The Numbers Game II: The 90s

The Numbers Game II: The 90s

jheeter@macon.comJune 22, 2013 

No. 90 Chuck Smith, Falcons, 1992-99

Bio: The Athens native joined the Falcons in 1992 and remained with the franchise for all but two of his 125 career NFL games. He had 11 sacks in 10 starts in 1994 and remained in the starting lineup thereafter. He had two more 10-sack seasons, with a high of 12 in 1997. He had 8.5 sacks during the Falcons’ Super Bowl run in 1998 while serving as a team captain. He finished his career with 58.5 sacks, good enough for third in team history behind Claude Humphrey and John Abraham.

Why we picked him: For most Falcons fans, the Super Bowl run is their most prized memory. Smith played a huge role in that run as the leader of the "Bomb Squad" defensive line, and he was a consistently solid performer for about a six-year span.

Others we considered

Kyle Ambrose, Georgia Tech, 1984-86 A member of the Black Watch Defense, Ambrose earned All-ACC honors in 1986 during the Yellow Jackets’ 9-2-1 season.

Freddie Gilbert, Georgia, 1980-83 Gilbert started all four seasons as the Bulldogs had their best four-year run in school history (43-4-1). He finished with 26 sacks – still fourth in program history – and was a UPI All-American in 1983. He made two All-SEC teams, won a national title and played in four major bowl games.

Grady Jackson, Falcons, 2006-08 Jackson didn’t put up big numbers, but the enormous defensive tackle was one of the best run-stuffers in the league during his 36 starts for the Falcons.

No. 91 Brady Smith, Falcons, 2000-05

Bio: After playing four years with the New Orleans Saints – only one as a regular starter – Smith cracked the Falcons’ lineup in 2000 and remained a starter for five seasons. The former Colorado State star made 78 starts in Atlanta, racking up 32 sacks, which is still ninth best in team history.

Why we picked him: Smith played in the rotation with guys like Travis Hall and Patrick Kerney, which gave him the freedom to avoid attention. It came down to Smith vs. Morgan, and Smith’s sustained success beats Morgan’s one dominant season at Georgia Tech.

Others we considered

Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech, 2007-09 Morgan had one of the best single seasons in school history in 2009 when he finished with 12.5 sacks, the fourth highest total in school history. Morgan was named first-team All-American by the AP and the coaches, and he was named ACC Defensive Player of the Year after leading the Yellow Jackets to an ACC championship in 2009 – he had the game-saving forced fumble in the title game against Clemson. He’s seventh in career sacks with 19.5. The Tennessee Titans selected Morgan in the first round of the 2010 NFL draft.

Ron Simmons, Warner Robins High School, 1973-76 You have to be a transcendent high school player to be considered in a statewide list like this against college players and pros. Simmons fits the bill, leading the Demons to a mythical national title in 1976 before embarking on a Hall of Fame career at Florida State. He’s in both the College Football Hall of Fame and the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame.

No. 92 Coleman Rudolph, Georgia Tech, 1989-1992

Bio: Rudolph was a fixture in the Yellow Jackets’ lineup throughout his time on the Flats. He has two of the top 10 single-season sack totals in school history, with a high of 13 in 1991. Rudolph is still second in school history with 28.5 career sacks and third with 52 career tackles for loss. Walter Camp, Scripps Howard News Service and the Sporting News all selected Rudolph to their All-America teams in 1992. He was selected as one of the 50 Greatest Georgia Tech Athletes of the 20th Century in 2000, and he’s in the Georgia Tech Sports Hall of Fame.

Why we picked him: Rudolph was a sophomore starter on Georgia Tech’s national championship team in 1990. But he got even better in the two years after the title. He and Marco Coleman formed arguably the nation’s best pass-rushing duo in 1991.

Others we considered

Lester Archambeau, Falcons, 1993-99 All of Archambeau’s 91 NFL starts came with the Falcons. He had 31 sacks with Atlanta, including a career-best 10 during the Super Bowl run in 1998.

Richard Tardits, Georgia, 1985-88 “Le Sack” led the Bulldogs in sacks three consecutive seasons (1986-88) and held the school record with 29 career sacks until a guy named Pollack came to town.

No. 93 Richard Seymour, Georgia, 1997-2000

Bio: Seymour started 25 games during his college career. He was a two-time All-SEC selection and earned All-America honors from the American Football Coaches Association and Walter Camp in 2000. He led Georgia in tackles in 1999 with 74 and finished his career with 223 tackles, 26 tackles for loss and 10 sacks. The New England Patriots selected Seymour sixth overall in the 2001 NFL draft, and he has had a stellar pro career that includes seven Pro Bowls, three Super Bowl championships and selection to the Patriots’ 50th Anniversary Team and the NFL All-Decade team for the 2000s.

