GREELEY, Colo. —** Steve Antonopulos has found home wherever he's gone.
Before making Denver and the Broncos his home for 40 years, the man more commonly known as "Greek" left his hometown of Hugo in eastern Colorado and resettled in Greeley as a student at the University of Northern Colorado.
Decades after leaving Greeley with a master's degree, Antonopulos returned Friday. He found the road much different from the last time he had been to Greeley, and even more different since the last time the last time he and the Broncos spent a summer in Greeley when training camp was held on UNC's campus.
Broncos Head Athletic Trainer Steve "Greek" Antonopulos was inducted into the University of Northern Colorado Hall of Fame on Friday, Sept. 30, 2016. (photos by Ben Swanson)
At a ceremony at the University Center building Friday evening, Antonopulos took the stage as he was inducted into the University of Northern Colorado's Athletics Hall of Fame as a contributor.
Standing on his college campus, Antonopulos reflected upon his time at UNC and could not believe how far he had come.
"I would never be standing here like this," he said. "I came from a little, small town in eastern Colorado, and to come to a big city like Greeley at that time, I discovered there were bars and things like that, so I kind of had a rough start, but as you grow and mature and figure things out, it's just really special."
At Northern Colorado, Antonopulos had learned under the guidance of his mentor, Dan Libera, for whom the school named its athletic training room. And now, Antonopulos joins Libera in the Bears' Athletics Hall of Fame.
"I'm just so proud to be in the same light as him," Antonopulos said. "He was the head athletic trainer here for quite a few years. He passed a number of years ago with ALS [amyotrophic lateral sclerosis]* *and he's just been a source of inspiration in my life."
Antonopulos took the lessons he learned from Libera and applied them quickly as a trainer at Fort Hays State in Kansas before returning to Colorado in 1976 to join the fledgling Denver Broncos, where he's been ever since.
"Forty-one years ago, there were two of us that did what we're doing today, and we have seven of us doing what we're doing [today]," Antonopulos said. "But that's what it's all about: doing the right things for the players and caring for them. That's what I love doing, caring for people and the relationships that you develop over the years. The Denver Broncos family is just like my own family. … I can't say enough about Mr. Bowlen and the Denver Broncos family. It's too bad that he isn't with us here tonight. I know he would be proud, and I'm proud that he would feel that way. "
Looking around the room, it was easy to see that Antonopulos' family extends beyond blood. Of course, his own family sat with him at the front of the room, but not too far away, Antonopulos had a crowd of Broncos in attendance to watch him receive his honor. Mostly, that included his colleagues, assistant trainers past and present, but Executive Vice President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway also made the drive to Greeley for the man who helped ensure he was at his strongest during his 16-year career.
"There are not enough superlatives for Steve," Elway said. "The loyalty that he's shown to the Broncos, as well as Colorado, and the work that he's done year in and year out and done such a great job for such a long, long time — we're thrilled for Steve. It couldn't happen to a better guy [or] a more deserving guy."
Head Coach Gary Kubiak, who has been around Antonopulos in some capacity with the Broncos for 22 years since the team drafted him in 1983, also knows the impact he has had in his 40 years, not only as a trainer while Kubiak was a player, but also as a friend and confidant as a coach.
"Greek is a special person in this organization and a special person in pro football with how long he's been doing it," Kubiak said Friday. "He's like a father to a lot of people around here, guys that have played for him or came through here." Steve Antonopulos has become something of an institution within the Broncos organization, so it should come as little surprise that his newest home is within Northern Colorado's Athletics Hall of Fame.