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“I’ve always tried to be aggressive. I don’t always make all the tackles or make all the big hits, but I try to play in an aggressive manner.”
(Arkansas)...6'3'', 218...Broncos’ first round pick (20th overall), 1989 … Noted for hard hitting ... Career-high five interceptions, 1991 … Recorded 24 career picks returned for 408 yards, 1 td … Totaled more than 1,000 career tackles … Eight pro bowls … All-Pro twice, All-AFC six times … Started four AFC championship games, three Super Bowls … named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1990s … Born October 28, 1966 in Chicago, Illinois.
The Denver Broncos selected Steve Atwater out of Arkansas in the first round, 20th choice overall, of the 1989 NFL Draft. A hard-hitting and instinctive safety, Atwater played in 167 games during his 11-season career.
He made an immediate impact at free safety in his rookie season. Atwater recorded 129 total tackles (2nd most on the team) to help turn around a Denver defense that ranked 20th in points allowed the previous year to become the NFL’s stingiest unit in 1989 that allowed the fewest points in the league. The Broncos finished that season with the AFC’s best record at 11-5 and a berth in Super Bowl XXIV.
Atwater was voted to the first of eight Pro Bowls following the 1990 season and earned first-team All-Pro recognition for the first of two straight years (1991-92).
In 1997, he was an integral part of the Broncos’ championship season that was capped by the franchise’s first Super Bowl title. Atwater contributed 83 tackles (61 solo), one sack, two interceptions, eight passes defensed, and two fumble recoveries as Denver finished 12-4. His strong play continued throughout the postseason. He added 15 tackles (10 solo), one sack, a forced fumble, and five passes defensed in four playoff games.
Atwater played his final season with the Broncos in 1998 and he helped lead them to a second straight Super Bowl victory. That year he recorded one interception, seven passes defensed, and racked up 55 solo tackles 30 assisted tackles. He had four tackles, three assists and two passes defensed in Super Bowl XXXIII against the Atlanta Falcons.
In all, Atwater, recorded 24 interceptions which he returned for 408 yards and a touchdown, added five sacks, and registered more than 1,000 tackles. He was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1990s.
1989 AFC – Denver Broncos 37, Cleveland Browns 21
Atwater started at free safety. He had two tackles and one assist.
1991 AFC – Buffalo Bills 10, Denver Broncos 7
Atwater started at free safety. He had four tackles, two assists and one pass defensed.
1997 AFC – Denver Broncos 24, Pittsburgh Steelers 21
Atwater started at free safety. He had two tackles, two assists and one pass defensed.
1998 AFC – Denver Broncos 23, New York Jets 10
Atwater started at free safety. He had three tackles, two assists, one pass defensed and one forced fumble.
Super Bowl XXIV – San Francisco 49ers 55, Denver Broncos 10
Atwater started at free safety. He had four tackles and four assists.
Super Bowl XXXII – Denver Broncos 31, Green Bay Packers 24
Atwater started at free safety. He had six tackles, one sack and one pass defensed.
Super Bowl XXXIII – Denver Broncos 34, Atlanta Falcons 19
Atwater started at free safety. He had four tackles, three assists and two passes defensed.
All-Pro: 1991 (AP, PFWA, NEA, PW) • 1992 (AP, PFWA, SN, NEA)
All- Pro Second Team: 1990 (NEA) • 1996 (AP)
All-AFC: 1990 (UPI, PW) • 1991 (UPI, PW) • 1992 (PW) • 1993 (UPI) • 1995 (UPI) • 1996 (UPI, PW)
(8) – 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997*, 1999
* Did not play
Broncos records held by Atwater
(Records through the 1998 season, Atwater’s final season with Denver)
League/Team Statistical Titles
Team Statistical Championships
Interceptions Titles: 1990, 1991, 1995
Interceptions Return Yardage Titles: 1991, 1993, 1994, 1995
Total Tackles Titles: 1993, 1995
Awards and Honors
Year-by-Year Team Records
1989 Denver Broncos.................... 11-5-0 (1st)
1990 Denver Broncos...................... 5-11-0 (5th)
1991 Denver Broncos.................... 12-4-0 (1st)
1992 Denver Broncos........................ 8-8-0 (3rd)
1993 Denver Broncos........................ 9-7-0 (3rd)
1994 Denver Broncos........................ 7-9-0 (4th)
1995 Denver Broncos........................ 8-8-0 (4th)
1996 Denver Broncos.................... 13-3-0 (1st)
1997 Denver Broncos.................... 12-4-0 (2nd)
1998 Denver Broncos.................... 14-2-0 (1st)
1999 N.Y. Jets.................................... 8-8-0 (4th)
(Division Finish in Parentheses)
Qualified for Postseason in Bold
Full Name: Stephen Dennis Atwater
Birthdate: October 28, 1966
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois
High School: Lutheran North (St. Louis, MO)
Pro Career: 11 seasons, 167 games
Drafted: 1st round (20th overall) in 1989 by Denver
STEVE ATWATER: Dennis, my appreciation and respect for you cannot be overstated, man. I learned so much from you. Thank you for inspiring me to be fearless, my brother.
