CANTON, Ohio — In the years ahead of her father’s Hall of Fame election, Brittany Bowlen would allow herself to dream about the moment.
She allowed herself to think about the gold jacket, the bronze bust, the Hall of Fame ring — and about who she and her family would want to present her father during the enshrinement ceremony.
“I think that I thought about for years the kind of person that would embody my dad’s spirit,” she said Friday ahead of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s gold jacket ceremony.
A few of those years were tough. Bowlen seemed on the edge of Hall of Fame election, only to have the Contributors Committee tab others in his place. And as his health declined and he battled Alzheimer’s, his family struggled with the notion that Bowlen could pass away without knowing he’d been elected to the Hall.
“There were a couple years that were really hard for us, because we knew we were teetering on that edge of [him] understanding or being able to come,” Brittany said. “So it was really difficult. But you know what, I know that the Hall of Fame and all of the voters, they have a very difficult job. There are so many players and contributors who deserve to be in the Hall of Fame, so I have a lot of respect for the decisions they have to make.
“I’m so happy we’re here now and that my dad got to know and he got to have that smile.”
Indeed, Bowlen was elected to the Hall’s Class of 2019 in February before he passed away on June 13.
And on Saturday night at Tom Benson Stadium, Bowlen will be presented at the Hall of Fame’s enshrinement ceremony by a man who embodies the characteristics that Brittany thought about years ago.
Steve “Greek” Antonopulos, who has been with the Broncos for more than four decades, will help the rest of Bowlen’s family reveal Bowlen’s bust on stage. Antonopulos will also be featured in a video that recognizes Bowlen’s accomplishments.
Antonopulos’ inclusion in the ceremony is only fitting. As Beth Bowlen Wallace said Friday, Antonopulos is like another member of Pat Bowlen’s family. So when Bowlen’s children decided on Bowlen’s presenter, Antonopulos was the logical choice.
“That choice was really reflective of who my father was [to] have someone who pursues excellence in their workplace and does it with great humility and behind the scenes,” Bowlen Wallace said. “We believe he really reflected who my father was as an owner.”
While the decision made complete sense to the Bowlen family — and to anyone who knows about the friendship between Bowlen and Antonopulos — it came as a shock to the Broncos’ longtime athletic trainer and current director of sports medicine.
“It was not ever a thought,” said Antonopulos when asked if he had considered the Bowlens would ask him to present their father. “I was stunned when I was asked to do it.”
Antonopulos, who said Bowlen was a “great friend” in addition to being a supportive owner, said the honor is a “very emotional” responsibility.
And though there would be no real way to boil down more than three decades of a friendship to mere minutes for the enshrinement ceremony, Antonopulos said he will try to capture the essence of Bowlen’s legacy as an owner and man.
“There was no way I was able to say all the things that I wanted to say about him,” Antonopulos said. “Some of it was directed [in terms of] the things to say. I just wanted to show the compassion that people had for him and the passion he had for people and his integrity and mindset and just honor him in the most honorable way we all could.”
On Saturday, he’ll have the chance to do just that. And to the Bowlen family, it’s more than fitting that the person presenting their father is someone who in many ways reminds them of their dad.
“We also wanted to pick somebody who really embodied my father’s spirit, especially within the organization,” Brittany said. “We felt that Greek was someone that does that.
“He loves this organization deeply, and he conducts himself in a quiet way behind the scenes, just like my father did."