Worth the wait: Atwater to enter Pro Football Hall of Fame

Worth the wait: Atwater to enter Pro Football Hall of Fame

Steve Atwater - Denver Broncos - Empower Retirement

Get excited, Canton.

The “Smiling Assassin” is all smiles.

On August 7, legendary Denver Broncos safety Steve Atwater will receive an iconic gold jacket when he’s officially inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a member of the Centennial Class of 2020. Atwater, who serves as a current brand ambassador for Empower, will be honored during a separate celebration from the 2021 enshrinement. Last summer’s ceremony was postponed due to the pandemic.

“I think every player imagines that one day he can get into the Hall of Fame,” Atwater said. “I’m one of the lucky ones.”

He earned his spot, too.

As a hard-hitting defensive back, Atwater helped lead the Broncos to Super Bowl championships in both 1997 and 1998 and was elected to eight Pro Bowls. The two-time All-Pro, who was known for his ferocious collisions on the gridiron, recorded 1,188 tackles, 24 interceptions and five sacks in his 11-year career, which included 10 seasons in Denver. He was also recognized on the NFL’s All-Decade Team for the 1990s. 

“I never was a guy who thought, ‘Yeah, I’m 100% a Hall of Famer,’” said Atwater, who would often jam out to LL Cool J’s ‘Mama Said Knock You Out’ to get mentally prepared as he drove to the old stadium on gameday.

“When I was finished playing, I felt like there was a chance, but I just didn’t know. To be selected, I’m  extremely grateful and happy.”

In his partnership with Empower, Atwater brings the same level of energy, passion and joy that he showcased on Sundays.

“This is a great moment for Steve and his whole family,” said Steve Jenks, chief marketing officer at Empower. “He worked incredibly hard — and displayed amazing toughness and talent — to reach this milestone. We couldn’t be more thrilled to cheer him on for achieving such a prestigious and well-deserved feat.”

Shortly after Empower secured the naming rights to Empower Field at Mile High in 2019, Atwater joined the organization as a brand ambassador. In his position, he regularly attends company sales meetings, internal functions and local events to help Empower and the Denver Broncos succeed together in the community.

Fans may even see Atwater featured in social media campaigns promoting the company’s winning vision and promise.

“I love ‘empowering’ people to be their best,” Atwater said. “I’m fortunate to be part of this — and I’m thankful for the opportunity.”

The respect is mutual.

“Originally, we planned to have Steve do some radio commercials and make a few appearances for Empower on a one-time basis,” Jenks said. “But as I developed a relationship with him and saw how he interacted with our associates and clients, I knew he was someone we wanted representing Empower for the long term. Setting aside his hall-of-fame accomplishments, Steve is a man with tremendous integrity, pride and focus who really connects well with others. His values align with our values.”

Atwater’s high character especially came in handy when he could have thrown in the towel on ever making it to Canton. After all, following his retirement after the 1999 season, he had been eligible for the Hall of Fame for 16 years. But his patience and perseverance eventually pushed him over the goal line.

In 2020, he got the knock on his door.  

“To finally get over the hump, it means a lot,” said Atwater, who started all 155 games he suited up for the Broncos. 

“It was definitely worth the wait.”

Of course, it was a team effort along his journey. Atwater had plenty of support on his sideline from his very first snap in 1989.

“I know it just wasn’t my play on the field that got me here,” Atwater said. “It was also my coaches, teammates and family who had so much of an impact on me to always keep the right mindset and to make sure I did the things I needed to do to say on the field. So many people had a part in this (accomplishment). It just wasn’t me going out there and playing on the football field. It was way more than that.”


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