Atlanta Falcons: 30 greatest players in franchise history

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44. . C. (1969-86). Jeff Van Note. 11. player

  • Atlanta Falcons Ring of Honor (2006)
  • 6x Pro Bowl (1974-75,1979-82)
  • 2x Second-Team All-Pro (1979, 1982)
  • 18 years with Falcons; second-most in NFL history with one team
  • Second in games started with Falcons (225)

Not only was center Jeff Van Note a fan favorite of the Falcons, but he is one of the greatest offensive linemen in franchise history, as well as the greatest center that has ever played for Atlanta. It’s strange that he didn’t even play the position he would star at professionally while in college.

No, Van Note didn’t play center while at the University of Kentucky. He was drafted as a linebacker in the seventh round of the 1969 NFL Draft. This was the same draft that Atlanta used its No. 2 overall pick on offensive tackle George Kunz out of Notre Dame. It remains the greatest offensive line draft for the franchise to date.

Former Falcons head coach and Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Norm Van Brocklin would have Van Note switch positions as a rookie in 1969. That proved to one of the best moves of his otherwise mediocre coaching career. Van Note would be one of the best centers in football from the mid-1970s to early 1980s.

Six times did Van Note make it to the Pro Bowl. He was a two-time second-team All-Pro in 1979 and 1982. Midway through his Falcons career, Van Note would be joined by another outstanding Falcons offensive lineman in the form of left tackle Mike Kenn. They played together in Atlanta for nine seasons before Van Note’s retirement in 1986. Yes, Van Note played until he was 40.

Simply put, Atlanta’s offense evolved when Van Note was snapping Steve Bartkowski the ball. The Falcons had a lethal combination of pass and run through much of Van Note’s nine-year prime. 20 years after his retirement, Van Note would be inducted into the Falcons Ring of Honor.

Though he’ll never be a Pro Football Hall of Famer, Van Note set the standard for what it means to play center in Atlanta. Todd McClure did his best during his 13-year career with the Dirty Birds. Alex Mack is playing center in a way that reminds older Falcons fans of the type of player Van Note was for them. Van Note would go on to carve out a successful post-playing career gig as a color commentator for Falcons games and later Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets games.