The Numbers Game II: The 60s

The Numbers Game II: The 60s

jheeter@macon.comJuly 13, 2013 

No. 60 Tommy Nobis, Falcons, 1966-76

Bio: The first overall pick in franchise history turned out to be one of the greats in Falcons history. Nobis made an immediate impact, earning NFL Rookie of the Year honors and becoming the first Pro Bowl selection in franchise history. He made five Pro Bowls in his career, and he led the team in tackles in nine of his 11 seasons in Atlanta. He made the NFL’s all-decade team for the 1960s. Nobis still holds the Falcons’ record with 296 tackles in a season. The Georgia Sports Hall of Fame inducted “Mr. Falcon” in 1983.

Why we picked him: Nobis might be one of the greatest first draft picks by a new franchise in sports history. No other Falcons player has ever worn No. 60, making him the ideal candidate for the Numbers Game.

Others we considered:

Clint Boling, Georgia, 2007-10 Only David Greene and Blair Walsh started more games at Georgia than Boling, who made 50 career starts. Boling made three All-SEC teams and was a fourth-round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals in 2011.

Pat Dye, Georgia, 1958-60 Dye made All-America teams in both 1959 and 1960, helping to lead the Bulldogs to a SEC championship in 1959. Dye later found success as the head football coach at Auburn. He is a member of both the Georgia and Alabama Sports Halls of Fame.

Steve Greer, Georgia, 1967-69 Greer was a three-year starter on the defensive line. He helped lead the Bulldogs to the 1968 SEC title. He received All-America honors in 1969 and won the Atlanta Touchdown Club’s Alexander Memorial trophy in 1970 as the outstanding lineman of the year in the South.

Ben Jones, Georgia, 2008-11 Jones wore No. 61 through the first three years at Georgia, but he switched to his preferred number after Boling graduated.

Tommy Thurson, Georgia, 1980-83 Thurson remains third in program history with 448 tackles. He was a second-team All-SEC pick in 1981 and 1983 and a first-team selection in 1982. He’s a member of the Georgia-Florida Hall of Fame.

No. 61 Ray Beck, Georgia Tech, 1948-51

Bio: Beck was a member of Georgia Tech’s streak of 30 games without a loss, earning AP and Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) All-America honors in 1951. Beck was a member of the inaugural Georgia Tech Sports Hall of Fame class in 1956, and he went into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame three years later. He was inducted in the College Football Hall of Fame in 1997. He was a second-round selection of the New York Giants and played on their 1956 NFL championship team.

Why we picked him: Legendary Georgia Tech head coach Bobby Dodd called Beck one of his best players. He was versatile, given his ability to play on either side of the ball, and his quick induction into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame gives some insight into his reputation as a player.

Others we considered:

John Scully, Falcons, 1981-90 The fourth-round pick played 10 seasons in Atlanta, starting seven of them at offensive guard.

Robbie Tobeck, Falcons, 1994-99 Tobeck started 78 games in six seasons with the Falcons. He only missed two starts in 80 games from 1995-99.

Eddie Weaver, Georgia, 1978-81 Weaver was a three-year starter on the defensive line, including during the national championship run in 1980.

No. 62 Charley Trippi, Georgia, 1942, 45-46

Bio: One of the greatest athletes in school history, Trippi exploded on the scene with MVP honors in the 1942 Rose Bowl. He returned to Athens in 1945 after serving in the Air Force, making his mark by setting the SEC record for single-game rushing (239 yards) against Florida and later single-game passing (323) against Georgia Tech. As a senior, Trippi earned consensus All-America honors in leading the Bulldogs to an undefeated season and a national title. Trippi won the Maxwell Award and finished second in the 1946 Heisman Trophy voting to Army’s Glenn Davis. He was also an All-American in baseball and played with the Atlanta Crackers. The Chicago Cardinals drafted Trippi first overall in the 1945 NFL draft. He joined the team following his college career and led the Cardinals to the NFL title in his rookie season, scoring two touchdowns in the title game. He made two Pro Bowls and three All-Pro teams before retiring after nine seasons. He is inducted in the following Halls of Fame: Rose Bowl, Georgia Sports, College Football and Pro Football.

Why we picked him: Trippi’s legacy still looms large in Athens, as he is one of just four players in program history to have their number retired. He still ranks in the top five in a number of categories at Georgia, and he still holds the program record for average yards gained per rush. He is one of four players in the Georgia Sports, College Football and Pro Football Halls of Fame alongside Fran Tarkenton, Joe Guyon and Jim Parker.

Others we considered:

Todd McClure, Falcons, 2000-12 McClure retired after the 2012 season, ending a career that spanned 197 games with the Falcons. He started 194 of them. The seventh-round pick started every game he played in from 2001-12. Only Jeff Van Note and Mike Kenn played more seasons or started more games with the Falcons. McClure started 144 consecutive games from 2001-10.

