During his well-decorated playing days for the Denver Broncos, Steve Atwater was known as “The Smilin’ Assassin.’
As he returns to the team, the Broncos will primarily want Atwater’s smile -- although there will be times for pointed remarks.
The Broncos are hiring Atwater to be both a fan ambassador and a video host and analyst on the team’s website, 9News has learned.
Selected by the Broncos with their No. 20 overall pick in the 1989 draft, Atwater was moved to the box by Broncos’ defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, while Dennis Smith played the free safety.
As a rookie, Atwater had an astounding 129 tackles and three interceptions and he would have been the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year if it hadn’t been for the pass-rushing exploits of Kansas City’s Derrick Thomas.
In his next four seasons, Atwater was credited with 173, 150, 151 and 141 tackles – unheard of totals for a safety.
The eight Pro Bowls in Atwater’s 10 seasons in Denver were tied with Champ Bailey for second-most in franchise history, just one behind John Elway’s nine. Atwater was inducted into the Broncos’ Ring of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 2005.
Atwater was also a key figure in the Broncos’ back-to-back Super Bowl titles to cap the 1997-98 seasons. His play in Super Bowl XXXII would have been worthy of MVP consideration had it not been for the sensational performance of running back Terrell Davis.
In the book, “50 Greatest Players in Denver Broncos History,’’ that will be released later this year, Atwater was asked about the highlight of his career.
“Super Bowl 32,’’ Atwater said without hesitation. “I remember the third-down play (in the final seconds as the Packers were driving), I knocked my guy Randy Hilliard out -- knocked myself out. But the next play, John Mobley knocked the pass down from Brett Favre to Mark Chmura, the tight end, and we looked up and we’re like, ‘Wait a minute. This game is over.’
“Just that realization that we had won was the greatest experience I ever had, that moment right there. When John knocked that ball down.’’