Pro Football Hall of Fame 2019: The story behind Pat Bowlen's presenter

Pro Football Hall of Fame 2019: The story behind Pat Bowlen's presenter

Broncos owner Pat Bowlen’s induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this year already was bittersweet.

Bowlen, 75, has been the team’s majority owner since 1984 and was an influential voice among NFL owners for decades before he was forced to step down down from his day-to-day responsibilities in 2014 as he battles Alzheimer’s.

The spotlight at the enshrinement ceremony Aug. 3 in Canton, Ohio, will fall squarely on his presenter.

The Bowlen family on Tuesday announced that team director of sports medicine Steve Antonopulos would join the family in unveiling Bowlen’s bronze bust at the ceremony at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.

Antonopulos, affectionately known in the organization as “Greek,” is the only Broncos employee who has worked full-time at the team’s training facilities during Bowlen’s entire 35-year tenure as owner. Antonopulos has regularly visited Bowlen at his home as his health declined.

Antonopulos is entering his 44th season with the Broncos in 2019 in a career that he began in Denver as an assistant athletic trainer in 1976.

“I was overwhelmed with emotion when I was asked to be Mr. Bowlen’s presenter,” Antonopulos said in a statement from the team. “I feel very honored and very humbled. It’s one of the greatest things I’ve ever been asked to do in my life.

“If you really look at it, it’s all about Mr. Bowlen. We developed a really neat relationship over all the years that he’s been here. It’s certainly unique — he’s not only my boss but he’s my friend. That’s what makes it even more of an honor to do this, especially with the request coming from his family.”

Antonopulos will become only the second athletic trainer to serve as a Pro Football Hall of Fame presenter. Former Bills trainer Ed Abramoski presented offensive lineman Billy Shaw, who was inducted in 1999.

According to the Broncos, 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 trainer.

“I was overwhelmed with emotion when I was asked to be Mr. Bowlen’s presenter,” Antonopulos said. “I feel very honored and very humbled. It’s one of the greatest things I’ve ever been asked to do in my life.

“If you really look at it, it’s all about Mr. Bowlen. We developed a really neat relationship over all the years that he’s been here. It’s certainly unique—he’s not only my boss but he’s my friend. That’s what makes it even more of an honor to do this, especially with the request coming from his family.”

Antonopulos is entering his 44th season with the Broncos in 2019. He began his career with Denver as an assistant athletic trainer in 1976 and worked his way up to becoming the club’s director of rehabilitation in 1979. He has been honored multiple times for his work.

Antonopulos’ tenure includes 37 seasons (1980-2016) as the team’s head athletic trainer. Working more than 900 Broncos games in his four-plus decades with the team, he has been part of 27 winning seasons, 22 playoff berths, 15 AFC West titles, 10 AFC championship games, eight Super Bowls and three Super Bowl victories.

To put that in perspective: When Antonopulos started with the Broncos, the team had had two winning seasons in its first 16 seasons of existence.

The Broncos, who also will see longtime defensive back Champ Bailey inducted in 2019, will kick off the enshrinement weekend festivities Aug. 1 when they play in the Hall of Fame game against the Falcons.