Toughest guy for Atwater to tackle? You might be surprised

Former Denver safety Steve Atwater is most often associated with a jarring stop of running back Christian Okoye on Monday Night Football. But it wasn't Okoye who was the toughest for him to tackle. It was another AFC West running back you should remember.

Steve Atwater photo courtesy of Denver Broncos.
Steve Atwater photo courtesy of Denver Broncos.

Talk of Fame Network

Hall-of-Fame semifinalist Steve Atwater was one of the biggest hitters in pro football, with his Monday night stop of former Kansas City running back Christian Okoye – a jarring blow that knocked the 265-pound Okoye backward – a signature moment associated for the former Denver safety.

So, naturally, when we caught up Atwater on The Talk of Fame Network, we asked which back or receiver was the toughest for him to bring down. His answer: Not Christian Okoye.

“There were several guys back then,” he said on our latest broadcast. “I mean, (Okoye) was difficult. But they had another guy there with him – Barry Word. He wasn’t a slouch to bring down, either.

"But I’ve got to say the guy I had the most difficulty with … in terms of when we looked on the schedule and saw (that) we’ve got to play these guys and I said, ‘I’ve got to get ready because I’m going to have a headache after this game’ … was a guy named Marion Butts. He was with the San Diego Chargers.

"It was just one of those days where you had to bring your lunch bucket and your hard hat because it was going to be a long day, a lot of contact, they were going to run it and we had to stop the run. So I would say he gave me the most fits.”

Atwater, who was an eight-time Pro Bowler, two-time Super Bowl champ and all-decade choice, is making his fifth run at the Hall as a semifinalist. He has never been among the 15 finalists chosen for Canton, and one reason is the position he played: Safety. There has not been a pure safety elected to the Hall since 1998, when Paul Krause – the league’s all-time leading interceptor – was inducted.

Nevertheless, we asked him what he would tell selectors if he had the chance to convince them to vote for him. Atwater was more than accommodating.

“I would try to stress the fact that during the era when I played we played against a lot of really big running backs, especially in the AFC West back then,” he said. “Of course, you had to have some big guys who weren’t afraid to get dirty and stick their noses up in there once they tried to pound the ball. I think I did that pretty well and helped our team be successful.

“I was a team player. One thing that is an issue was that I dropped some interceptions I should have had. But as far as my reliability and my durability I think I did pretty well. That’s pretty much what I’d say. I’d have them look at film and go from there, and I’d keep my fingers crossed that they come out agreeing with me.”

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