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About The Atlanta Falcons
The Atlanta Falcons were born to Rankin Smith Sr., executive vice president of Life Insurance of Georgia. The proud father of the football team held a contest for a name and that name came from a school teacher who wrote. “The falcon is proud and dignified, with courage and fight. It is deadly and has great sporting tradition.”
Rankin was inspired and named the team the Falcons. A name was the first in a long line of things that needed accomplished for the beginning of the 1966 season. That only gave him one year to put together the Atlanta Falcons. November 27, 1965 the Falcons entered their first draft and that’s the day that Tommy Nobis, a Line Backer (LB) from the University of Texas made history as the first ever Atlanta Falcon.
Rankin accomplished his goal, and on August 1, 1966 the Atlanta Falcons played their first NFL game against the Philadelphia Eagles. The preseason game was played in Atlanta in front of a crowd of twenty-six thousand. The Falcons lost that game and lost the next nine regular season games.
Their first taste of victory came at an away game against the New York Giants, where Ernie Wheelwrith scored two touchdowns and Quarterback Randy Johnson with his deadly aim threw three touchdowns to help beat the Giants 27 to 16. The first home victory came against the Saint Louis Cardinals to a home crowd of over fifty-seven thousand fans.
Despite the dismal ’66 season of three wins and eleven losses, Tommy Nobis wins the NFL Rookie of the Year Award and he is the first Falcon to go to the Pro Bowl.
Three years later in 1969 the Falcons finally won their first opener against San Francisco 49ers, the 24 to 12 win was aided by Rookie Tight End Jim Mitchell who scored two touchdowns and set a club record with 229 yards rushing. Still the Falcons finished the season with more losses than wins but their six and eight record was a huge improvement for the franchise.
The next few seasons proved not to be much better but then in 1975 they drafted a young Steve Bartkowski, a quarterback from the University of California. They finished the ’75 season with a pathetic record of four and ten. However, once again records were set, this time by Dave Hampton who finally broke the thousand yard mark (1,002) in one game against the Green Bay Packers. Falcons lost 22 to 13.
Bartkowski continued to struggle in the ’76 season with only two touchdown passes and nine interceptions. He was replaced by Kim McQuilken who only proved to be worse than Bartkowski.
The 1978 season would go down in NFL history. Falcons against the New Orleans Saints, the game was known as “Big Ben Right.” Nineteen seconds left in the game Bartkowski throws a “hail marry” pass, an amazing fifty-seven yards into a crowd of Saints, the ball is tipped by a Saint and caught by Alfred Jackson an Atlanta Falcon. The Falcons went to the playoffs with a nine and seven record only to be beat by the Atlanta Falconss. The Falcons finally made it to a Super Bowl in 1998 but were defeated by the Denver Broncos.
Even though the Falcons host a loosing career they have put out some of the best players the NFL has ever had like “Big” Gerald Riggs who had his best career season with the Falcons when he rushed for 1,719 yards, 10 touchdowns and caught 33 passes for 267 yards.
Then we have Deon Sanders who was selected to 8 Pro Bowls and awarded the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award. Then there is the famous Billy “White Shoes” Johnson, who led the Falcons team in receptions in 1983.