Deion Sanders was probably the single greatest draft pick the Falcons ever made. It should stand to reason, then, that he is a shoo-in for the #21 spot.
...not so fast, my friend.
Deion does indeed take the cake here, but not without strong showings from Lynn Cain, MeAngelo Hall, and a two year stint from Eric Metcalf that probably would've overtaken Deion's time if he'd kept it up (he didn't).
No amount of numbers, stats, or stories would do Deion's time with us justice. Just watch this:
...yeah, he was awesome.
Longtime fans might remember Lynn Cain for being the other running back behind William Andrews. Appearing in 82 games for the Falcons over 6 years, Cain amassed 2,263 yards on 604 carries, good for a 3.7 yard average. He didn't do a whole lot of receiving, gaining just 1,037 yards in that same time span. He did have 55 receptions in 1981, however.
(Photo taken by George Rose/Getty Images)
DeAngelo Hall is the other #21 that you may remember. Believe it or not, he was only with us for four seasons, though he had three of his best four seasons with us, according to Pro Football Reference's Approximate Value.
With the Falcons, Hall had 17(!) interceptions, 2 TAINTs, 3 forced fumbles, and 2 TAFR (after fumble recovery).
That's pretty good, buuuuuuuut not as good as Primetime. You may also remember Mike Smith tried to fight him that one time.
(Photo by Jim McIssac/Getty Images)
That leads me to my last trick, Eric Metcalf. Metcalf only spent two seasons with the Falcons, but one of them was by far his best season as a pro.
Metcalf's career was two phases: 1) Cleveland Browns and 2) nomadic. He spent the bulk of the second half of his career bouncing around the league, with the Falcons being the only team with which he spent more than a single season, excluding the Browns.
Metcalf was a fantastic athlete and had two All-Pro seasons sandwiching his time with the Falcons. That was mostly due to his punt returning prowess, though he had a modest receiving career as well.
In his two seasons with the Falcons, Metcalf accrued 158 receptions, 1,788 yards receiving, and 14 touchdowns. His 1995 season was very good, as he had 101 catches for 1,189 yards and 8 TDs. The Falcons went to the playoffs in '95 and were one and done, but it wasn't Metcalf's fault. He hauled in 8 passes for 114 yards and a TD. As a returner, he averaged 10 yards per punt return with a single TD return in 1995.
(Photo by Getty Images)
Last, but certainly not the least of the big time players, we have the current holder of #21, Desmond Trufant.
Tru has been an awesome cover corner for the Birds since he was drafted in the first round of the 2013 draft. While he hasn't tallied up the big interception totals of MeAngelo or Primetime, he's certainly done his fair share of highly effective WR blanketing and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
If Trufant continues his solid ways for the next several years, I anticipate he will unseat Deion as the best #21 for the Falcons, but he's going to have to work for it!
You know what he looks like.
Those four weren't the only players to don #21 in the team's history. You might remember Chris Owens, drafted in 2009 and made a part of the dynamite duo that he and the little known Brent Grimes made. You'll also be surprised to know that Panthers DB Bene Benwikere is his cousin. You may also be surprised to know that he's still in the league.
Defensive back Juran Bolden played with the team for a total of five years, but it was in two separate stints. Interesting tidbits on Bolden: In 1998, he played for three different teams. Unfortunately for him, ATL was not the last of the three. He also spent two years in the CFL before returning to the Falcons for two seasons and racking up seven interceptions! He had no recorded interceptions prior to his second stint with the Falcons.
All the other players to wear #21 didn't have particularly noteworthy careers with the Falcons. Darrien Gordon played a year for us in 2001, but not before he won two Super Bowl rings with the Broncos. Tom Moore, Jimmy Turner, and Elijah Williams all didn't have anything memorable.
Overall, the Falcons have had some fantastic players to wear #21, both in ability and interesting stories.
Your thoughts on the players to wear uniform #21?