Build Your Atlanta Falcons Ring of Honor

Your Top 10 Atlanta Falcons of All-Time

Mr. Falcon (Manny Rubio, US Presswire)

 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………

1) Tommy Nobis

“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.

2) Claude Humphrey

Humphrey the Beast! (NFL)

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.

3) Jeff Van Note

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.

4) William Andrews

Cut Far Too Short (AJC File)

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.

5) Mike Kenn

Kenn the Man! (AJC File)

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.

6) Jessie Tuggle

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.

7) Steve Bartkowski

Best QB in Falcons History (NFL)

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.

8.) Bill Fralic

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.

9) Keith Brooking

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.

10) Roddy White

The Falcons finished the regular season ranked among NFL leaders in several categories. Roddy White finished first in receptions (115) and second in receiving yards (1,389). His yardage total was tops in the NFC.

Already 3 Pro Bowls (C.Compton/AJC)

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.

Honorable Mention

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

Time To Make Your Ring of Honor

  1. Agree or disagree with the above list
  2. Agree or disagree with the order
  3. Give your Top 10 Atlanta Falcons Ring of Honor
  4. Use any criteria you like and make the list however you wish
  5. What qualities do you look for: years played, individual awards, team awards?
  6. Who should be in the real-life Ring of Honor who’s not in there?
  7. Reminisce of all your favorite old Falcons memories
  8. Remember to make this list work for you however you like

112 comments Add your comment

just me

May 25th, 2011
10:29 pm

Enter your comments here


May 25th, 2011
10:35 pm

Again, please remember that I’m a little younger than many and most Atlanta Falcons fans, so many of these guys I didn’t have the fortune of seeing them either in person or on TV. The beginning of the list was pretty easy, but as you got closer to the end it started getting much tougher.

Several guys who I wanted to get in were Alfred Jenkins, Jim Mitchell, and Scott Case. They were all fantastic and awesome Falcons, but didn’t quite match-up to some of the others individual accomplishments.


May 25th, 2011
10:36 pm

I would have to give Tommy McDonald an honorable mention. I know he only played for the Falcons one year, but he was fun to watch. One of the few Hall of Famers to actually wear a Falcon uniform.

just me

May 25th, 2011
10:37 pm

Great research D3! I enjoyed the read.

I haven’t been around long enough to know much history before the 80’s. So I don’t feel like I could do a list of the true Falcon greats.

I was a bit suprised not to see Kerney in the honorable mention list, but then again his best year was with Seattle. I know Morton Andersen is the greatest kicker to ever play the game, but he was an Ain’t before he was a Falcon. I have a hard time even putting him in the “HM” without also adding Ironhead Heyward to the list.

Reid Adair

May 25th, 2011
10:38 pm

I cannot believe that Jamal Anderson isn’t even honorable mention. Seriously?!?!?!?!

Other than that extremely disappointing omission, not bad. I have a little different order … and three different names:

1. Tommy Nobis
2. Claude Humphrey
3. Jeff Van Note
4. Jessie Tuggle
5. Steve Bartkowski
6. Mike Kenn
7. William Andrews

8. Jamal Anderson – The records and the stats speak for themselves. The man was a workhorse, and he still represents the franchise to this day. How can you not include the “Dirty Bird” himself?

9. Deion Sanders – I know some people say he played better when he left, but he was right in his post-game press conference after the scuffles with Andre Rison. Deion was the name when they built the Georgia Dome. It may not be “his house,” but he was a big part of the team at that point.

10. Morten Andersen – The reasons and the stats are plentiful, but I’ll never forget that field goal in the Metrodome.

I agree with your honorable mention list, other than Matt Ryan. I believe it’s too early for Ryan to be among consideration.


May 25th, 2011
10:41 pm

Joel Williams was a much better LB than KB.


May 25th, 2011
10:41 pm

Although Deion and Jamal Anderson did not have long tenures with the club, their contributions were extremely important to the team.


May 25th, 2011
10:45 pm

I think Todd McClure atleast deserves honorable mention.


