With the summer drought and no-Falcons doldrums upon us, it’s time to go a little retro and build your own Atlanta Falcons Ring of Honor. This is a really tough task for several reasons. First of all, you have to compare and contrast players from different eras in the NFL, which can sometimes be like comparing apples and oranges. Second of all, this will be tougher on younger fans like myself who didn’t have the chance to watch many of the great legends in red and black, but learned of them only through family members and their memories. Third, this one will be tough to separate “favorites” from those that may be deserving. Finally, there so much criteria that could be entered here, but the main point to remember is that you make this list however YOU want to. This only one in a series of retro posts, so one coming soon will be who your favorite Falcons are/were not necessarily including their accomplishments. Before you aim your arrows fast and furious, remember that I am a younger fan and didn’t have to chance to witness many of the Falcons legends. Here goes………
“Mr. Falcon” as he’s called was the first ever draft pick for the Atlanta Falcons franchise back in 1966 and he certainly didn’t disappoint on his high draft status. After winning both the Maxwell Award and Outland Trophy as a senior at the University of Texas, Nobis followed that up with an astounding 294 tackles as a rookie and thusly was named the 1966 Defensive Rookie of the Year. The tough-as-nails middle linebacker went on to earn a long list of accomplishments and set the tone for the franchise after being the first ever member of the Atlanta Falcons. Nobis earned 5 trips to the Pro Bowl (1966, ’67, ’68, ’70, ’72), 1st team All-Pro, 2nd team All-Pro, was named to the NFL All-Decade Team of the 1960’s, was enshrined in the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, the Texas Sports Hall of Fame, the San Antonio Sports Hall of Fame, and had his number retired at both the University of Texas and Atlanta Falcons. Tommy Nobis has been the Falcons Vice President of Corporate Development and has been a member of the organization, in the front office and on the field, for over 40 years.
One of the most decorated Atlanta Falcons of all-time. Claude Humphrey’s accomplishments and accolades stretch a mile. After earning All-American honors at Tennessee State University in 1967, he was taken by the Falcons with the 3rd overall pick in the 1968 draft. Racked up 94.5 sacks as a Falcon in 11 seasons in red and black. Humphrey won Defensive Rookie of the Year honors in 1968. He is tied with Jeff Van Note for most Pro Bowl selections of any Falcon, with 5 of them coming in consecutive years (1970-74, ’77). The All-World defensive end garnered 5 first team All-Pro selections and 3 second team All-Pro selections. Humphrey was inducted into the Georgia and Tennessee Sports Hall of Fames. Humphrey played all but 3 of his 14 NFL seasons in Atlanta.
The quintessential Atlanta Falcon. It’s difficult to find any other individual that bleeds red and black like one Mr. Van Note. The great Falcons center is known best for playing a whopping 18 seasons all in Atlanta. He ranks as the second longest career of any player in NFL history with the same team. He tied Claude Humphrey for most Pro Bowl selections (6) in Atlanta Falcons franchise history. Van Note only missed 4 games in his entire career and helped the Birds to some of their best seasons in team history. He also has stayed actively engaged with the Falcons organization, serving as a play-by-play man for many years before giving way to Dave Archer, but he still plays a large role in the Falcons pre-game and call-in shows.
If not for a freak injury, Andrews was quickly headed to the top of the Atlanta Falcons Ring of Honor and not to mention likely the NFL Hall of Fame. Andrews was a homegrown Georgian from Thomasville before he took a trek to Auburn for his college career. He became just the second running back in NFL history to have two 2,000-yard (combined yards) seasons (the only other player prior to Williams was O.J. Simpson). When he had his first 2,000-yard year, he joined just four other backs who had done so (Jim Brown, Walter Payton, Wilbert Montgomery and Simpson). In his first five seasons in the NFL (1979–83), Andrews outgained every other back in the entire NFL. Andrews had 8,382 total yards in those five years (an average of 1,677 per year) to lead all NFL runners. Andrews earned four Pro Bowl selections along with being named First Team All-Pro in those same years (1980, ’81, ’82, ’83). That fateful injury in preseason basically ended his wonderfully promising career. He returned to play for the Falcons for one more year, but was relegated to being a tight end and retired at the end of that season.
