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Atwater hopes Broncos' Manning, Lynch join him in Hall of Fame

While Peyton Manning is a cinch, John Lynch is not only past due, he's a sentimental choice with Super Bowl in Tampa.
Credit: AP Photo/David Zalubowski
Peyton Manning, left, and John Lynch on Monday, Aug. 19, 2019.

CANTON, Ohio — Steve Atwater already has his Pro Football Hall of Fame ceremony invitation. He’s now waiting for another Bronco or two to keep him company this summer.

Atwater, the Broncos’ eight-time Pro Bowl safety, was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last year, along with 19 others in the special Centennial HOF Class of 2020. But because of the COVID pandemic, his induction ceremony in Canton, Ohio was postponed and re-scheduled to Saturday, Aug. 7 of this year.

Meanwhile, the Pro Football Hall of Fame will announce its new class of 2021 on Saturday during its Honors program. Former Indianapolis and Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning will be one. And former Tampa Bay and Broncos safety John Lynch could be another.

> Above video: Steve Atwater elected into Pro Football Hall of Fame in Feb. 2020.

“Most definitely I’m hoping Peyton and John Lynch get in this year,’’ Atwater told 9NEWS. “Those guys are certainly deserving – all the finalists are deserving, but having those two guys who played for the Broncos and knowing what kind of guys they are, I’m really pulling for them that they’ll be (among the five modern-era candidates elected).”

Manning retired following the Broncos’ Super Bowl 50 title as the NFL’s all-time leader in passing yards (71,940) and touchdowns (539). While he’s now third in each category behind Drew Brees and Tom Brady, Manning’s spectacular 2013 with the Broncos remains the league’s greatest single passing season. Manning threw for 55 touchdowns and 5,477 yards that year, records that not even the sensational Patrick Mahomes II has threatened.

In his four seasons with the Broncos, Denver finished with records of 13-3, 13-3, 12-4 and 12-4 – an aggregate of 50-14. To show how valuable Manning is to a team, the Broncos in the five seasons since he retired have posted records of 9-7, 5-11, 6-10, 7-9 and 5-11, a sum of 32-48.

Credit: AP Photo/David Zalubowski
Peyton Manning, left, and John Lynch on Monday, Aug. 19, 2019.

While Manning’s 14 Pro Bowl nods are tied for first all-time, Lynch’s 9 Pro Bowls are tied for second among safeties. He earned four of those Pro Bowls in his four seasons as a Broncos. He played his first 11 seasons with Tampa Bay, where Super Bowl 55 will be played Sunday. Because he has been a Hall of Fame top 15 finalist the past eight consecutive years, and this year’s Super Bowl is in Tampa Bay where Lynch has such a strong background, it would almost be cruel if the 48 Hall of Famer voters didn’t elect him this year.

“With the Super Bowl being in Tampa that would be the perfect situation for John going in, although with COVID going on – it would still be pretty exciting for him, I’m sure – but it kind of takes away all the relationships and fun stuff we got to experience for a little bit last year,’’ Atwater said.

Providing the virus has abated enough for health officials’ approval, the class of 2021 will be inducted on Sunday, Aug. 8, the day after the class of 2020 becomes official.

“It’s got to happen this year,’’ Atwater said of the HOF ceremonies. “We all have to keep saying our prayers and doing whatever we can so the virus doesn’t get worse.’’

After getting shunned for far too long by voters, the Broncos have been a decent Hall of Fame roll. Through 2007 – the first 47 years of the franchise – the Broncos’ only Hall of Famer was John Elway. Since then, Gary Zimmerman (2008), Floyd Little (2010), Shannon Sharpe (2011), Terrell Davis (2017), Champ Bailey (2019), owner Pat Bowlen (2019) and Atwater (2020) have been elected. It’s assured Manning will keep the Broncos’ run going and Lynch could too.

“Broncos Country, all their fans, want their players in, too, just like all these other teams who have had their players in,’’ Atwater said. “We’re finally starting to see some traction there. I’m extremely happy for the guys and I’m hoping I can celebrate two more Broncos getting in.’’

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