After a year’s delay, former Denver Broncos safety Steve Atwater will be inducted into the Hall of Fame as part of the 2020 class. As Atwater takes his much-deserved place in the Hall of Fame, let’s take a look at his career, his stats, and his net worth following his NFL career.
Steve Atwater’s Hall of Fame career
After playing as an option-style quarterback in high school, Atwater shifted to safety at the University of Arkansas. He played four seasons at Arkansas, being named an All-American twice and to the All-Southwest Conference team three times. He finished his career as the Razorbacks’ all-time leader in interceptions with 14. Atwater was later named to the Razorback’s All-Century Team and the 1980 All-Decade Team.
Atwater then made a tremendous impact at the 1989 East-West Shrine Game. During the game, he made 2 interceptions and was named the defensive MVP. That performance cemented his place as one of the top defensive players coming out of college in the 1989 NFL Draft.
Atwater made an instant impact in Denver
Following a trade down in the first round, the Broncos selected Atwater 20th overall in the 1989 NFL Draft. Atwater instantly boosted Denver’s defense, pulling in 3 interceptions and finishing second on the team in tackles (129).
Denver went from the 20th-ranked defense in terms of points allowed in 1988 to the top-ranked team in 1989, as their strong defense helped lead them to Super Bowl XXIV. Atwater would finish second in Defensive Rookie of the Year voting, behind Derrick Thomas.
As a key part of Denver’s secondary, Atwater and Dennis Smith quickly became known as a ferocious safety tandem that was feared for their big hits on opposing players. They were one of the top safety pairings of their generation. No moment emphasized the playstyle of the pair more than the hit Atwater made on Christian Okoye, the player dubbed the “Nigerian Nightmare.”
As an individual, Atwater went from success to success in the early part of his career. He missed just two games in his first five seasons, putting up impressive numbers along the way. In those first five seasons, Atwater registered 14 interceptions, forced 3 fumbles, and made 744 tackles.
A golden end to Atwater’s career in Denver
Having played in the Super Bowl as a rookie, Atwater and the Broncos would return there eight years later. In Super Bowl XXXII, Atwater would make a huge contribution, and many argue he should have been the Super Bowl MVP. The stat line is impressive: 6 tackles, 2 passes defensed, a sack, and a forced fumble. Furthermore, the moments he stepped up were crucial in the outcome of the game.
He forced a fumble on a sack in the second quarter, resulting in three points. He continued to be a menace to the Green Bay Packers’ run game throughout, before making a huge play in the passing game in the fourth quarter.
On 3rd and 8, with the score tied at 24, Atwater came on a blitz and managed to knock down a pass that would have otherwise been completed to a wide-open receiver. He then made one of his trademark hits on the Packers’ final drive to leave Green Bay in a 4th-and-6 situation.
Atwater played a lesser role in his final season in Denver in 1998. Nevertheless, the Broncos went back to the Super Bowl, and Atwater’s career in Denver ended with the Broncos winning Super Bowl XXXIII.
As a free agent in 1999, Atwater played one season for the New York Jets. However, he would return to Denver on a one-day ceremonial contract to retire as a Bronco. Atwater was then named first-team NFL 1990s All-Decade Team.
A long wait for Atwater to receive Hall of Fame recognition
Atwater was inducted into the Broncos Ring of Fame in 2005. Yet, it would take until 2012 before he was a semifinalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He would then make the list of finalists in 2016 until subsequently selected as part of the 2020 Hall of Fame class. It took 21 years from his final season for Atwater to be selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Steve Atwater’s stats
Atwater’s NFL career would span 11 years with impressive stats — 10 of those years with the Broncos. In his 10 seasons with Denver, Atwater missed a total of just five regular-season games.
Atwater made 1,188 tackles during his career, which ranks ninth all-time among defensive backs as of the end of the 2020 season. In addition to that, he added 24 interceptions and scored 1 touchdown in his career.
Of those numbers, 1,125 tackles and all 24 interceptions came while Atwater was with the Broncos. He is also credited with 28 tackles, 1 sack, and 1 interception in the playoffs during his time in Denver.
What are the highlights of Steve Atwater’s Hall of Fame career?
- 2x Super Bowl champion (XXXII & XXXIII)
- NFL 1990s All-Decade Team
- 2x first-team All-Pro (1991 & 1992)
- 1x second-team All-Pro (1996)
- 8x Pro Bowl (1990-96 & 1998)
- Denver Broncos Ring of Honor
Steve Atwater’s net worth
Atwater’s net worth varies depending on the source from anywhere between $3 and $7 million. Let’s take a look at Atwater’s contracts as an NFL player and how much he earned during his career.
Atwater’s NFL career earnings
As a first-round selection in 1989, Atwater signed a four-year deal worth $2 million, per Over the Cap. He then signed a two-year extension worth $3.5 million in 1992, which would keep him in Denver through the end of the 1994 season.
Following the end of his second contract, Atwater signed a five-year contract in Denver worth $12.5 million. He would play for four of those seasons, earning $9.9 of that $12.5 million. The final contract of his career would be a three-year deal worth $8.3 million with the Jets. However, that contract would be terminated after a single season. Atwater would earn $2.2 million of that contract in that season.
At the end of his career, Atwater had earned $17.6 million in cash from his NFL career.