Unlike most of the numbers I've done so far, #52 had some kind of contribution from nearly every player to wear the number.
I mentioned Coy Wire here because he was somewhat of a fan favorite for a while. He was an interesting player because he played almost exclusively at linebacker for us even though he started his career as a safety with the Buffalo Bills. Pro Football Reference has Wire listed at 6'0" 205. I don't know how accurate that is, but he was never a safety as a Falcon.
He was mostly a special teams player and an emergency linebacker. I do recall a particularly awesome goal line tackle he made on an outside sweep, but I doubt there's any video of it out there. A quick Google search suggested it was the Tampa Bay 2010 game, but I can't remember if that was it.
Wire is now a sports analyst for CNN.
Ron Acks was a linebacker for the Falcons from 1968-1971. Unfortunately, record keeping wasn't quite as good back then as it is now, so there aren't a whole lot of stats to go by in terms of Acks's contributions to the team. PFR says Acks had an interception and fumble recovery with the team but sacks and tackles weren't officially kept at the time.
Akeem Dent was that linebacker from UGA that every UGA fan wanted on the Falcons. (That may or may not be an accurate statement but as we say in the news industry, 'Don't let the facts get in the way of a good story').
A third round pick in 2011, Dent spent three seasons with the Falcons before being traded to the Texans for a fella by the name of T.J. Yates. With the Falcons, Dent compiled 88 tackles and a forced fumble. He was also named to the PFWA All-Rookie Team for reasons that I have not yet discovered.
Aside from having one of the better names in Falcons' lore, McClain was an undrafted free agent in 1976 and spent all five of his years in the NFL as a member of the Falcons. Unfortunately for McClain, record keeping wasn't quite as good in the late '70s, and so he only has a single interception, six fumble recoveries, and a safety on record.
McClain was a founder of the Atlanta branch of the NFLPA and is now a member of the Georgia House of Representatives in the 100th district.
Huey and Louie were not available for comment.
Matt Stewart's career could be described as a journeyman one. The Vanderbilt linebacker was drafted in the 4th round by the Falcons in 2001. He spent four seasons with the Falcons before partaking in a five year tour with the Browns, Cardinals, Cowboys, and Steelers.
Stewart compiled 7 sacks, 195 tackles, 4 forced fumbles, and 5 fumble recoveries during his time in Atlanta.
Matt Stewart is also the name of an artist that contributes to Magic: The Gathering. (Some of those cards are pretty good!) The two are not related.
And with that, let's send it over to our winner, who perhaps for the first time does not have the highest Approximate Value on Pro Football Reference's list!
I will note that in spite of Kenny Tippins' post-football activities (four years in prison due to cocaine-related charges), I believe him to be the best player to wear #52 for the team.
He was an undrafted free agent from Middle Tennessee State in 1989, spending one year with the Cowboys before finding a home with the Falcons (we love our undrafted linebackers, don't we?) for five seasons.
While his career wasn't quite as consistent as Matt Stewart's, his peak years were better than Stewart's, and he played in 31 more games. Tippins's peak years consisted of 187 tackles, 4 sacks, 1 INT, and a fumble returned for a TD. Stewart's best years were a combined 7 sacks, 3 fumbles forced, 4 fumbles recovered, and 174 tackles, however that was spread about over three years rather than only two for Tippins.
For me, the burst of "goodness" from Tippins gives him the nod as the best player to wear #52.
(Disclaimer: I was tired of picking the player with the highest AV every time and this was believable)
The other Falcons to wear #52 whose careers have not been quite so fortuitous are as follows:
- Jordan Beck
- Aaron Brown
- John Harper
- Rydell Malancon
- Ken Mitchell
- Art Price
- Marion Rushing (Joke's on him, he was a linebacker)
- Craig Sauer
- Vinson Smith
- Lyman White
- Travis Williams
- And lastly, everyone's 2nd favorite special teamer, Nate Stupar.