Steve Atwater was in his next season with the Denver Broncos in 1990 when then-general public relations main Jim Saccomano approached him a several days just before their dwelling opener towards Kansas Metropolis.
“Hey Steve, we want to mic you for the activity Monday evening,” Saccomano declared.
“In opposition to Christian Okoye?” answered an incredulous Atwater. “Why would you want to mic me up for this, of all game titles?”
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Simply because the super-sized basic safety nicknamed the “Smiling Assassin” versus the All-Professional 260-pound jogging again identified as the “Nigerian Nightmare” was about as superior as it receives.
“I undoubtedly was hesitant,” Atwater recounted a short while ago as he reflected on a vocation that has landed him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “I wasn’t just like, ‘Yeah, put it on me! I’m self-assured I am heading to go out there and make a little something take place!'”
The folks at NFL Movies are endlessly grateful that Atwater relented and agreed to have on the microphone that night time.
When Okoye took a handoff from Steve DeBerg and stepped into the hole, the managing back was fulfilled by the fierce totally free safety who moved like a cornerback, hit like a linebacker and, at 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, was designed like modern edge rushers.
“We could hear the hit from the sideline,” John Elway marveled.
So could most people at home.
“Yeah, you tried out, child!” Atwater bellowed as he hovered about Okoye.
“He’ll be remembered for that hit the rest of his profession,” a young Broncos offensive assistant named Mike Shanahan provided right after Denver’s 24-23 victory that night.
“I was just fortuitous to occur out on the proper side of that 1,” Atwater reported all these yrs afterwards, “for the reason that that male experienced trucked so numerous people and I’m fortunate I was not just one of them.”
The seminal stop is currently being saluted anew as Atwater prepares for his induction into Canton on Aug. 7 with the rest of the course of 2020, a ceremony that was delayed a year for the reason that of the pandemic.
“It couldn’t come about to a much better person,” Elway explained. “He had these a wonderful job and was a man that transformed that situation simply because of his measurement and his skill to go close to.” Although intimidation “is no for a longer time as massive a part of the game as it made use of to be,” Elway added, “he was an daunting dude that did a good work.”
“I just cherished actual physical football,” reported Atwater, who was born in Chicago, lifted in St. Louis and starred at the University of Arkansas immediately after going from quarterback to protection as a freshman so he could see the area faster.
Atwater and Okoye have only spoken briefly about the iconic enjoy that inbound links their occupations. A couple of years ago Okoye asked Atwater to mail him a movie for a roast in Okoye’s honor.
“I was glad he identified as for the reason that we got the probability to chop it up a little little bit,” Atwater reported. “And any person who’s achieved Christian Okoye appreciates he’s a heck of a dude. And on the football area factors come about at distinct times and, hey, I have gotten operate in excess of by different guys, he’s gotten strike by other fellas, as well. So, it is not out of the norm for this to occur.
“Fortuitously, on that especially perform I took place to arrive out on the profitable facet of it,” extra Atwater, who, like Okoye, turned recognised as significantly for his congenial way as for his ferocious participate in.
Though that iconic strike on Okoye could possibly symbolize Atwater’s impressive football job, it absolutely does not determine it.
“He had a lot of great moments,” mentioned Atwater’s teammate and mentor Dennis Smith. “He was an impression participant. He had a significant effect on wins and losses. Even if it was just his presence. Groups were so worried of him that they had to activity approach strategies to just prevent him. He was so large and could shift and go over a ton of floor. He just experienced a great deal of competencies that a child his size does not commonly have.”
What elevated Atwater to stardom, Smith claimed, “was the way he played in Tremendous Bowls.”
Atwater, who now will work as a enthusiast development supervisor for the Broncos advertising and marketing office, was so instrumental in Denver’s initially entire world championship that Shanahan prompt he deserved Tremendous Bowl 32 co-MVP honors with Terrell Davis, who scored three touchdowns that day.
Although fellow Corridor of Famers Elway, Davis, Shannon Sharpe and Gary Zimmerman were being starring on offense in Denver’s 31-24 acquire around the heavily favored Packers, Atwater spearheaded Denver’s dizzying protection that badgered Brett Favre with 6 tackles, a strip sack that turned into a tone-placing takeaway, and two pass breakups.
“Steve produced large performs in the course of the match,” Shanahan explained.
“Properly, I like physical soccer,” explained Atwater, who performed in Denver from 1989-98, capping his time with the Broncos with a 7-tackle overall performance in the Broncos’ 34-19 earn more than the Atlanta Falcons in Tremendous Bowl 33.
He performed a single ultimate year with the Jets, then signed a ceremonial one particular-working day agreement in Denver to retire a Bronco.
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A member of the NFL’s All-Decade Group of the 1990s, Atwater was an eight-time Pro Bowler whose accolades provided three AFC championships, two Super Bowl titles and one of the most memorable hits in NFL historical past.
“He brought this kind of a actual physical presence to our football crew,” Shanahan explained. “When he strike you, you have been going backward.”