Take a deep breath, pour a drink and compose yourselves, because Denver Broncos' all-time great safety Steve Atwater is finally a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame two decades after his retirement, per multiple reports including 9NEWS' Mike Klis. With the third time as a finalist being the charm, the long wait is over for Atwater, and perhaps the sheer passage of time will make Saturday's news all the sweeter.
The man nicknamed the 'Smiling Assassin' had jokingly admitted on Friday that he planned to meditate to take his mind off the impending decision of the 48-person Hall-of-Fame committee, and, well, it must have done the trick. Atwater’s dedication to his craft, which saw him become a truly dominant and game-changing player during his 11 years in the NFL, served him well enough to clinch a place among the game's all-time greats.
Atwater now joins the growing list of legendary Broncos who are now enshrined in the Canton, OH, especially with last year’s crop of inductees that included late owner Pat Bowlen and cornerback Champ Bailey. Denver’s legendary enforcer joins them, along with former teammates John Elway, Gary Zimmerman, Shannon Sharpe and Terrell Davis, all of whom paved the way for the Broncos' back-to-back World Championships in 1997 and 1998. Floyd Little also represents the Broncos in the Hall.
The groundswell of support that Atwater has received across the NFL appears to have had a positive impact on the voting committee this time around.
It also brought Atwater’s entire body of work and his achievements back into sharp focus once again. Two Super Bowl rings and his selection to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 90s might have been enough on their own, but add in his eight Pro Bowl nods and two First-team All-Pro selections, and it got him over the top.
Arguably his most iconic moment came when he laid the hit heard 'round the world on Christian Okoye on Monday Night Football three decades ago. But that wasn't Atwater's only big-time play.
It's time to get sized for that Gold Jacket, because (pinch yourselves) Steve Atwater is indeed a member of the Hall of Fame and it’s richly deserved.
Atwater and his fellow members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2020 will be recognized on-field during Super Bowl LIV.