Vance Pike, Georgia Southern, 1983-85 The Warner Robins native and Auburn transfer was Georgia Southern’s first Kodak All-American when he helped lead the Eagles to their first national championship.

Leo Tierney, Georgia Tech, 1973-76 Tierney landed on the AP All-America third team in both 1975 and 1976. He was an All-Southeastern Independent selection both seasons.

No. 63 Edgar Chandler, Georgia, 1965-67

Bio: Chandler was a two-time All-American at offensive guard, earning consensus honors as a senior in 1967. The Bulldogs went 23-9 during his three seasons, including a 10-1 record during the Bulldogs’ run to the SEC title in 1966. He played with the Buffalo Bills as a converted linebacker. Chandler was inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 1988.

Why we picked him: Chandler was Georgia’s only two-time All-American in the 1960s, an impressive distinction considering Fran Tarkenton, LynnHughes, Jim Wilson, George Patton, Bill Stanfill and Jake Scott all played in that era. He joins Stanfill and Scott as the Bulldogs’ only consensus All-Americans from the decade.

Others we considered:

Justin Blalock, Falcons, 2007-current Blalock has started all 93 games he has appeared in since the Falcons drafted him in the second round of the 2007 NFL draft out of Texas.

Rufus Guthrie, Georgia Tech, 1959-62 Guthrie received All-America honors from the FFWA and the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) as a senior. He made two All-SEC teams. He was selected in both the NFL and AFL drafts.

Randy Johnson, Georgia, 1973-75 Johnson was the Bulldogs’ offensive captain in 1975 as they rolled up a 9-2 win and a berth in the Cotton Bowl. He was a two-time All-SEC selection and landed on the All-America teams of the AP, UPI, AFCA and Walter Camp as a senior.

Todd Wheeler, Georgia, 1985-88 Wheeler made 35 starts at center for the Bulldogs after taking over for All-American Peter Anderson.

No. 64 Jamie Dukes, Falcons, 1986-93

Bio: Despite being a consensus All-American at Florida State, Dukes went undrafted before the Falcons signed him as a free agent. He started 80 consecutive games at center for the Falcons, lining up at the position every game from 1989-93. Dukes is currently a studio analyst with the NFL Network.

Why we picked him: Dukes is one of those seemingly constant presences on the Falcons’ offensive line in the late 80s and early 90s. Dukes has stayed in the Atlanta sports spotlight as a radio sports talk host for nearly a decade.

Others we considered:

Peter Anderson, Georgia, 1982-85 Anderson started two seasons at Georgia, playing every position on the offensive line. He was an AP All-American in 1985. He became the first player under Vince Dooley to be named permanent captain at midseason – captains were usually named after the season. The two-time All-SEC pick also scored a touchdown in his career on a fumble recovery in the end zone.

Andrew Gardner, Georgia Tech, 2005-08 Gardner started 48 consecutive games at left tackle, paving the way for Tashard Choice to lead the ACC in rushing twice. He is one of only 15 Yellow Jackets to land on the All-ACC first team twice.

No. 65 Don Smith, Falcons, 1979-84

Bio: Smith started 79 games in six seasons with Atlanta after the Falcons selected him in the first round of the 1979 NFL draft out of Miami. He led the Falcons in sacks in three of his six seasons, with a high of nine during his rookie campaign. He finished his Falcons career with 38.5 sacks, putting him seventh in franchise history.

Why we picked him: Smith stands in a group alongside John Zook and Jeff Merrow as three of the four best pass rushers of the Falcons’ first 20 years. The group lags well behind the best in franchise history Claude Humphrey, but the three were pretty similar statistically.

Others we considered:

Chris Brown, Georgia Tech, 1997-2000 The Augusta native started 43 of his 48 career games, including 35 of 36 in his final three seasons. He helped Georgia Tech rank in the top three in the ACC in rushing all four seasons. His senior class won 34 games and played in four straight bowl games, the first by a group of seniors at Tech since 1953-56. Brown was a consensus All-American as a senior – only the 19th in program history. Brown is in the Georgia Tech Sports Hall of Fame.

John Davis, Georgia Tech, 1983-86 Davis earned All-America honors from The Sporting News in 1985 and from the Scripps-Howard News Service in 1986.

Kynan Forney, Falcons, 2001-07 The Falcons received tremendous value out of Forney, who was selected in the seventh round. He started 89 games and was a key cog in the NFL’s top rushing offense in 2004 and 2005. He was a Pro Bowl alternate in 2005.

Roman Fortin, Falcons, 1992-97 Fortin played for the Falcons for three seasons, but he was the team’s starter at center for three (1994-96).

