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Atwater vs Okoye, the tackle that has awakened to the NFL from the nightmare of the nigerian

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Published on Mar 28, 2020

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Is the 17 of September of 1990, the Mile High Denver is a basin, orange jam-packed with 76mila fans that nitriscono mad, as always when in Colorado come those dressed in red. Is [email protected] on Monday Night Football, baby.

After blocking a punt at the beginning of the last quarter, the Chiefs are 18 yards from the endzone the Broncos and lined up in the single back formation, with quarterback Steve DeBerg crouched behind the centre. A handful of yards behind him towers the silhouette of the vast Christian Okoye, the Nigerian Nightmare, nigerian from Enugu and the tenant fixed the nightmares of defensive coordinator, half the NFL, ready to run wild on the defense of the Broncos. At the opposite end of the field, at the bottom of the defensive deployment of Denver, there is safety Steve Atwater, said "the smiling assassin" for the grin that you print on your face every time you down an opponent.

In the Super Bowl against the Packers Atwater will succeed in the enterprise to roll out three players in one hit, including himself.

Everything is ready, the stage is set, even if no one yet knows what for. Even the two protagonists, still unaware that there might be a few seconds to take part in one of the 100 moments more iconic in the history of the NFL.

Only when DeBerg puts the ball into the stomach of her giant running back, the gods of football decide to set up a set worthy of the scene epic that is about to happen: the trench between attack and defence is torn in two as if it were a curtain, and finally, the Nigerian Nightmare, and the Smiling Assassin face to face, separated by about twenty yards, ready to scaraventarsi the one against the other like two knights in a medieval joust.

Okoye is the first to accelerate the steps. Before going on the field that Monday night, the Nigerian Nightmare had done his usual ritual pre-game. As always, he had walked through the field, slowly, steps heavy and his arms dangling, premurandosi to spend two or three times in front of the sideline the opposing. Nothing special, no trash talk, no cries, no choreography à la Ray Lewis. The Nigerian Nightmare was enough to see to freeze the blood in the veins of the opponents.

This recovery of NFL FILMS seems to be the presentation of the villain in a B-Movie on the football

There is a proverb in nigeria that says “The strength of the lion is in fear of him that we have”. The real strength of Okoye, one that has allowed him to win the title of the rushing champion in the previous year, lies in the fear that those 120 kilos launched in 4.54 seconds (for context, I am 10 pounds heavier than Derrick Henry to a tenth of a second less than the King) manage to inflict on the people who is in front. Everything, from the tonnage to the nickname up to the giant paraspalle, contributes to the terror that precedes it in the field. The defenders of the NFL living in the nightmare to have it arrive at him, they scared and lose before trying the tackle. Twenty years later many of them will admit that by the third quarter then they could not really more, and began to pretend to placcarlo.

“The strength of the lion is in fear of him that we have”

While approaching to the line of scrimmage, Steve Atwater he realizes that he is the only Bronco on the path of Okoye. At every moment, see the white silhouette getting larger and closer, like an avalanche that comes down from the mountains of Aspen, and realizes he must stop this alone. Atwater has two possibilities. Could do what would make a person with an ounce of self-love, miss slightly Okoye in the back and then make him lose his balance avoiding a head-on collision. It would also have all the reasons, saw that the nightmare, nigerian has made wet the jockstrap at defenders more big, more strong and more established than him. But Steve Atwater the nickname "the smiling assassin" is earned for a reason, that, the words of Mark Schlareth, played "with a total disregard for his own health". Therefore he chose the other solution, the one that is more neutral, the one that no one had yet had the courage to try.

“The strength of the lion is in fear of him that we have”

The avalanche is getting closer, Atwater out to it. Perhaps he is thinking of what he said his mentor and companion of department, Dennis Smith, just before the start of the match: "we must not do as those who leave him to go and chase him from behind, one of us must hit it straight up, straight to straight, without fear. But you can not be afraid of a nightmare? When Okoye crosses the line of scrimmage and tip her 120 pounds to Atwater, the decibels seem to zero for an instant, replaced by the mute sound of fifty thousand people hold their breath.

“The strength of the lion is in fear of him that we have”

Perhaps Atwater did not think of anything, maybe he lets himself be guided by his instinct of a killer smiling. Also because of time for thinking and there is more: the nightmare of the nigerian was approached with a speed that a man of that size should not have, and has already lowered the hulking paraspalle, ready for the collision. Atwater charged in the last step, it remains high, and lowers his.

A dry sound, like that of two bowls, but much stronger. So strong as to feel clear even in the audio grainy copy of the television, strong enough to startle John Elway and the rest of the bench of the Broncos, so violent as to overturn and for a moment the laws of physics, because the sound of the collision seems to arrive before the light, long before the human eye can process images of the silhouette of the orange that is still standing, and the white one that he collapses to the ground.

 

While towers on the body's astonished Okoye Steve Atwater is not smiling, but looks with contempt for what remains of the nightmare from nigeria, while it spits out tons of adrenaline in the body howling a "YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH" that is lost and is amplified in the echo of a Mile High, completely crazy.

Christian Okoye remains on the ground for a few seconds, completely stunned, perhaps more by the realization that someone has challenged his domination of the physical hitting itself. When he gets up from the ground, is still the giant of before, but doesn't inspire the same fear.

It doesn't matter that in that period, under those paraspalle huge, was a man weak as it can be only the one who has just buried a baby son. No matter that, without tripping or accidentally a Bronco Okoye would have been able to plant both feet at the time of the contact (and not one only, as you can see from the replay back), and probably in that case, Atwater would have paid for his recklessness with a broken collarbone. What does matter is that from that moment the nightmare of nigeria has ceased to seem invincible, and for this to terrorize. And what is a nightmare that is not afraid of the most?

There is a saying in nigeria that says "When you fall, you know that it was God to go".

The shot had melted for ever the destinies of Atwater and Okoye, drawing for both trajectories until a few seconds before were hard to imagine. It has been the most important highlight of a career that has brought Atwater, Canton, Ohio, where in a few months will be introduced in the Hall of Fame; at the same time put Okoye on the road of the retreat, arrived only two years later because of the weight of the concussions in a career that lasted only six seasons.

Okoye has never openly admitted, but the collision allowed him to exit by a character who was destroyed with his gentle soul off the field. The football has never been the love of the sport Okoye, that in America, we had arrived to become the olympic sport in which there is a crumb of contact, the launch of the disk. He finished playing football was almost inevitable, because his body was too exaggerated because someone go on and on to give him a football oval in his hand. As he joked to his teammate Nick Lowery, Okoye "was so big that perhaps the best scheme would be to make him throw weight the quarterback past the line of scrimmage". After the retreat, to play in the NFL is not missing for nothing. He missed laughing with his teammates, he missed the roar of Arrowhead after each touchdown, there is no failure never with the ferocity of a sport that, while dominating, he never understood until the end. On the contrary, Steve Atwater, and beating it to the ground that Monday night has to be taken from a path that was not his.

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