May 25th, 2011
10:49 pm

UGAJD — Good point and Welcome to the Cage! I tried to give as much honor to players who were Falcons for many years, but McDonald was a great player even though only for a year.

just me — I’m with you. A lot of this I just had to go off of my father’s memories because many of these guys I just didn’t have the opportunity to see. Kerney and Jamal Anderson have been added to the Honorable Mention list. I knew I’d miss some. I think Kerney would’ve stayed if they hadn’t just traded A LOT for John Abraham.

Reid — All good points my friend. Great to see you again. As you probably noticed, I haven’t been on twitter in ages. I miss it, but with my second little due up any day, I have to prioritize the time so tweeting got the axe. Good points on Deion and Jamal. You are exactly correct in terms of Jamal Anderson and his production, he just didn’t garner the same individual awards as others.

falcon21 — As I’ve said before, I’ll have to submit to you true vets who have been following the Birds for a much longer time. Much of the research was blind stats and memories from family members.

mike — Good points on both.


May 25th, 2011
10:50 pm

Buddy Curry, Kenny Johnson and I would pick Mick Luckhurst over Morten.

just me

May 25th, 2011
10:54 pm

Tana & Reid
I agree!!


May 25th, 2011
11:07 pm

Alfred Jackson, Wallace Frances and even Billy White shoes. I see what you are saying D3 and I’m not being disrespectful. Oh and how about Kenny Reaves?


May 25th, 2011
11:14 pm

Shiner, Dick (QB), Maryland . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1971–73

Russ Gregg

May 25th, 2011
11:36 pm

Vick has got to be on the list in terms of playing ability. I love the fact you have Bob Christian on the HM list he was a great blocker.

Reid Adair

May 26th, 2011
12:01 am

D3, congratulations on the upcoming addition to the family. I certainly understand about the time.


May 26th, 2011
2:30 am

Good stuff as always D3 and an excellent list. But if you are making a list of the top Falcons MV has got to be on it. The excitement he generated was off the charts and he turned this city on its collective head. I know his many shortcomings and all the ugly baggage, but no other Falcon has ever kept me on the edge of my seat the way Vick did.

[...] continue reading… [...]


May 26th, 2011
7:13 am

Warrick Dunn needs to be in the Ring eventually, for what he did as a player AND what he has done for the Atlanta community through his charity work.


May 26th, 2011
9:50 am

@Falcon 21 who wrote: “Joel Williams was a much better LB than KB.”

Now that’s funny…I don’t care who you are…..

Paddy O

May 26th, 2011
9:52 am

Russ: Sometimes the aw, sh1t is so big, it really does wipe all the atta boys clean off the slate – that is the case with Vick. Yeah, he could run, had a gun, and was an electric player, but I could not put him on a list of anything Falcon.


May 26th, 2011
10:34 am

By no-means can you leave out Atlanta’s all-time rushing leader Gerald Riggs and one of the GAMES best off. linesman who was traded to Balt. Colts was even greater…… John Zook


May 26th, 2011
11:13 am

Correction…it wasn’t John Zook……I meant GEORGE KUNZ…sorry about that


May 26th, 2011
11:15 am

Matt Ryan will own the Georgia Dome when he retires. If he stays healthy and stay out of trouble (which he’s too humble of a kid to get into trouble) then he will be the greatest Falcon to every play. There, I said it. This guy has it all. He has the make-up, the attitude, the willingness to work, and the leadership you look for in a player. Not only do I think he’ll eventually be the greatest Falcon to ever suit up, but I think he’ll make the HOF one day. He just needs to keep getting better and the coaches need to free him up. Ryan is a beast. I’m telling you.


May 26th, 2011
12:34 pm

D3, great list! The Falcons have had some fantastic players over the years. As I was reading your list another player would pop into mind, I would scroll down, and there he was! I have seen every Falcon play since they first started and picking the top 10 is not an easy chore. So far there have been some very good suggestions that were left out and I could probably add ten more but we’re counting “the best” which, like I said, is hard to do. Good job!


May 26th, 2011
1:10 pm

Junior Miller

big o

May 26th, 2011
2:11 pm

Your list is a joke Dude !!! Dion as an honorable mention !! He is in the ring of honor dude. How can you leave off Jim Mitchell and Alfred Jenkins and Wallace Frances gets no mention? Do little more research next time Bruh


May 26th, 2011
2:13 pm

D3 – Great list.