No. 66 Royce Smith, Georgia, 1968-71

Bio: Smith started at offensive guard for three seasons, earning first-team All-SEC honors as a junior and senior. Smith earned consensus All-America honors in 1971. He helped the Bulldogs to a 10-1 mark in 1971, leading them to a Gator Bowl victory. He won the Jacobs Blocking Trophy in 1971 as the best blocker in the SEC. He later wore No. 64 during three seasons with the Atlanta Falcons. Smith was the only Georgia player in the 70s to be named an All-American by the AP, FFWA and AFCA.

Why we picked him: Smith’s distinction as Georgia’s only player in the 70s to land on the three biggest All-America teams – the AP, the writers and the coaches – speaks for itself.

Others we considered:

Warren Bryant, Falcons, 1977-84 The sixth overall pick in the 1977 NFL draft started 92 games at right tackle between 1977-83.

George Collins, Georgia, 1974-77 The Warner Robins native was a All-SEC pick and a Sporting News All-American in 1977. The two-year starter on the offensive line played on Georgia’s 1976 SEC championship team. He played in the NFL for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Brent Russell, Georgia Southern, 2008-12 Russell made three consecutive All-America teams from 2010-12. He was a four-time All-Southern Conference selection and the SoCon Defensive Player of the Year in 2011. In 2010, he was a finalist for the Buck Buchanan as the top defensive player in the FCS. Russell holds the Eagles’ career sack record with 25, and he’s second in career tackles for loss. Russell signed with the Chicago Bears following his senior season.

No. 67 Joel Parrish, Georgia, 1973-76

Bio: Parrish joined the Bulldogs after being drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers out of high school. The decision paid off for the Bulldogs, who received an All-SEC offensive guard out of the decision. He helped lead the Bulldogs to a SEC championship and a Sugar Bowl bid in 1976. He was named most outstanding lineman in the SEC by the Atlanta Touchdown Club and earned All-America honors from the UPI, FWAA, Walter Camp and the AFCA.

Why we picked him: The Bulldogs were loaded with great linemen in the 1970s – all seemed to wear numbers in the 60s as well – and Parrish was one of the best. Only Royce Smith landed on more All-America teams than Parrish, who finished the 1976 season on seven different All-America first teams.

Others we considered:

Moe Gardner, Falcons, 1991-96 Gardner started 84 games at defensive tackle over his six-year career, finishing his career with 420 tackles and 10 sacks.

Jocelyn Langlois, Macon Whoopee, 1996-2000 Langlois holds the franchise records for goals, points and assists. He scored a franchise-record 103 points in 1998-99.

Hugh Reilly, Georgia Tech, 2000-04 Reilly earned All-ACC honors in 2003 and became the only Rimington Award finalist – the trophy awarded to the nation’s top center – in Yellow Jackets history.

No. 68 R.C. Thielemann, Falcons, 1977-84

Bio: The Falcons selected Thielemann out of Arkansas in the second round of the 1977 NFL draft. He started immediately, logging 14 starts as a rookie. He started all 114 games he appeared in with the Falcons. Theilemann made three straight Pro Bowls beginning in 1981. He earned All-Pro honors during the strike-shortened 1982 season.

Why we picked him: Thielemann might be forgotten by some because of the Falcons had some many talented offensive linemen in the 1970s and 1980s. But only four other Falcons offensive linemen have made more than three Pro Bowl appearances. Thielemann was right there in the mix with those players, making Pro Bowl trips with Mike Kenn and Jeff Van Note in both 1981 and 1982.

Others we considered:

Mark Williams, Georgia Southern, 1995-99 Williams was a two-time consensus All-American on the offensive line, playing on one national championship winning team.

No. 69 Fred Stokes, Georgia Southern, 1983-86

Bio: Stokes helped the Eagles win their first two national championships and earned AP All-America honors in 1986 on the offensive line. Stokes went into the Georgia Southern Athletics Hall of Fame in 1993. The Vidalia native moved to the defensive line in the NFL after getting drafted in the 12th round by the Los Angeles Rams. Stokes moved to Washington in 1989, started 10 games and posting 6.5 sacks during the Redskins’ Super Bowl championship run in 1991. Stokes finished his NFL career with 38 sacks.

Why we picked him: Erk Russell, Paul Johnson and Tracy Ham receive much of the credit for the Eagles’ ascension to elite program – deservedly so – but plenty of others like Stokes helped set them on that course.

Others we considered:

Houston Hoover, Falcons, 1988-92 Hoover played in 79 games in five seasons with the Falcons, starting 72 of them at either tackle or guard.

Mike Lewis, Falcons, 1971-79 Lewis played 120 games in nine seasons with the Falcons, starting a career-high 12 games at defensive tackle in 1976.

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