Named Hall-of-Fame Semi-Finalist for Ninth Time, Steve Atwater is 'Getting Antsy'
The roll of honors held by former Denver Broncos safety Steve Atwater is certainly long and noteworthy, with eight trips to the Pro Bowl, twice a Super Bowl champion and being named to the NFL's All-Decade team of the 90s counted among them.
With the news that he's been named as a semi-finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2020, it's the ninth time he's made it this close to induction. Broncos Country can only hope he finally gets the ultimate recognition that most deem to be long overdue.
One of the games most feared and legendary hitters who gained the nickname the 'Smiling Assassin', cuts a whole different figure in his retirement through his work in the media for his former team and as a fan liaison go-between, where he is both friendly and affable. His on-field impact was the polar opposite as he struck fear into opposing pass-catchers and ball-carriers alike.
Atwater has always maintained a relaxed attitude to his possible enshrinement in Canton, Ohio, but in his advancing years he is getting more uptight,
“I tell you what, I was patient in the early years and I’m really starting to get antsy,” Atwater admitted to former teammate and HoFer Terrell Davis on NFL Network.
Considering that two fellow standout safeties in fellow former Bronco John Lynch and Steelers legend Troy Polamalu are also in the running this year, Atwater has cause to be concerned that he might lose out again. Atwater chose to express optimism and point to the inclusion of two similar super-physical players when assessing what he saw as a change in the voters’ opinions of his overlooked position,
“Fortunately, Kenny Easley and then Ed Reed here last year, that’s a great thing for all safeties,” Atwater said.
Having racked up two first-team All-Pro selections and 1,356 tackles with 24 interceptions over the duration of his storied career, the reared and famous No. 27 is clearly worthy of Hall of Fame induction. However, Atwater was less than clear as to why other similarly-productive and successful ex-Bronco stars are all still waiting for recognition from the HoF voters.
“It’s frustrating, a team that had back-to-back Super Bowl wins and we don’t have anybody representing us in the Pro Football Hall of Fame,” he said, “I think we are the only team that’s like that.”
Should Atwater finally make it all the way to Canton this January, it will owe a lot to one legendary smack-down he delivered in 1990 on the 'Nigerian Nightmare, Christian Okoye. On happened on Monday Night Football and the iconic Bronco says he still fields frequent questions about the brutal collision.
“When I talk to most people that’s the hit they bring up," Atwater said. "That’s the hit that I think put me on the map."
Should the Broncos legendary centerfield enforcer of yesteryear make it all the way to the final cut for his yellow jacket, he will find out his fate on the eve of Super Bowl 54. That would prove to be pretty perfect timing for the back-to-back Lombardi trophy winner Atwater is.