DENVER — Mike Shanahan smiled as he removed the blue cloth covering his steel pillar that now stands outside the south end zone of Empower Field in the Broncos’ Ring of Fame Plaza.

“It kind of looks like me,” the 69-year-old Shanahan said with a smile. “It’s pretty intense, at least on the sideline that’s for sure. A job well done. I spoke with the gentleman who did it and I said, ‘You’re pretty talented because that’s a pretty ugly picture.’”

Shanahan is officially going into the Broncos’ Ring of Fame Sunday, after being selected in 2020 as the 34th Bronco to earn the honor — former quarterback Peyton Manning will also go in this year on Oct. 31 as the 35th member.

Shanahan is arguably the greatest coach in the franchise’s history, serving as the Broncos’ head coach from 1995-2008. Along the way, he won two Super Bowls and amassed 146 victories, which is a franchise record. On Friday, the Broncos celebrated Shanahan’s historic career as he reflected on his time in Denver.

“What you’re really proud of is probably the people that have gotten you to the spot that I’m in right now,” Shanahan said. “Your coaches that you’ve had, both at the collegiate level and the professional level, the players that have given you a chance to be notarized like I am right now. It’s the whole football team that gets it done. What the Broncos have been able to do with the eight Super Bowls and all the playoffs, to be a part of that legacy is pretty special to me.

“It’s kind of the highest honor you can have because of how special this group of people is. When you coached them, you knew how well they played, how hard they played and what type of athletes and people they were. To be with this type of team is something I’ll always cherish, I’ll always honor.”

In attendance was a good majority of Shanahan’s family, including his son Kyle, who is currently the head coach of the 49ers. But there were also several of his former coaches and players there to celebrate, including former quarterback John Elway, wide receiver Rod Smith and safety Steve Atwater, who was also honored for going into the Hall of Fame in August.

“To be honored at the same time as Mike is really special because he's a special guy in my life and in my heart,” said Atwater, who played for the Broncos from 1989-1998. “He just had great leadership skills. He knew how to motivate us and how to make us want to play hard. You’d think most players would be like that anyway. It’s just the words that he used, the tactics that he used to motivate us and to bring us together, [along with] the different activities that we did. It really made a difference in us wanting to go out and play harder and be able to sacrifice everything we could for the team.”

Shanahan was most notably known as an offensive “mastermind” with many of his concepts still being used today. His coaching tree is also one of the largest in the NFL, ranging from his son to Rams coach Sean McVay to Packers coach Mike LaFleur to Browns coach Kevin Stefanski.

“He had a great impact on the Broncos organization, first as an assistant, then as the head coach. His legacy has lived on through a bunch of these coaches,” current Broncos coach Vic Fangio said. “Mike’s been retired and hasn’t been active in the last few years, but his stuff is still active.”

But for those who know Shanahan best -- his players and coaches -- Shanahan’s career wasn’t just defined by the wins and losses, but who he was a man.

“The way he coaches is everyone gets an opportunity. He gave me an opportunity, but at the same time, he was grooming me to be great. It’s not about being good; it’s about being great,” said Smith, who played for the Broncos from 1994-2007. “For me, probably the biggest thing was, I never wanted to let him down. So, if it took going in early, staying extra late, watching more film, doing whatever you have to do, that guy you want on your side because he’ll do whatever he can to change your life. He was a big part of changing my life.”

So for Shanahan, while being a member of the Broncos’ Ring of Fame was overdue, many believe the next stop will be Canton, Ohio, in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, which is also overdue.

“He should have been in before me,” Atwater said. “I think he's well overdue and well deserving. The way that he motivated us — I know I'm not the only one that has said this. I'm sure other teammates of mine and other players that were on that team feel the exact same way. It was just something different about him. He knew how to get into people's minds to get the most out of us.”