Saturday, October 31, 2015
Atwater was in town for the induction of Broncos owner Pat Bowlen into the team's Ring of Fame. "Mr Bowlen is a great individual," Atwater said. "His philosophy was a huge part of our success as a team. #1 he wanted us to be number one at everything #2 He said the team's success was not about him, it's about others." Sadly, Bowlen will not be at the ceremonies on Sunday as he is in the advanced stages of battling Alzheimers disease. "I wish he could be there," Atwater said.
After his brief introductory remarks about Pat Bowlen and his appreciation of the Denver fans, Atwater took questions from the crowd. A sample of some of his answers are listed below:
What running backs and wide receivers gave you the most fits in your playing days?
Marion Butts from the Chargers was tough - 6'1" and 250 lbs. We had some good battles. I had to take advil after a day of tackling Marion.
Jerry Rice was the best wide receiver I faced. Before the 1989 season's Super Bowl we had been going over a play in practice where Rice comes over the middle. He did that exact play in the game and I thought "I'm going to crush him!" I hit Rice, he bounced off and ran into the end zone. I was so down at half time of that game. I felt like calling my Mom and saying, "can you come over and pick me up?"
How did you feel before the Green Bay Super Bowl?
We had lost to Jacksonville the year before and the players were stunned. The next year we went 12-4 and we felt we could do it. The worst day in my life was that first Super Bowl loss to San Francisco, and I didn't want to experience that feeling again. We have an AFC Championship ring from that year - I have never worn that ring in my life. It's like a loser's ring. We wanted to beat Green Gay for the fans, for Mr Bowlen, and for the AFC (the AFC had a long streak of Super Bowl losses before the Broncos win that day)
Tell us about your relationship with Broncos cornerback Bradley Roby
Bradley went to the same high school as my son. I could see his talent right away. I told his Mom, "if he stays healthy he'll be in the NFL." Bradley's extremely bright - he scored over 2000 on the SAT. He was raised by his Mom, a single parent. He's a very hard worker. I give him words of encouragement today.
Who was your biggest rival in your playing days?
I loved beating the Raiders and the Chiefs. I didn't feel as strongly about games versus the Chargers.
What were the most hostile visiting cities to visit?
Oakland, KC, and Buffalo. In buffalo you had to deal with the snow balls. Kansas City was the loudest stadium I played in. My family from St Louis would come to my games in KC and they didn't want to wear Bronco gear - they got yelled out too much by the fans when they did.
What was it like to be inducted into the Broncos Ring of Fame in 2005?
Pat Bowlen called me to say I would be inducted and I said, "what?" It was a surprise. In my playing days when the national anthem played I looked around at the names in the ring of fame and thought of all the sacrifices those players made to build the franchise. Getting inducted meant the world to me. It wasn't just an individual honor - it was a credit to my teammates who made plays in front of me putting me in a position to succeed.
Do you want to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
I hope some day it'll happen, but I'm fine if it doesn't. I still had a great career and had great relationships with many players and coaches.
Did you have a feeling the Broncos would draft you?
I didn't know who would draft me. I did meet with two Bronco scouts who came out to Arkansas to time me. I ran my best time ever - 4.47 seconds in the 40. Really? I thought to myself, I ran that fast? After I retired I had dinner with those two scouts. I brought up how fast I ran that day. One scout said, "I can make that clock say whatever I want it to say. I liked you!"
After answering our many questions Atwater was very kind in talking to all the fans who wanted autographs and who wanted pictures with this former Bronco great. In standing next to Atwater I could imagine what Christian Okoye must have felt to be hit by this man - he towered over the fans in attendance this day.
Atwater had his 49th birthday 3 days prior. The QB Club surprised him with a birthday cake and he was all smiles as we sang him Happy Birthday. It was the least we could do. I was very impressed with how gracious Atwater was in donating his time on a busy ring-of-fame weekend to spend two hours with our club.
Wednesday, October 7, 2015
A new location for The Denver Broncos Quarterback Club meetings! We had our first meeting at CB&Potts restaurant near Arapahoe and I-25. Club members enjoyed yummy appetizers before listening to a Bronco insider - Andrew Mason, senior digital reporter from denverbroncos.com
Andrew spoke briefly about his background and role with the team. He has been covering the NFL for 17 years, including a stint with the Carolina Panthers when John Fox was the coach there. Combined with his time with the Broncos "no one has covered Fox more than me" Andrew said. He told us how denverbroncos.com has grown over the years, with 6 full time employees now working on the site.
The bulk of the meeting featured a question and answer session with Andrew - a reporter as close to the team as anyone. Some of the questions asked and a summary of Andrew's responses:
Can Peyton Manning still play at a high level?
"Father time is undefeated," Andrew said. But Manning is able to adjust to a new reality better than any player he has ever seen. Manning is trying to do what Brett Favre nearly did in 2009 - reach the Super Bowl at an advanced age (Favre was 40 when the Vikings almost made it). Also losing Wes Welker and Julius Thomas has affected the offense as Welker and Thomas were reliable targets for Peyton.
Will Brock Osweiller be the next Bronco starting qb?
"Brock is at an impasse in his development. He needs snaps in real games. Some players do tell me that Brock looks terrific in practice."
What has Wade Phillips brought to the defense?
"The Colts playoff game showed that a change needed to be made. Chris Harris told me the week before the game that he wanted to cover TY Hilton, yet Jack Del Rio kept Aqib Talib on Hilton and the results weren't good. The Colts offensive line had been decimated by injuries yet the Broncos rushed the same 4 guys every play with little variation. The Colts knew what was coming. In contrast Wade moves guys around, showing so many different looks. It's a simple defense for the Bronco players to run, but can be tough for the opposition to adjust to. Wade still has wrinkles up his sleeve that we haven't seen yet - we've only seen a fraction of what the defense can do."
"No one has benefited more from line coach Bill Kollar than Sly Williams. Kollar is the best defensive line coach in the game. You could hear Kollar yelling alot during training camp. Sly responded to that and has shown the biggest improvement."
How about the offensive line?
"It's a work in progress. People should remember that under Alex Gibbs most linemen had a year or two to develop before being thrown in as starters. Ty Sambrailo doesn't have that luxury."
"The pistol requires a quarterback to take a 3 to 5 yard drop behind the center. Peyton plays it with a 5 yard drop. Last week 31 of the 53 snaps were out of the pistol. We're going to see alot more of it as the season progresses."
Who will be the next Bronco in the Hall of Fame?
"We may see two Broncos next year. Terrell Davis candidacy is gaining momentum. The other is John Lynch. Safeties are under represented in the Hall because it is hard to statistically quantify that position - that helps Lynch's chances. Louie Wright has some momentum to be nominated out of the Senior Committee."
How about who is next for the Broncos Ring of Fame?
"Other than Pat Bowlen, who will be inducted this year, I'm guessing it'll be Jason Elam. Mike Shanahan definitely is a strong candidate but he has to clearly define he's done coaching in the NFL to get in."
At the meeting we also had an interesting display of Bronco jerseys and the infamous "striped socks".
Overall it was a great evening of Bronco football discussion from one of the most knowledgeable reporters who covers the team. If you are a Broncos fan living in the Denver area, joining the QB Club is a bargain. Only $50 for a family membership, and $20 per person for our dinner meetings. During the season we have ticket giveaways, too. One lucky fan won two tickets to the upcoming Green Bay game at Tuesday night's gathering.
Guests are welcome to try out our meetings before deciding on membership. We have a mix of reporters covering the team and players as speakers at our meetings. Visit www.denverbroncosqbclub.com for more info.