I've been reading Matt Winkeljohn's book Tales from the Atlanta Falcons Sideline and while it certainly isn't the most definitive tome, it is one of the largest (and really, only) books available on our Birds. At 181 pages, it's a pretty light read (for this English BA holder, anyway). Despite it's rather short length, it covers the team's inception to its 2004 season. Considering the completely different look the team has now, Winkeljohn's book could be considered ancient.
Nonetheless, Matt has filled the book's short sections of stories and anecdotes with a myriad of little-known facts about the franchise we hold so dear. I've decided to share some of them with you as I move along in the book. Follow me past the jump for some Atlanta Falcons Facts.
- I'm sure many of you know how the Falcons got their name. A contest was held and the winning entry was sent in by a school teacher from Griffin. According to her, "the falcon is proud and dignified, with great courage and pride." Yeah, we've all heard that one, right? What I did not know were the other team names thrown about as Rankin Smith, father of the Falcons, was mulling over what to call his football team. Imagine the following words coming after Atlanta: Peaches, Goobers, Knights, Thrashers, Rebels, Rhetts, Baptists, and Yellow Dogs (combo of UGA and GT mascots). Thankfully, none of those won out.
- The team (including Mr. Falcon) spent their first camp season in a dreary, mud-floored, mosquito-infested facility in the North Carolina mountains. The food was so bad it caused a rash of food poisoning. Star player Tommy Nobis was required to "do his business" in a jug so that medical staff could figure out what food had caused the illnesses.
- Had it not been for Pete Rozelle fighing the AFL's bid for a team in Atlanta, our division rivals would likely be the Texans, Titans, and Jaguars.
- Rankin Smith originally wanted to bring a professional baseball team to Atlanta.
- One Sunday in 1966, the Atlanta Falcons lost their live falcon mascot. The bird escaped Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium after being spooked during practice. It was later found perched atop a factory in Decatur.
- The last game of the Falcons' first regular season was called "Tech and Georgia Day." Players from UGA and Tech were moved from the practice squad into starting positions during this game. This was, after a dismal season, mostly an act of desperation for the Falcons, hoping to find some local talent unseen during camp and practices. Alas, none of the local college players were kept on board for the next season.
- Just to shine a light on how miserable our drafts have been, none of the 16 players chosen by the Falcons in the 1967 draft played a single down in a Falcon uni. The first round draft pick we traded to San Francisco that year allowed them to choose Steve Spurrier. After that pick, Miami chose HoFer Bob Griese. Like I said in the first Draft Pick Retrospective, shoulda kept that pick.