Why we picked him: He played on a defensive line that included four first-round picks – Charles Grant, Marcus Stroud and Johnathan Sullivan – and he was the best of the group. Perhaps the best illustration of his dominance: he led his team in tackles as an interior defensive lineman, which is a true rarity.

Others we considered

Michael Johnson, Georgia Tech, 2005-08 Johnson had nine sacks as a senior on the way to All-ACC honors and All-America honors from the American Football Coaches Association. A third-round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals in 2009, Johnson is coming off an 11.5-sack season in 2012.

Ted Roof, Georgia Tech, 1982-85 Roof was a leader of the Black Watch defense that pushed the Yellow Jackets to an appearance in the All-American Bowl in 1985. He was a first-team All-ACC pick as a senior on a 9-2-1 team. Roof, who is in the Georgia Tech Athletics Hall of Fame, is Georgia Tech’s current defensive coordinator.

No. 94 Quentin Moses, Georgia, 2003-06

Bio: Moses played in 52 games during his collegiate career. He had one of the more productive seasons for a Georgia defensive player over the past decade in 2005. He finished his junior season with 44 tackles, 20.5 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks helping the Bulldogs win the SEC and play in the Sugar Bowl. He finished his college career with 25 sacks, which is still good enough for sixth in program history. He was a third round pick by the Oakland Raiders in 2007.

Why we picked him: Moses didn’t have the stiffest competition, beating out guys like Henri Crockett (Falcons) and Wycliffe Lovelace (Georgia). But he wasn’t a slouch, earning All-SEC honors in 2005. He was one of the key players on the SEC championship-winning defense alongside Greg Blue, Charles Johnson, Tony Taylor and Tim Jennings.

Others we considered

Bill Elliott, NASCAR, 1995-2000 (as No. 94) While they don’t wear jerseys, NASCAR numbers are just as synonymous with drivers as the numbers on the back of jerseys in team sports. Elliott, Georgia’s biggest contributor in the sport, had his best years in another number, so it’s safe to say he’ll make a return to the Numbers Game in the coming weeks.

No. 95 Marco Coleman, Georgia Tech, 1989-91

Bio: Coleman was a dominant force during his time in Atlanta. He finished with 12.5 sacks in 1990 and followed up with 10 more in 1991. He had 21 tackles for loss in 1991, which is the second highest single-season total in school history. Coleman is third in career sacks (27.5) and fourth in career tackles for loss (50). The Scripps-Howard News Service named Coleman an All-American in 1990 and 1991, and the FWAA picked him as a first-team All-American in 1991, and he was a finalist for the Butkus Award. The Miami Dolphins selected Coleman with the 12th overall pick in 1992, and he remained in the NFL for 14 seasons and made the Pro Bowl in 1999.

Why we picked him: Coleman was arguably the second-most important defensive player on Tech’s national championship team behind Ken Swilling. He was also one of three Yellow Jackets on the ACC 50th anniversary team alongside Joe Hamilton and Ken Swilling.

Others we considered

Jonathan Babineaux, Falcons, 2005-current Babineaux has been with the Falcons for eight years, starting 90 games over the past five seasons. He has 22.5 sacks as a defensive tackle.

Bill Goldberg, Georgia, 1986-89 Goldberg was a mainstay on the defensive line during his time in Athens, but he’s most well-known for his pro wrestling career with WCW. He did make All-SEC teams in 1988 and 1989.

Greg Lloyd, Fort Valley State, 1983-86 Lloyd was a three-time All-SIAC selection and a three-time team defensive MVP. He was the SIAC Player of the Year in 1986 and received All-America honors. Lloyd’s fame came during his NFL career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, earning five Pro Bowl selections and the 1994 UPI Defensive Player of the Year award.

Giff Smith, Georgia Southern, 1987-90 Smith received All-American honors from the AP in 1989 and 1990, and he was a consensus All-American in 1990. He was a key cog in the Eagles back-to-back championships in 1989 and 1990. Smith is still fifth in school history in career sacks and eighth in career tackles for loss.

No. 96 Brandon Coutu, Georgia, 2003-07

Bio: Coutu earned All-SEC honors from the AP and SEC coaches with a strong 2005 season. He made 23-of-29 field goals and was perfect on all 40 extra-point attempts. He still has the school record for longest field goal without a tee when he made a 58-yard field goal against Louisiana-Monroe. He earned third-team AP All-America honors as a sophomore. He made a 55-yarder as a junior and made 10-of-11 before tearing his hamstring early in the season. He rebounded to make 16-of-21 field goals as a senior and never missed one of his 109 PAT attempts.

