ENGLEWOOD—History will be made the next time a Denver Broncos player suffers an in-game injury.
For the first time in 41 years, Steve “Greek” Antonopulos will not be sprinting out to the field to attend to the player in need. After nearly 900 games serving as a Broncos’ athletic trainer, Antonopulos has been promoted to the team’s director of sports medicine, where he will oversee all aspects of the club’s training and rehabilitation process.
He has passed on his head athletic training position to assistant Vince Garcia.
“While it’s difficult to pass on those responsibilities, I know this is the right move for my family and me,’’ Antonopulos said. “I could not think of a better fit than Vince Garcia to become the Denver Broncos’ head athletic trainer. He cares about our players and always puts their well-being first.
Broncos head coach Vance Joseph informed the players of Antonopulos’ promotion at the team’s 8 a.m. meeting Wednesday.
Not to overstate “Greek’s” impact but when he first joined the training staff as an assistant to Allen Hurst, the Broncos had never been to the playoffs and had just two winning seasons.
Since then, the team has been to the playoffs 22 times, including eight trips to the Super Bowl, and has added 25 more winning seasons.
The humble Antonopulos would remind people he never played a snap, but he helped hundreds, if not thousands of players make it to game day in the best possible condition to perform at an NFL-caliber level.
“Greek’s been a cornerstone of the Denver Broncos for more than four decades and we’re excited to have him move up a level,’’ said Elway, who was treated by Antonopulos for various bumps, bruises and injuries as the team’s quarterback from 1983-98 and now heads the team’s football operations department. “In talking with Greek, he indicated he was ready to make this transition and turn the head training position over to the qualified and respected Vince Garcia.
“There’s nothing more important than the health of our players and Vince is prepared for the important responsibilities.’’
Antonopulos was raised in Hugo, a cattle-ranching community on the eastern plains of Colorado that had a population of 759 in 1970 and 730 at last count. Upon graduating from the University of Northern Colorado, Antonopulos joined the Broncos’ training staff as an assistant prior to the 1976 season.
He became the Broncos’ head athletic trainer in 1980 making him what is believed to be the longest-tenured trainer with one team in the history of pro football.
It is a first-to-arrive, last-to-leave job.
“I’ve been living a dream for the last 41 years,’’ Antonopulos said. “It’s an honor to work for Mr. Bowlen and Joe Ellis and I couldn’t have a better boss than John Elway.’’
While Antonopulos will continue to oversee the Broncos’ training and medical treatment from on high, Garcia will now head the day-to-day responsibilities. Like Antonopulos, Garcia got his bachelor’s degree from Northern Colorado. He served as the head football trainer at his alma mater in 2009 before becoming one of Greek’s assistant trainers from 2010-13.
After becoming head athletic trainer for the South Metro Fire Rescue in Centennial from 2014-15, Garcia rejoined the Broncos’ training staff as Antonopulos’ top assistant last season.