clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2011 NFL Draft: Top Ten Denver Broncos Draft Success - #9 Steve Atwater

We've broken down the Top-10 Draft Busts of the Denver Broncos, so let's change the mood a bit. Over the next several days we will look at the Top-10 Draft 'Hits' the Broncos have had, and let me tell ya, it was a hard list to compile. The Broncos have enjoyed their share of draft surprises over the years in all rounds. Narrowing the list to just 10 was challenging.

Anyway, like the last list, this is purely subjective. Many of these guys could appear anywhere on the list, and several others could have made the Top-Ten. That's the fun part - debate about it, come up with your own list, and let's create some positive energy for the 2011 NFL Draft.

With that said, let's get the list underway!

#9 - Steve Atwater - Safety, Arkansas(1989, 1st Round, 20th Pick)

Sometimes it's hard for a 1st Round pick to actually exceed expectations. A good example of that might be Steve Atwater. Atwater came to the Broncos in 1989 and quickly carried on the torch that had been carried by Dennis Smith as a hard-hitting, bone jarring safety that struck fear into opposing wide receivers. Known as the 'Smiling Assassin', Atwater was an 8-time Pro Bowler and 2-time Super Bowl Champion.

Atwater played quarterback in High School before being moved to Safety when he arrived at the University of Arkansas. Not a bad decision as Atwater went on to be named All-SEC three times and All-American twice. He ended his Razorback career as the school's All-Time leader in interceptions. His two picks in the Senior Bowl that year really put him on the map.

The Broncos actually traded down in the 1989 NFL Draft - moving from #13 to #20 in a trade with the Cleveland Browns. The Browns used the pick to take RB Eric Metcalf. The Broncos, of course, used the #20 on Atwater. Advantage Broncos. Head Coach Dan Reeves said at the time that the Broncos needed a leader on defense, something Atwater could provide. Boy, was he right!

Atwater led the Broncos in tackles in 1989 with 129 and finished second in Rookie of the Year voting to Derrick Thomas of the Kansas City Chiefs - now a Hall of Famer.

Atwater didn't stop there. His Pro Bowl selection in 1990 was the first of six consecutive trips to Hawaii. His eight Pro Bowl selections overall is second-most in team history behind John Elway. He started 155 games for the Broncos(7th best) and 14 post-season games.

Atwater signed with the New York Jets as a Free Agent in 1999. After one season, Atwater retired after signing a ceremonial contract with the Broncos. "This is the way I wanted to go out," Atwater said "I bleed orange and will always bleed orange and blue."

Atwater was inducted into the Broncos Ring of Fame on October 9, 2005. Someday we hope Atwater will find his place in Canton.

NFL Films named Atwater the #9 Most Feared Tackler... Enjoy!

Are You Smarter Than The Experts?
Correctly predict the first 32 picks of the 2011 NFL Draft and you’ll win $10,000,000!
Enter at
Here We Go

Enjoy Responsibly ©2011 Anheuser-Busch, Inc., Bud Light® Beer, St. Louis, MO. ©2011 NFL Properties LLC. All NFL-related trademarks are trademarks of the National Football League. No Purchase Necessary. Contest open to U.S. residents (except CA) 21+. Contest begins 12AM CDT on 4/1 and ends 5:59:59PM CDT on 4/28. See Official Rules for complete details. Void where prohibited.