Steve Atwaters wait from Hall of Fame selection to induction nearly over

Steve Atwater is used to being patient.

The Broncos didn’t break through for their first Super Bowl title (1997) until his ninth season as a perennial Pro Bowl safety.

Atwater was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his ninth year as a semifinalist and two decades after his retirement.

And due to the coronavirus, 553 days will separate his selection (Feb. 1, 2020 in Miami) and official induction ceremony (Aug. 7 in Canton, Ohio). The Class of 2020 will be inducted a night before the Class of 2021 that includes former Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and safety John Lynch.

The way Atwater sees it, an extra year of anticipation has been fine.

“The wait has been OK,” he said Friday during a Zoom conference. “It really hasn’t taken anything away from this experience and actually, we’ve gotten more time to get more enthusiasm for it. … I think I’m used to Murphy’s Law — whatever can go wrong, will go wrong — so it wasn’t a big negative for me.”

Atwater will be surrounded by family and friends during Hall of Fame Weekend and will be introduced by long-time teammate Dennis Smith. Atwater said his father, Jeff, won’t attend as a health precaution. He visited Jeff last week in St. Louis and “he’s in a good place.”

Atwater is joined in the modern-era Class of 2020 by guard Steve Hutchinson, running back Edgerrin James, receiver Isaac Bruce and safety Troy Polamalu.

Atwater, a first-round pick in 1989, made his first Pro Bowl in ’90 and was first-team All-Pro in 1991-92. The Broncos didn’t win a playoff game from 1992-96, but won the Super Bowl after the ’97 and ’98 seasons.

“(Those titles) were a huge part of my career and that was certainly the highlight of my career,” he said. “I think that has played a part in this honor — being on teams with great coaches and great players who did something special. Winning back-to-back, that was unbelievable.”

Atwater was listed at 6-foot-3 and 218 pounds and earned a reputation for his thunderous hits, but he also intercepted 24 passes in 167 games.

How would he be utilized in today’s NFL?

“I think I could still play safety,” Atwater said. “I thought I did a good job playing zone coverage and when I had to play (man) coverage, it was primarily against tight ends and if we did play man-to-man against receivers, most of the time there was some pressure, five or six guys (rushing), so the quarterback would have to release the ball a little quicker. I think that’s still the situation today. … I still would have been able to play and be effective.”

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