A point of order before I offer my own. You did say that we could use any standards we wanted, so this is clearly up for interpretation and debate. But the title is RING OF HONOR. Not the best player, most athletic, most electric. It’s the player who brough the most honor to the team, organization, and city… IMO. So, there is no way Vick can ever be in that discussion. His off field actions were the most embarassing of any player in NFL history to an entire organization. Further, his play the last year was pathetic and his apathetic approach was disgusting. There is ZERO honor with that man. My stomach turned when they hoisted Deion to the ring and it will again when they put Brooking in, but the day Mike Vick gets an honor from this team is the day I disown the Atlanta Falcons permanently. As for Deion and KB, they did play well here. But there’s no honor in mocking your former team. Others may forgive, but I’ll not forget. Deion AND KB simply lack the class for me to accept them in a Ring of HONOR.

With taht, here is my feeble attempt:

1. Humphries
2. Nobis
3. Bartkowski
4. Tuggle
5. Van Note
6. Kenn
7. Andrews
8. Riggs
9. White
10. Jamal Anderson


May 26th, 2011
2:25 pm

Where is Algernon Darius Crumpler?

Joe Horn thinks Joe Horn should be on that list. The HM list not the sleeping with Willie Roaf’s wife list. Joe Horn is outraged.

Paddy O

May 26th, 2011
3:05 pm

A good example of an aw sh1t not completely voiding the atta boys, is Brookings. He did some dumb stuff, but he was such a key, quality player for so long, he gets a mulligan on his dumb behavior in Dallas. But, if he had been convicted of a felony, say even just for tax evasion, that would most like knock off all the atta boys.


May 26th, 2011
6:01 pm

Great Thursday Eve Cage Family! — Keep safe from the storms tonight. This post is only the first one of many Retro Posts that is ENTIRELY long overdue. How can you expect to know where you’re going or what you’re doing if you don’t know where you’ve been? It’s been especially cool learning about many of these Falcons greats even though I never got to see them play. Remember to make your Ring of Honor be according to whatever standards you desire. Simply a great conversation topic and stimulus while reminiscing about our history.

Russ — I meant to put Vick on there and he will definitely be a part of a future post coming soon. Welcome to the Cage by the way!

Ed — Thanks. Yeah, I agree that Vick should be on the honorable mention list for sure. Perhaps one day if enough time passes than he will make it into the real Ring of Honor.

FalconsFan — Agreed. Dunn is the quintessential Falcons. Gritty, tough, great leader, and excellent person off the field. I could see him making his way in there, but the only thing is that he spent so long with the Bucs that they may retire his number. Welcome to the Cage if I haven’t already done so.

Day One Fan

May 26th, 2011
6:38 pm

Not much to debate with your list D3. However, the most glaring omission from the HM list…two words, Tom Pridemore.


May 26th, 2011
6:42 pm

JONESBORO — That was one of the toughest calls. I actually had Riggs in the top 10 for a long time, but just the fact that he’s known more for his Super Bowl win with the Redskins is hard to put him over guys like Roddy and Bill Fralic who either spent most of their careers with the Birds or plan to.

JB — Thanks. It was a tough list and I made many, many changes throughout. I didn’t have the benefit of seeing most of these guys with my own eyes, so I had to go on research and family member memories.

big o — I completely understand if you don’t agree with my list, but to call it a joke is just ridiculous. I get the Deion criticism, but he made more Pro Bowls (4) with other teams than he did with the Falcons (3) and only was in Atlanta for 4 years. All the other guys spent at least double that time with the Falcons. He was known more for his time after the Falcons than he was with them. Alfred Jenkins and Jim Mitchell both had 2 Pro Bowls a piece, while Roddy has 3 (and will be a Falcon for life), Brooking spent 11 years with Falcons and had 5 Pro Bowls and Fralic spent 8 years with the Falcons and earned 4 Pro Bowls. The other Falcons shouldn’t even be a question about. BTW, next time you want to criticize someone for not doing any research, you may want to research something as basic as how to spell “Deion” correctly, not “Dion.”

Coop — Great point. Jamal Anderson was on the fringe for sure. Unfortunately, much of what I used as a measuring stick went on individual awards. But the fact that Anderson was the entire offense while he was here is a d@mn fine point. I wrestled with Riggs for days putting him on and off the list.

uga_b — Alge should’ve been on the HM list.


