring, though Bailey made it to Super Bowl XLVIII in his last season in Denver.

Bailey relished his time in Denver and called Bowlen “the best owner in sports history.” So we asked him: What was the best part of playing for Bowlen … and the Broncos?

“I never thought I would leave the Redskins, first off, until that final season,” he said, referring to 2003. “I realized they really do not value me whatsoever. And once you don’t feel that love … and you have people out there who have that opportunity to get you, and you see that love coming back … it’s like: OK, these guys are going to pay me what I ask for; they’re going to treat me like I’m a franchise player and value my work.

“And it never waned from Day One to the time I was cut. That love never stopped. That’s one thing I felt when I got there. Even before I got to the Broncos, you always like felt everything was going to be OK; they were going to take care of you, no matter what.

“That’s the reason they were in the playoffs every other year … or every year. They were always in the running to win the AFC West. So, with that track record, I knew things would be better on the other side. Lucky for me I was able to land with a franchise like that, with an owner like Pat Bowlen. I mean, you couldn’t ask for a better move at that time of my career.”

And you couldn’t ask for a better conclusion. Not only was Bailey a first-ballot choice to the Hall. He’s part of history, with four defensive backs – including two cornerbacks – elected in the same year. That is meaningful, and Bailey knows it. But he also knows how significant it is to punctuate his career in Canton.

“I’m on a team," he said, "that I can’t be cut from."

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