In-Depth Look: Meet the Head Athletic Trainer for the NFL Denver Broncos
Stephen L. Antonopulos, ATC is the Head Athletic Trainer (AT) for the Denver Broncos Football Club. His is responsible for the medical services for as many as 90 potential football players, coaches and organizational staff.
My setting is with the Denver Broncos Football Club. We have 2 main team physicians: one orthopedic physician, who is our main team physician, and one internal medicine team physician. Approximately 25 consultants who work with us as well. We also have a variety of other staff, including 2 massage therapists and 3 chiropractors. I am the head AT and have 4 full time AT assistants. In addition, we have 2 seasonal athletic training interns who work with us each day during the organized team activities (OTAs), summer camp and the season. During summer camp, we employ 4 additional students from colleges around the United States.
How long have I worked in this setting?
I am starting my 40th season with the Denver Broncos. I spent 4 years as an Assistant AT before being named the Director of Rehabilitation. I have spent the last 35 years as the Head AT.
Describe a Typical Day?
A typical day for me starts at 4:00am. I am an early person, and I learned years ago I need some time by myself before anyone gets here. I use the time to work out and do administrative tasks.
The players arrive for treatment at 6:30 am, and the player meetings start around 8:15am. We have long-term rehabs while players are in meetings. That way, we are either working with them or doing administrative work. Practice is from 11:30am to1:30pm. From 1:30am to 3:00pm we work on post practice treatments. There is another player meeting from 3:00pm to 4:00pm. Post practice treatments follow until we are done at approximately 6:00pm.
What do you like about your position?
I can honestly say in 40 years, I have never had a day that I dreaded coming to work. I love my job. I work for a great organization that cares about people. I love caring for people. I love the relationships I have developed over the years. I love being around young people who keep me young. I love the challenges that are presented each day. I love the energy required to survive in this game. I have spent over half of my life working for the Denver Broncos, and I love the Denver Broncos!
What do you dislike about your position?
The worst part of the job is seeing players devastated by being injured. It is their livelihood, and it hurts to see them be injured and not be able to perform.
What advice do you have for a young AT looking at this practice setting?
There are very few positions in athletic training at the professional football level. The positions are hard to come by and everyone wants to be here.
When I was a kid, I use to watch the Broncos on TV with my father. I said that somehow or someway I was going to work for the Denver Broncos someday. I am living a dream. Of course, you don’t just decide to live a dream and it happens. To me, prospective ATs have to consider 4 things.
1. You have the passion to do it. If you don’t have passion, you are in the wrong field.
2. You have to be of great character.
3. You have to have great work ethic!
4. You have to have an opportunity. Sometimes those opportunities fall in your lap. Other times you have to make the opportunity.
We have internships in our program. I can honestly say those internships are job interviews. All the individuals on my staff are former interns. They all showed the passion, character and work ethic that is required. In addition, I like my assistants to have a graduate degree.
This is a positive environment, and I require positive people. Most of all, I encourage you to not be in a hurry to get to the top. It takes passion, character and hard work to get there. That does not happen overnight.