ENGLEWOOD • Steve “Greek” Antonopulos knows the deepest, darkest secrets of the Broncos, the real goings-on at Dove Valley.
He’s not talking — even about the famous competitive streak of close friend Pat Bowlen.
“I really could tell you some stories about that, but I probably ought not to,” Antonopulos said with a laugh.
Oh, he’s a vault all right. Then what about a subject us weekend warriors can actually use: These NFL gigs have more turnover than most. (Ask Broncos head coaches). How’d you keep the same job with the same company for 43 years?
“Defend your desk. Be able to deal with adversity and defend your desk,” Antonopulos told me at UCHealth Training Center on Tuesday.
“To do that, you have to be at your desk. You have to be present. If you’ve got tentacles going out every which way you can lose sight of what your job really is.”
Trust was the top qualification when Antonopulos was chosen by the Bowlen family to be Pat Bowlen’s presenter at the Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony Aug. 3.
Tears welling up in his eyes, Greek’s response to the phone call from Broncos president Joe Ellis was heartfelt: “I broke down. It was very emotional. I couldn’t say anything.”
The Greek reign began when he was hired as an assistant athletic trainer by Broncos coach John Ralston in 1976. His 43 years with the Broncos is believed to be the longest tenure by an athletic trainer with one NFL team. His career is still going as the team’s director of sports medicine. It’s spanned 900 games, 22 playoff trips, 15 AFC West titles, 10 AFC title games, three Super Bowl parades and all the dirt he won’t begin to share. Greek’s outlasted 10 head coaches. Play nice, Victor Fangio.
Greek’s mornings often began with a visit from Pat Bowlen, who bought the team and nurtured a bond with Antonopulos starting in 1984.
“His day centered on parking that car in the garage, walking down the hall and getting two sticks of Red Man gum in the front of the equipment room — then to the training room (Greek’s office),” said Antonopulos, whose LinkedIn page seems like a waste. “Our conversations went from players’ injuries to players’ families to his issues. The trust that we had with each other has been phenomenal.”
“It just breaks your heart to see the way he is,” Antonopulos said of Bowlen, 75, who stepped away from daily Broncos operations in 2014 as he battles Alzheimer’s disease.
Antonopulos spoke often of Bowlen’s well-known competitive drive, a quality that figures to be a central theme during his presentation at Broncos Week in Canton. Future Ring of Famer Champ Bailey joins Bowlen as a 2019 inductee at the Hall of Fame. The Broncos play the Falcons in the Hall of Fame game Aug. 1.
“He changed the whole culture, the mindset around here,” Antonopulos said. “Winning (is) first, the compassion he had for his families. If you really think about it, he had more than one family — the Bowlen family, the Denver Bronco organization was his family, the city of Denver was his family and the Denver Bronco fans.”
“I’m so humbled and honored they have chosen me to do this. It means a lot,” he said.
“To me, it’s a great honor to be able to do this.”