Broncos trio closer to Hall
Davis, Lynch, Atwater among Class of 2016 finalists for Canton induction
Terrell Davis, John Lynch and Steve Atwater are one step closer to Canton.
The three former Broncos are among the 15 modern-era finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2016.
With one more “yay” from the Hall of Fame’s 46-person selection committee, they could join the group of four former Broncos already inducted: former quarterback and current general manager John Elway (Class of 2004), offensive tackle Gary Zimmerman (2008), running back Floyd Little (2010) and tight end Shannon Sharpe (2011).
Davis, the Broncos’ all-time leading rusher with 7,607 yards and 60 touchdowns, was a finalist for the first time in 2015 and a semifinalist 10 times since retiring in 2002.
“I felt a little more encouraged that I would make it at least back to this point,” Davis said. “So, slightly different from last year, but make no mistake about it, both times are ones where I can’t help but to smile because it feels like it’s one step closer to obviously eventually being enshrined.”
In his seven seasons, all with the Broncos from 1995-2001, Davis was a three-time Pro Bowl and first-team all-pro selection, earning two Super Bowl titles. His average of 101.7 yards rushing per game (including the postseason) ranks second to only Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown. In his eight playoff appearances, Davis had at least 100 yards rushing in seven of them — including Super Bowl XXXII, when he had 157 yards and three touchdowns to earn MVP honors. Davis owns an NFL-record 142.5-yard rushing average in the postseason (minimum five games) and owns a Denver-record 1,140 career yards rushing in the playoffs, to go with 12 touchdowns.
“I took pride in being at my best when the moment was big,” he said. “That’s one thing I can live with. I don’t know how that compares to other players and whether I was the best in the game when I played. I just knew that for whatever my team needed me to do or whatever my coaches asked me to do, I think I delivered.”
Atwater, drafted by the Broncos in the first round (No. 20 overall) in 1989, spent the first 10 of his 11 NFL seasons in Denver and was voted to eight Pro Bowls, the second-most of any Broncos player.
In 167 career games, Atwater, a first-time Hall of Fame finalist, made 1,356 tackles (854 solo), 24 interceptions and five sacks. He played in three Super Bowls and four conference championship games. After helping the Broncos win Super Bowl titles in 1997 and 1998, Atwater finished his career with the New York Jets in 1999.
“I was really excited. I’ve never gotten this far before and it’s really the first time where I could watch it on television, as well, so it was super exciting for my family and I,” Atwater said. “I’ve watched a lot of the guys who have gotten into the Hall of Fame and sometimes it can be a long wait, so I’m happy to be here at this point, and hopefully, I’ll move on.”
Lynch, a three-time finalist, played the final four (2004-07) of his 15 NFL seasons with the Broncos after spending the first 11 with the Buccaneers. In 224 career games, he amassed 1,227 tackles (789 solo), 13 sacks, 26 interceptions, 100 pass breakups, 16 forced fumbles and eight fumble recoveries.
A Pro Bowl selection in each season he was with the Broncos, Lynch also was the 2006 Bart Starr Award winner and Byron “Whizzer” White Award winner for his off-the-field contributions.
“I’m just extremely privileged,” Lynch said. “You’d hope that the more times you keep banging on the (Hall of Fame) door, eventually you bust right through.”
Lynch and Atwater are two of only three defensive players among the 15 finalists, the fewest since 1993.
The Class of 2016 will be selected Feb. 6, the day before Super Bowl 50 is played in Santa Clara, Calif.
Running back Terrell Davis helped the Broncos win consecutive NFL championships with Super Bowl victories in the 1997 and 1998 seasons. Karl Gehring, Denver Post file