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Reason #16: Steve Atwater was a trailblazer

The Broncos legend revolutionized the safety position and is one of those players you just know is a hall-of-famer.

There are certain players you know are hall-of-famers.

When you hear their name, you know. They’ve created an indelible image in our mind by the way they played. When you hear the position they played, you know. When you see how the position is played, you know.

Those players aren’t just hall-of-famers, they’re trailblazers.

Denver Broncos legend Steve Atwater is one of them.

Over the last two weeks, MHR has laid out the first of our 27 reasons in 27 days that Atwater should get inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame the Saturday before the Super Bowl (Feb. 2) in Atlanta. The next reason on our list: he revolutionized the position. Atwater joined Adam Malnati and me on the MHR Radio Podcast to talk about his candidacy and what it would mean to him to go in with Denver owner Pat Bowlen.

When you think of safeties in the NFL, two players come to mind: Atwater and Ronnie Lott. I think there are three, former Broncos safety Dennis Smith, but that’s a story for another day. Lott is considered by many to be the best to ever play the position. He’s in Canton, Ohio.

Atwater was every bit the trailblazer at the position as Lott was, yet he doesn’t have a bust. If you want to take it to modern times, Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu are your two guys. But in the 1990s, Lott and Atwater were the guys. There wasn’t anything Atwater couldn’t do. He was great in coverage, in run defense, hitting, making huge plays when his team needed them and playing his best in the games where the spotlight shined the brightest. Atwater could literally do it all and better than just about everyone. That would explain why he was on the ’90s All Decade team.

Reed is a no doubt a first-ballot hall-of-famer, and the argument could go that the 48 members of the selection committee won’t want to put two safeties in this class. Bullshit. When Terrell Davis was inducted two years ago, he went in with LaDainian Tomlinson. When Floyd Little was inducted in 2010, he went in with Emmitt Smith.

The safety position, like the Broncos, is wholly underrepresented in the Hall of Fame. Make it right. Get both Reed and Atwater in the same class. Both guys who were trailblazers at their position. Two guys whom, when you hear their names, you know.

Two players everyone knows are hall-of-famers.

Get the Smilin’ Assassin to Canton!