MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — When the 48-member Hall of Fame selection committee gathers on Saturday to discuss the candidacies of 15 Modern-Era finalists, Broncos Ring of Famer Steve Atwater could see his best chance yet at election into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
"I think there's momentum building," Hall of Fame voter John Clayton said Thursday. "I know it's hard to get safeties in. We're in a little bit of a stretch right now where we're getting a little bit more in than normal. You figure that Troy Polamalu's probably going to be first ballot, but I think there's momentum right now that he has a chance. What helps that chance is that there's probably only going to be one first-ballot [selection], and that will be Troy. There's been a couple years where there's been two and three first ballots. So at least that opens up the door, so I think he has a chance."
Atwater, a three-time finalist, is one of four former safeties among the 15 finalists. Polamalu, Broncos Ring of Famer John Lynch and former Packer LeRoy Butler are also potential inductees.
"I think Steve Atwater is a deserving Hall of Famer, and I really hope he gets in, whether it's this year or another year," Hall of Fame voter Peter King told DenverBroncos.com's Phil Milani on Thursday. "This is a tough year, because I think all four safeties have an interesting case, and all four safeties are definitely going to have some support in that room. It's an interesting year, because I get the sense — this is just a sense, I don't talk to other people, but just what you hear and what people write and say who are on the committee — you just get the sense that Troy Polamalu probably has the best shot of the four. But ... the Hall of Fame selection committee — and I've been on it for 28 or 29 years — we really have done a poor job historically with the safety position.
"In a year like this when there are not really many slam dunks at all, I'd love to see two safeties get in, because I think certainly all four have a great case. I hope that happens. I have no idea if it will, but I hope it does. But Steve Atwater's a Hall of Famer."
Atwater is a two-time first-team All-Pro and eight-time Pro Bowler. He is also a member of the NFL's 1990s All-Decade team. Of the 66 position players who were named first-team NFL All-Decade players in the 1970s, 1980s or 1990s, Atwater is one of just three players who is not in the Hall of Fame.