Tag Archives: denver broncos ring of honor

Atwater, Steve (2) ‘The Smiling Assassin’

Card: Action Packed 1990
Acquired: TTM 2019, C/o The Denver Broncos
Sent: 10/21 Received: 11/4 (14 days)
See Also: Steve Atwater

Steve over the last few years has become an insider and ambassador with the Denver Broncos organization. He has continued to be a good signer TTM, although since I originally got him back in 2011, he’s stopped signing as quickly and now only signs one item per person. For a few people he even short signed his initials. Atwater like many players has probably gotten frustrated with collectors and resellers abusing his generosity and going back to the well too soon and too often. I felt that since it had been… almost 10 years, it was fair of me to shoot out this classic Action Packed card of his.

Atwater was elected as part of the mega NFL 100th Anniversary class to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in early 2020.

Smith, Rod (WR-DEN)


Cards: Playoff Prestige 2004 Xtra Points, Leaf Rookies & Stars 2004 (072/250), Playoff 2005
Acquired: TTM 2017, C/o Home
Sent: 1/20   Received: 3/10    (48 days)

Rod Smith is considered one of the greatest undrafted wide receiver free agent acquisitions in NFL history. After going unselected out of tiny Missouri Southern State in 1994, Rod signed with the Denver Broncos.  Rod spent the entirety of the 1994 season on the practice squad, while the Broncos were going through a slow overhaul at WR.

A gifted receiver who displayed eagerness and unyielding work ethic, Rod felt he had to work twice as hard as other players, because not only did he come from a Division II school, he had to work his way off the practice squad.  In 1995 he was promoted to the active roster, contributing primarily on special teams. In week 3, Rod posted his first reception- a 43 yard touchdown bomb from John Elway over the top of Darrell Green to win the game against the Redskins. The catch signaled the beginning of Rod’s arrival at the NFL stage. Throughout the 1995 season and the following year, Rod saw increased play time alongside Ed McCaffrey, as Anthony Miller was winding down.

Rod played his first full season in 1997. His ascension is critical in Broncos lore as he was able to help Denver win the Super Bowl in 1997 and 1998. Over the next 6 consecutive seasons he’d post over 1,000 yards receiving, including a career high 1,602 receiving yards in 2000, and 113 receptions in 2001. He’d also earn All Pro/Pro Bowl nods in both seasons. Rod made one more Pro Bowl appearance in 2005 after recording 85 receptions for 1105 yards and 6 TDs.

Rod was on pace for another banner season in 2006 but suffered a hip injury. In the end, Rod had to have his entire hip replaced in 2007, which ended the promising wide receiver’s career too soon, as he owned nearly the entire Broncos receiving record books. As fans sit there and debate, there is no question to me that if Smith’s career continued, he’d be a shoo in for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His numbers and wins for a receiver are on par with that of Jerry Rice. Unfortunately there is a logger jam of players at receiver going back years that may curtail his induction.

In 2008, Rod was inducted into the Division II Football Hall of Fame. Soon thereafter, he also received honors from the College Football Hall of Fame (2009) and the Denver Broncos Ring of Honor (2012).
I was surprised to get Rod’s autograph on these cards. He also included a business card of his new self-help book, ‘The Rod Effect’ , which charts his life from rags to success outside of football.

G/Gs 183/125    REC  849    YDS 11389    AVG  13.4     TD 68    LG 85T

Atwater, Steve “Smiling Assassin”


pac91 atwaterpset89 atwater


Cards: ProSet 1991 AP, Pacific 1991, ProSet 1989
Acquired:  TTM 2011, C/o Home
Sent: 1/13      Received:  3/13   (43 days)

Steve Atwater was a dangerous, hard hitting safety who quickly defined the role during the late 80s and 90s, (when great safeties roamed the Earth unencumbered by the more liberal passing rules and hitting restrictions that now restrict the defensive game) and is the all-time leader in interceptions at Arkansas. Drafted in the first round of the stellar 1989 draft over other talent because of his leadership qualities, Atwater was quickly inserted into the starting lineup beside Dennis Smith by new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips who employed him near the line of scrimmage to enforce the run.  Steve would validate his selection by making 124 tackles and 3 interceptions finishing second behind Derrick Thomas for Defensive ROY honors that season.  Over the next 9 seasons for the Broncos Atwater would become a lock for the Pro Bowl and as an All Pro (1990-1996, 1998) for his solid play and tackling. Steve would make a career high 5 interceptions in 1991 and won two Superbowl rings with the Broncos in 1997 and 1998. However in 1999, Steve would be a salary cap casualty and play one final injury marred finale for the New York Jets.  In retrospect, Atwater has left astounding tackle numbers on the table for a safety. Another unsung hero who should be in the HoF, Steve has never gotten his due- perhaps because he plays at such an unglamorous position.

Since retirement, Atwater has been bestowed many honors including: Being named to the All-Decade team of the 90s, the Broncos Hall of Fame, the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and the Razorback All-Century Team.  It was really tough to choose which cards to send as there were some nice cards of Atwater’s hitting but I settled on these showcase cards.  I had heard that Atwater was a wonderful respondent TTM with fans and I was not disappointed receiving these back in a bit over 40 days personalizing them to me as well.

G/Gs  167/166        Tac  1074      Sac  5.0    Fum 6     Int 24     Yds 408     Avg  17.0    Td 1    Lg  68