ATLANTA — When Terrell Davis arrived in Denver in 1995, he knew who the two best players were on the team.
There was John Elway, the team’s franchise quarterback who led the team to three Super Bowls in the 1980s.
And there was Steve Atwater.
“I remember Steve Atwater being kind of that mentor to me when I first got there, telling me things that he saw from me in the backfield and helping me be a better player,” Davis said Wednesday. “Steve had just been a tremendous leader for the Broncos organization for a very long time. Even before I got to the Broncos, I just remember Steve Atwater and John Elway being the two best players on the Broncos, and he was the best safety in his time.”
That, in part, is why Davis hopes to see Atwater elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2019 when the class is chosen on Feb. 2.
“He was a two-time first-team All-Pro, eight-time Pro Bowler [and] a good friend of mine,” Davis said. “So it would mean a lot to me.”
Davis knows Atwater doesn’t have the same stats as fellow finalist Ed Reed, but Davis said he doesn’t believe you can compare players from two different eras using that metric.
“You can’t compare numbers from the safeties back then to the guys that are playing now,” Davis said. “Steve’s numbers weren’t great. I mean, he wasn’t picking the ball off a lot, but he was an enforcer in the box and he was just a tremendous player. I’m really rooting for Steve.”
Atwater, a member of the 1990s NFL All-Decade Team, will be just one option for voters in what is a crowded safety class.
Reed, former Bronco John Lynch and Atwater are all hoping to be one of the five Modern-Era finalists chosen for the Class of 2019.
Davis, though, said he thinks Atwater’s momentum may be growing.
“The last couple of years I’ve been talking to Steve about, ‘Hey, you need to come out from hiding basically. Be seen!” Davis said. “Because it helps when they see you. Not that your resume doesn’t deserve it, but there’s something about the process that when people see you, you become on the front of their minds instead of being in the back. I like to think it helped.
“He’s a finalist for the second time, and hopefully this is the year for him.”