DENVER — Steve Atwater had two choices. Unveil his bust this year without dad watching from the first couple rows. Or wait a year so dad can be there.
Turns out, there was but one preference.
"I would rather do this with him being there," Atwater said.
The eighth Bronco elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame following a vote on February 1, Atwater was supposed to receive his Gold Jacket and bronze bust during induction ceremonies August 7-8 this year in Canton, Ohio. Instead, Atwater and 19 others in the class of 2020 will wait 365 days after the Pro Football Hall of Fame rescheduled its induction ceremony until next year.
The friendly, easy-going Atwater had no problem with decision to postpone.
"I guess I’ve been like this throughout my life -- things come up, you deal with it, right?" Atwater said. "I can say I was expecting it because of the coronavirus. I’ve never been one to say, oh man, they moved it back – no, it’s a pandemic. What’s going on now is unprecedented, people are dying and getting sick. There’s a lot of people in the Hall of Fame who are older, and I imagine they weren’t going anyway because the risk is high. My dad, he wasn’t going to go."
Jeff Atwater is 83 with a birthday coming up in a couple weeks.
"It’s Jethro actually but when I was young we were in the bowling alley and I was like, 'Hey, I can’t find my dad, can you page Jethro Atwater?'" Steve said laughing. "And I guess some of his friends made fun of his name, so he said, ‘Come on, man, call me Jeff. Don’t call me Jethro.'"
By waiting till next year, Atwater’s spotlight will be overcrowded with company. Former Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is certain to be the headliner in the Hall of Fame class of 2021. The 20-member class of 2020 that includes Atwater will be inducted on Saturday, Aug. 7, 2021 and the Manning-led class of 2021 will be enshrined the next day.
"We’re already sharing the spotlight with everybody they have in our class," Atwater said. "It’s an honor. The more the merrier. We had the centennial class this year so there’s going to be a ton of people in.
"No doubt Peyton goes in next year. And with the election in Tampa, I’m thinking (former Broncos safety and seven-time Hall of Fame finalist) John Lynch, too. It would be sweet to share this honor with those guys.
"But we have to make it there. I’m doing better every day in some areas I wanted to improve in. Trying to be disciplined and get my mind right about stuff. I think I’ll come back better."
Sounds like a guy who used to play football for 11 years at the highest level. Atwater was an 8-time Pro Bowler in his 10 seasons as a Broncos’ safety.
So, is Atwater eating better, working out?
"I’m still working on that eating part," he said with a laugh. "I have a diet that I think would work well for me, but I haven’t been disciplined enough in that area. Some of the other areas I’ve done really well with. The working out, getting to bed at a certain time, getting up early. I’ve been consistent there."
Atwater’s workout routine includes sit-ups, pushups and long walks. Apparently, the standard of living has been raised now that he’s no longer Steve Atwater, former NFL player, but Steve Atwater, Hall of Famer.
"You can’t have people saying, ‘Look at that slouch over there, he’s a Hall of Famer?’" Atwater said with a laugh.
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