By Romi Bean

DENVER (CBS4) – “You say the name Vetanze to Bronco players, they either come in here or they’ve heard of him,” Mario Vetanze said of his father, Nelson Vetanze.

Mario Vetanze

(credit: CBS)

Dr. Nelson Vetanze might not be a name that Broncos fans readily recognize. But to Broncos players, Dr. V is legend.

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“My first experience with Dr. V was in camp in Greeley. Bill Romanowski said he had a chiropractor for me, and I was like, what’s a chiropractor?” former Broncos receiver Rod Smith said. “He did this one move, and all of a sudden I could raise my arm for the first time in a year.”

By the 1998, Vetanze was working on so many Broncos that Bill Romanowski and Rod Smith decided the doc should be brought in-house. Pat Bowlen, Mike Shanahan, and Steve Antonopulos unanimously signed off on it

“I honestly believe my career would have lasted 3 or 4 years if Romanowski had never introduced me to Dr V,” Smith said.

“I guarantee there would have been times that I wouldn’t have made it without Dr. V. After a really hard game, I would see him every day,” former Broncos linebacker Bill Romanowski said.

After one season as the Broncos official chiropractor, Dr. V set out to build his own practice capable of serving players’ every need … and the players followed.

“Every single Broncos player that was here for more than two years got the word at some point to come and see Dr. V. And he meant a lot to us,” former Broncos tight end Nate Jackson said. “He really was the difference between me falling by the wayside and getting cut and being good enough to go out there every day.”

“The last time I saw Dr. V, I was in there getting treatment and Von Miller shows up. It was just a revolving door for the Denver Broncos and its been like that since 1996,” Romanowski said.

Nelson Vetanze

Nelson Vetanze (credit: CBS)

From Rod Smith leading the league in catches to Justin Simmons playing every defensive snap the last three seasons — and just about everyone in between — Dr. V has been there.

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“If I didn’t have Dr. V and his whole staff, there is no way I’d have that streak,” Broncos safety Justin Simmons said.

“I honestly don’t believe I could have played at the level that I did without him. The year that I had stress fractures in both shins, I also led the league in catches. I missed one game. If I didn’t go to Dr. V, there is no way that happens,” Smith said.

What set Dr. V apart from other practitioners wasn’t just his work, which was bar none. It was also how deeply he cared. For Dr. V, every player was a member of his family.

“For a lot of us who came here from different parts of the country, you come here alone,” Jackson said. “Dr. V for many of us was a father figure. Someone who was there for us emotionally.”

“I’m really glad I’ve gotten to know them and can call their family friends in my life. That’s really cool for me,” Simmons said.

“He wasn’t my chiropractor, he was my friend. He just happened to do adjustments real well,” Smith said.

Dr. Vetanze passed away on Feb. 3, 2021, after a lengthy battle with cancer. Although he’s no longer running the show, he’s resting easy knowing the pieces are in place to keep the Vetanze torch burning bright in Broncos Country.

“In my last adjustment, he had to bring Mario in to do part of it. That really made me feel good because he was really truly passing it down,” Smith said.

“It’s a collective effort because it’s a really, really big torch. I don’t think one person — at least for now — can carry it,” Mario Vetanze said.

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Mario is raising funds for cancer research. Information can be found at customink.com/fundraising/dr-nelson-vetanze-memorial-fundraiser-7542.

Romi Bean