Why we picked him: Because of Georgia’s legacy of kickers – Kasay, Butler, Robinson, Hines, Leavitt, Bennett, Walsh – Coutu may get lost in the shuffle some. But Coutu has six field goals of 50 yards or more, trailing only Butler and Walsh. He was 51-of-64 on field goals for his career.

Others we considered

Joe Anoa’i, Georgia Tech, 2003-06 Anoa’i was a first-team All-ACC selection as a senior in 2006, but he’s received more fame recent as the professional wrestling character Roman Reigns, who is currently a WWE Tag Team champion.

No. 97 Patrick Kerney, Falcons, 1999-2006

Bio: A first-round pick out of Virginia, Kerney morphed into one of the best pass rushers in the NFL. He started 106 games with the Falcons, accumulating 58 sacks over his eight years in Atlanta. He had three seasons of 10 or more sacks, with a high of 13 in his Pro Bowl season of 2004. Kerney is fourth in team history in sacks.

Why we picked him: Along with Keith Brooking, Kerney was the face of the Falcons defense for nearly a decade. He was also a flashy player, so you had a hard time watching the Falcons play without noticing No. 97.

Others we considered

Cornelius Bennett, Falcons, 1996-98 Bennett’s glory years were spent in Buffalo, but he did have 11 sacks in 45 starts over three seasons in Atlanta.

Felipe Claybrooks, Georgia Tech, 1997-2000 Claybrooks probably doesn’t carry the hype that some others on this list do, but he was a productive defensive end nonetheless. He’s in the top 10 in school history for sacks and tackles for loss.

Marcus Stroud, Georgia, 1996-2000 Stroud was a good, but not great player at Georgia. He finished as a second-team All-SEC selection in 2000, but his production never measured up to the enormous hype started when he appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a high school senior. He was still a first-round pick in the NFL draft and had a good NFL career with three Pro Bowl selections.

No. 98 Travis Hall, Falcons, 1995-2004

Bio: The Falcons’ sixth-round pick in 1995, Hall played all but one of his 10 NFL seasons for the Falcons. He was a primary starter for six seasons, including during the Super Bowl run in 1998, before becoming a situational guy from 2002-04. He made 93 starts at defensive tackle, accumulating 41.5 sacks and 430 tackles. Hall’s career sack total is good enough for sixth in team history.

Why we picked him: Unlike Kerney, Hall wasn’t a flashy guy. He just produced and became one of the stalwarts of the defense for a decade. Hall never got the attention that others received, but he was a vital cog in the defense.

Others we considered

Josh Mallard, Georgia, 1997-2001 Mallard led the Bulldogs in sacks twice and remains eighth in program history for career sacks ahead of guys like Charles Grant, Mo Lewis and Phillip Daniels.

No. 99 Pat Swilling, Georgia Tech, 1982-85

Bio: Swilling starred for the Yellow Jackets under head coach Bill Curry. He earned All-America honors from the FWAA in 1985. Swilling set the school record with 15 sacks in 1985, including a school-record seven against N.C. State. He finished his career with 23 sacks and 37 tackles for loss, both totals among the best in school history. His 265 tackles is the second most by a lineman in school history. The Toccoa native played 13 years in the NFL, making five Pro Bowls and earning the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award in 1991 with the New Orleans Saints.

Why we picked him: Swilling had one of the greatest seasons for a defensive player in state history at any level. His performance against N.C. State is one of those moments etched in memory for Yellow Jackets fans and it largely helped him leave Atlanta as the school’s all-time sack leader – he’s now fifth on the list.

Others we considered

Voncellies Allen, Georgia Southern, 1996-1999 Allen earned All-American honors as the Eagles won the 1999 national title. He holds the career record for tackles for loss with 59, and he’s in the top 10 with 12.5 career sacks.

Tim Green, Falcons, 1986-1993 Green started 71 games for the Falcons, posting 24 sacks over eight seasons.

Charles Johnson, Georgia, 2004-06 The Hawkinsville finished his college career with 14.5 sacks, but he has proven to be an even better pro for the Carolina Panthers.

Alex Mash, Georgia Southern, 1990-93 Mash left Statesboro with the career sack record (18.5) and he’s still third in school history. He racked up a then-school record 18 tackles for loss in 1991, and set the career tackles for loss record with 38 – he’s now fifth on the list.

Vance Walker, Georgia Tech, 2005-08 Walker was a two-time All-ACC selection who finished with 13 sacks in as a defensive tackle. He also wore No. 99 during four seasons with the Atlanta Falcons.

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