Longtime Broncos trainer to present Bowlen at Hall of Fame
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By ARNIE STAPLETON
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) Before Alzheimer's forced him to step down several years ago, Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen began his day the same way every day: grabbing two sticks of Big Red gum from the equipment room and then stopping by the training room for updates from head athletic trainer Steve Antonopulos.
"Our conversations went from the players' injuries to the players' families to his issues," Antonopulos recalled. "The trusted relationship that we had with each other has been phenomenal."
The Bowlen family announced Tuesday that Antonopulos, affectionately known as "Greek," and now the team's director of sports medicine, will present Bowlen into the Pro Football Hall of Fame during the enshrinement ceremony in Canton, Ohio, on Aug. 3.
Antonopulos will become just the second athletic trainer to serve as a Hall of Fame presenter, joining Ed Abramoski, who presented former Buffalo Bills guard Billy Shaw in 1999.
"I'm so humbled and honored that they have chosen me to do this. It means a lot to me. It's a great honor," said Antonopulos, who is the only employee who has worked full time at the Broncos' training facility since Bowlen bought the team in 1984.
Antonopulos' 43 years as a Broncos athletic trainer are believed to be the most in NFL history with a single team and include 37 seasons (1980-2016) as the team's head athletic trainer.
Antonopulos said that when he presents Bowlen, he wants to make sure to convey how much Bowlen put winning atop his to-do list and how he genuinely cared for everyone who worked for him.
The two became fast friends as a result.
"It all started with him coming in and asking about players," Antonopulos said. "Nobody cared about players more than Mr. Bowlen. He liked to communicate with them, not because he wanted to rub elbows, but because he cared about them."
Antonopulos said Bowlen's competitive drive was overshadowed only by his compassion for others, something that became apparent when he won his first Super Bowl trophy and immediately dedicated it to his quarterback, John Elway.
"That guy was crazy the way he worked out. We all know that he was involved in triathlons and that kind of thing, but it was unbelievable the way he worked here. He'd come into the training room and work for an hour, and I'm like, `Man, this is unbelievable how this guy is,'" Antonopulos said. "During the playoffs, he was always in finding out everything he could to win. Then when we finally did, you really saw his compassion if you think about it: `This one's for John.'
"It was about all John went through and how he embraced that. He wanted that for John. Not only himself, but like I said, he's a humble man. It just breaks his heart to see the way that he is. It's just a neat thing that he's being inducted into the Hall of Fame."
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Updated May 28, 2019