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Sacco Sez: Steve Atwater a Hall of Fame safety and an all-time good guy

So many stories have been written about Steve Atwater in advance of his long-awaited induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and each story is well deserved.

Having been Steve's public relations man for his entire playing career in Denver, people often ask me what I remember most about Steve.

It is not the consecutive Super Bowl titles, the Pro Bowls or any of his other accomplishments.

The single biggest thing about Steve, to me, is that he has always been a first-class guy, a genuine person who has been loyal and faithful and true.

"I like being happy and I like being around happy people, and I like making people happy," Steve has said of himself.

He was a pure joy to be around and was never less than that as a person, a friend or a football player.

Virtually every pro football fan has seen his legendary hit on Kansas City running back Christian Okoye, the "Nigerian Nightmare."

I well remember how it all happened.

For many years, Bob Smith was in charge of wiring players at NFL Films. He was in charge of wires from 1980 until 2009, and we had many interactions when coordinating which Bronco would get mic'd up for a game.

He called me with this particular request on Monday, a week before the game, and I took it to Steve right away.

Initially, Steve was reluctant, but we continued to talk through the week leading up to the Monday night game. I figured Steve would ultimately do it, not because I was persuasive, polite and persistent, but because he was such a good guy who liked to make everyone happy.

The wiring and the hit were legendary, and Bob noted to me, correctly I think, that "the wiring was so well known and so often seen that I think it helped get him into the Hall of Fame."

"Steve was such a happy guy," Bob recalls. "He would just crush the ball-carrier, then he would get up, help him up, pat him on the rump and do it all over again.

"We actually wired him twice, the other time [being] a relatively uneventful game against the Raiders. But he always talked, and everything was always positive.

"We also wired Broncos safety Dennis Smith several times, and the two of them were just crushers."

Those two started together in the Broncos secondary for six seasons.

Bob Smith won more than a dozen Emmy Awards at NFL Films for sound wirings during his career, and he remembers the Atwater hit as "the most violent collision I ever heard. And he just got up and good naturedly laughed about it."

And now we are just days away from one of the hardest-hitting safeties in NFL history gaining immortality in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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