May 26th, 2011
6:46 pm

Vick was an exciting player if nothing else. I thought we were talking about honorable players who were true Falcons and gave their heart to the Falcons, not players who played on our team. I have to agree with PO on this one. Vick disgraced, and disrespected, our entire team and every true Falcon fan. Dad taught me that when someone sticks his middle finger in your face, he had better have both legs firmly planted on the ground.


May 26th, 2011
7:33 pm

1. Steve Bartkowski
2. William Andrews
3. Deion Sanders
4. Jamaal Anderson
5. Andre Rison
6. Jeff Van Note
7. Gerald Riggs
8. Mike Kenn
9. Michael Vick
10. White Shoes
Honorable Mention: Jesse Tuggle, Scott Case, Terrance Mathis, Buddy Curry, Junior Miller, Bobby Butler, Morten Andersen, Roddy White,

Can’t include anybody who didn’t play after 1979 given my age, but i’m sure the older guys mentioned deserve it.


May 26th, 2011
8:26 pm

9:50a @CAJ, your love for KB is well known so I will leave it at that and say no more on that subject. Anyone remember Captain Crazy?


May 26th, 2011
8:33 pm

A few names that come to mind that may not be top ten that haven’t been mentioned are Greg Brezina, Kyukendal and Mike Hampton.


May 26th, 2011
8:36 pm

All good ones Sportaree and you answered my question. I’m kinda having a brain fart on Mike Hampton though.


May 26th, 2011
8:39 pm

@Falcon21: Brooking’s career 21 sacks; 13 ints almost all during his 11 year career as a Falcon……Joel Williams 7 sacks (3 as a Falcon); 5 ints and an eight year career as a Falcon…….so clearly Williams belongs in the Falcons ROH ahead of Brooking….there’s no argument….I don’t know what I was thinking…LOL


May 26th, 2011
8:42 pm

Is it Dave Hampton maybe?


May 26th, 2011
9:27 pm

falcon 21
My bad on Hampton. I’ve lost a few brain cell over the years.


May 26th, 2011
9:37 pm

You’re not alone on the brain cell thing my friend. Have a good one Sportaree, later!


May 26th, 2011
9:39 pm

Hampton was the guy who rushed for 1001 yds on the final game of the season but lost 6 yds on the next play =995 yds. That was back in the 70’s!


May 26th, 2011
9:41 pm

Okay, Hampton didn’t run for 1001 yards in the final game, he rushed enough to top 1000 for the season. I gotta start re-reading before posting. Still haven’t figured out how to do spell check.


May 26th, 2011
9:46 pm

JB, you got me laughing my butt off, 995 yds ain’t bad for one game. Just kidding JB, have a good night, I gotta run.


May 27th, 2011
12:25 am

1. NOBIS- #1 draft pick, lived up to expections and then some. too bad he didn’t have more help.
2. TUGGLE- Was a warrior every down of every game, and classy too, YOU HEAR ME BROOKING.



May 27th, 2011
7:43 am

Great List. This list brings back a lot of memories. If I had to change anything around I would have John Zook in the top ten, but I don’t know who I’d kick out to put him there. They’re all good.

rollo lawson

May 27th, 2011
9:12 am

You left off the three best players to ever suit up for the Falcons:
Deion Sanders
Michael Vick
Andre Rison
What a pi$$ poor list!!!

rollo lawson

May 27th, 2011
9:16 am

Was Tommy Nobis that much better than Jessie Tuggle? Nobody hit as hard as Tuggle. Nobody! This lists needs major revisions.

rollo lawson

May 27th, 2011
9:26 am

Stop gauging players success solely on Pro Bowl appearances. Jessie Tuggle got shafted for years basically because he played for the lowly Falcons. Deion won defensive player of the year for SF in 1994. He was just as good the year before when he played with the lowly Falcons. Its amazing how some try to diminish Vick’s positive impact on the franchise before his troubles. Simply the most talented QB to ever lace up cleats in the City.


May 27th, 2011
11:57 am

Lol, I’d rather go fishing but I’m stuck at work and it’s against the LAW!!!