Atlanta Falcons: 30 greatest players in franchise history

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. RB. (1979-83, 1986). William Andrews. 17. player. 44

  • Atlanta Falcons Ring of Honor (2004)
  • 4x Pro Bowl (1980-83)
  • 1x First-Team All-Pro (1983), 2x Second-Team All-Pro (1981-82)
  • Most receptions in a game (15) by a Falcon (1981)
  • Rushed for over 1,000 yards four times in his career

Seemingly, every NFL team has that one guy: what if he could have stayed healthy? The guy that immediately comes to mind in Falcons lore has to be running back William Andrews. While he only played six seasons for Atlanta over eight years, Andrews remains one of the most underrated running backs in NFL history.

Used primarily as a blocking back while at Auburn, Andrews proved to be a productive rookie as a third-round pick for the Falcons in 1979. He rushed for over 1,000 yards in his rookie season. As a matter of fact, Andrews went over 1,000 each of his first three years in the league. That put him in rare company as an NFL tailback, joining the likes of Ottis Anderson, John Brockington, Earl Campbell and Tony Dorsett of that era.

Beginning in 1980, Andrews would rattle off four-straight Pro Bowl seasons. He made second-team All-Pro in 1981 and in 1982. In two publications, Andrews would earn his only first-team All-Pro nod in 1983. Too bad his career would be completely derailed less than a year later.

While Andrews was one of the best multi-purpose backs in football, he wasn’t impervious to injuries. He suffered a brutal knee injury in the 1984 NFL preseason. It kept him off the gridiron for the entire next two years.

Andrews would eventually work his way back to the field for the Falcons in 1986, but he wasn’t the same player. He only had 214 rushing yards and a touchdown on 52 carries in what was his final NFL season. Though he played in 15 games for the 1986 Falcons, he took a back seat to battery mate Gerald Riggs, who was in the midst of his prime.

Andrews retired after the 1986 NFL season with 5,986 rushing yards on 1,315 carries for 30 touchdowns in 87 games for Atlanta. As a receiver, Andrews had 277 grabs for 2,647 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Though not as brilliant as Gale Sayers, Andrews is lumped in there with Billy Sims as one of the best NFL running backs whose potential hall of fame career was cut far too short due to injury. Andrews was one of the first four Falcons to be inducted into the Ring of Honor in 2004.