By Joe Ellis
Keli McGregor was a free agent tight end for the Denver Broncos in 1985 who played in two games before being released by the team. I was an employee for the team at the time, doing whatever tasks Pat Bowlen, John Beake, Dan Reeves and Jim Saccomano asked of me.
Our paths never really crossed in that year.
They would cross later.
After leaving the organization in 1986, I came back to the Broncos in 1998. I met Keli on Monday, February 1, 1999 in the parking lot at the North End of Coors Field, just hours after the Broncos had defeated the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl XXXIII. Keli and the Colorado Rockies had been gracious enough to allow us to stage the start of our victory parade on their grounds. I remember his big size, his big smile and his really big handshake! “Call me,” he said, “and let’s get together.”
And we did. Once or twice a year, for the next 11 years.
We never became close friends personally, but I considered him a trusted friend from a business perspective. Our meetings were always supposed to be a “quick” cup of coffee to “catch up”. They were never quick. We would take turns asking each other questions about how we did things, what our business was like, etc. Keli, it seemed, asked more questions of me, than I did of him.
It should have been the other way around.
One thing that leaders do is listen. He’d ask me a question and never interrupt me. He’d look at you and just listen. I could see how he sized up anything I said and digested it, differentiating between what made sense and, well … there goes Joe again, no need for any of this mumbo-jumbo to go into my memory bank!!
He was always gracious and kind and he was sincere about it. John Elway described him in the newspaper the other day as a “Gentle Soul”. That was so true.
I admired his courage and patience as he followed through on his vision of putting together an organization that exemplified integrity and character.
He stuck with his core belief that it was more than winning, that the values aforementioned and relationships were what really mattered. In watching the Rockies work through this most difficult time with class and dignity, one can see his plan — his vision — is working.
Yesterday’s service at beautiful Coors Field was emotional and hard for me. Keli and I were close in age with certain kids of similar age, so watching the service made me reflect in so many ways. I accept that life is unfair, but this … this is really unfair.
My heart goes out to Lori and their wonderful children. I can’t begin to comprehend their grief. They did their husband/father proud yesterday and I can tell they will forever.
I’ll miss Keli. I’ll miss our meetings. And I’ll miss his “Gentle Soul”.