The great Falcons offensive lineman played for second longest amount of time for the Falcons (17 seasons) than any other player besides Jeff Van Note. Kenn holds records for the Falcons in both games played and started (251). The longtime OL notched five consecutive Pro Bowl appearances from 1980 to 1994. Kenn also garnered 3 First Team All-Pro selections, as well as 2 Second Team All-Pro selections. Helped lead the Falcons to some of their best seasons as starting tackle and one of the Birds most consistent and tough players.
The Hammer, a homegrown Georgia football player from nearby Griffin who then played at Valdosta State before being drafted by the Falcons in 1987. Tuggle is one of the hardest hitting players in Falcons history and thusly was named “The Hammer.” Tuggle is still the Falcons all-time leader in tackles with 2,065 and had 12 straight seasons of 100 plus tackles. Jessie Tuggle earned 5 Pro Bowl selections as an Atlanta Falcon and played all 14 of his seasons in Atlanta and helped lead the Falcons to their only Super Bowl appearance.
The great Falcons QB is one of the most memorable history that came in with high expectations and delivered on almost every single one of them. Taken with the 1st overall pick in the 1975 NFL Draft. He was named Rookie of the Year after passing for over 1,600 yards with 15 touchdowns. He set every team record in passing, which included 23,468 career yards and 154 touchdown passes in 123 games. Bartkowski guided the team to their first playoff victory in franchise history over the Philadelphia Eagles in 1978. Bartkowski is one of only a handful of QBs in NFL history who have achieved consecutive 30-touchdown passing seasons (1980 & 1981) at least one time in their career. Twice elected to the Pro Bowl in 1980 and 1981 and led the NFL in passing in 1983 with a 97.6 passer rating. Played all but 2 of his 13 seasons as a Falcon and was a defensive stop away from going to and likely winning the Super Bowl in 1980.
After being named an All-American in both his junior and senior years while at Pittsburgh, Fralic came to the Atlanta Falcons with second overall pick in the 1985 draft. He was well-known for his road-grading run blocking and good pass blocking. Fralic earned 4 trips to the Pro Bowl in years 1986 through 1989. He also was named 1st Team All-Pro in the 1986 and 1987 seasons.
Many will say no way in Hades should Brooking be a part of this list with his actions after being traded to the Cowboys, but before he was allowed to part ways he was one of the best and most productive Atlanta Falcons in history. He was named to 5 Pro Bowls and racked up over 1,000 tackles while in Atlanta and had never left the state of Georgia after growing up in Senoia, playing at Georgia Tech, and being drafted by the Falcons. He was a consummate team leader and one of the most consistent defenders in Falcons history. After he retires and time passes, there’s almost no doubt that Brooking will make his way into the Ring of Honor. If the Falcons weren’t undergoing a major youth transformation, he probably would have finished his career as a Falcon.
Some will disagree here, but what White has done shouldn’t be underestimated. After undergoing some trouble with dropping passes early on in his career, White has gone over 1,000 yards receiving in four straight seasons and been named to the Pro Bowl for the last 3 consecutive years. He has already amassed over 6,000 yards receiving, 430 receptions, and 37 touchdowns. He was named to his first All-Pro team this past season and became arguably the best receiver in the NFL and certainly the most productive and all-around receiver. He signed a 7 year contract extension back in 2009, virtually guaranteeing that he’ll be a Falcon for the rest of his career and he shows no sign of slowing down and just got one of the best playmakers to line up opposite him in Julio Jones and one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL in Matt Ryan.
Jim Mitchell, Scott Case, Rolland Lawrence, Terance Mathis, Matt Ryan, Alfred Jenkins, Travis Hall, John Zook, Bobby Butler, Bob Christian, Bob Whitfield, Gerald Riggs, Billy Johnson, Morten Andersen, Deion Sanders, Jamal Anderson, Andre Rison, Patrick Kerney, Todd McClure