September 17, 1990.
Monday Night Football.
Need I say more?
Of course not. Because when a single football play has its own celebrated anniversary, you already know it was a special play.
And if you’re any kind of Broncos fan - whether you watched it live or not - you know this play.
It’s the play that could be used in every textbook to demonstrate Newton’s first law of motion: Every object will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless compelled to change its state by the action of an external force - aka, Steve Atwater.
In fact, the “hit heard round the world” is so iconic that many people when they first meet the man behind it - Broncos safety Steve Atwater - often mention immediately, “oh, you’re the guy who hit Christian Okoye!”
“It’s kinda cool,” Atwater admitted. “I would imagine it’s not as cool for Christian as it is for me, but...that’s what football is sometimes.”
Atwater and his team mentor Dennis Smith had watched film on Okoye the week before the game, and Smith told the protogé that the key was to hit Okoye “straight up” in order to bring him down.
“I saw the hole open, and I hit it full speed, and I believe Christian was running full speed too, and fortunately...ahhh...I got him!” Atwater recalled this past season. “Bam! I just kinda lowered the shoulder, and boom! That was it.”
That was definitely it.
Come to think of it...that hit is also the perfect example of Newton’s third law as well: “For every action (force) in nature, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”