First, I want to thank God for this moment and for bringing all of us together, despite the terrible pandemic that the world has been facing. I stand here because of so many incredible people who have stood beside me. To David Baker, to your team, thank you for a dream come true. I'm humbled and honored to wear this gold jacket.
Congratulations to the Class of 2020. It was a little bit of a wait, hey, we're up in this thing now, right? We're here!
(Cheers and applause.)
I also want to congratulate the Class of 2021, and to everyone here on stage today, it is an honor and a pleasure to be here with each and every one of you. What a squad. Come on, man. What a squad we got up here!
To Jeff Legwold and the other writers who voted for me for the enshrinement, thank you. And thanks to all of my colleagues on radio and TV who called me a future Hall of Famer. You know who you are. I appreciate you.
I would like to express my gratitude to the Denver Broncos organization, Mr. Bowlen and to the Bowlen family.
Mr. B was a kind and generous man who knew how to make people feel special. I appreciate all that he did for our team. What a phenomenal leader he was.
Mac Freeman, Joe Ellis, man, what can I say? When my wife and I wanted to move back to Denver, you made a place for me in the Broncos organization. And, Mac, you must have some kind of crystal ball because you predicted that one day I'd be standing on this stage. Thank you, both, from the bottom of my heart.
Lisa Williams and Kelsey Zimmerman, you ladies are amazing. Thank you for helping us organize this memorable occasion. Thank you.
I've been blessed to have some of the best coaches in the game. To my Lutheran North High School coaches ‑‑ Mike Russell, Carl Holschen and Kirk Mueller ‑‑ and also all of my teammates, thank you for being here. And coaches, thank you for your consistency, your leadership and your encouragement.
To my University of Arkansas coaches ‑‑ Ken Hatfield, Bobby Trott and Fred Goldsmith ‑‑ all of my Hogs fans in the building and my teammates, thank you.
And thank you to the many Broncos coaches. Denver Broncos ‑‑ are the Broncos in the house?
There we go, all right. All right. A lot of coaches contributed to my growth and development, both on and off the field. Dan Reeves, Wade Phillips, Charlie Waters, thank you. Rick Smith, Alvin Reynolds, Greg Robinson, and my lifetime friend, Ed Donatel, and of course Mike Shanahan, the most organized and disciplined person that I have ever met in my life, and obviously the coach who led us to those back‑to‑back Super Bowl victories.
Thank you all for being amazing coaches, for believing in me, and for your guidance over the years.
I also want to thank our strength and conditioning coaches, Al Miller and Rich Tuten, for always keeping us in tip‑top shape. And also my trainers, Jim Keller, James Collins, and Steve Antonopulos, aka "Greek." Greek, congratulations to you for a remarkable 45‑year career with the Denver Broncos. You are amazing. Thank you for everything.
I also want to thank the New York Jets organization and all of my teammates and coaches there. That was a great experience.
And finally, thank you to my sports agents and my friends, Peter Schaffer, Lamont Smith, Jamie Fritz. Thank you.
And now I'll get to thank the people whose love means, man, more than I can ever say. To my mom, Jessie Atwater.
Who I know is looking down on us and is very happy for this very moment. I want to say to you, Mom, thank you for the sacrifices that you made, for always loving me and showing me how to never give up on those you love. I love you and I miss you, Mom.
To my dad, Jeff Atwater, who's proudly watching from home with his lovely wife, Bernice. Dad, I always knew that you loved me unconditionally, and I know how much you sacrificed to send me to Lutheran North High School, and that laid the foundation for everything that followed. Thank you for believing in me and for always being there for me. I love you, Bub.
To my siblings ‑‑ Stephanie, Michelle, Sabrina, Rick, Ronnie ‑‑ and to my brothers/cousins, John Taylor and Garland Taylor, thank you for your love and support over the years. I love you all so much.
And to my in‑laws, Mama Love, Robert, Clarence, Malcolm, thank you for welcoming me into the family more than 35 years ago. I love you all.
Now, to my three beautiful, good‑hearted sons, Stephen, Di Andre, and Paris, hey, man, I'm honored to be your father, and I'm proud of the incredible young men that you've become. Keep working hard and striving to reach all of your goals. Your mother and I will always be in your corner. We love you, man.
And to my beautiful, ideal daughter, Malaysia, you are such a blessing to our family, and every day you teach us about being courageous, authentic and vulnerable. We love you, and we can't wait to see the amazing things that you're going to accomplish. I love you, baby.
And to my beautiful wife of 30 years, Letha.
The first time I saw you walking across the campus, I knew we'd be together. And when I finally got the courage to tell you, you looked at me like you had a whole lot of brothers who told you to stay away from those athletes.
But we became friends first, and our relationship blossomed into something that I cherish dearly. Letha, you are strong, loving, and giving, and I thank you for being by my side throughout this journey. I love you, sweetheart.
And now, for all of my teammates who I played with over the years, will all of you please stand up? John Elway, Terrell Davis, Dennis Smith, Rod Smith, Ray Crockett, Alfred Williams, Karl Mecklenburg, Mark Schlereth, Neil Smith, Romo, Habib, Keith, Rondell, Wymon, House, Randy, all of you guys, stand up!
It was truly an honor to play with each and every one of you. You all have touched my life in one way or another, both on and off the field, and I appreciate you all.
And finally, thank you, Broncos Country! I love you all. God bless!