Although Caleb was able to provide an awesome list of solid Falcons players who wore the number 52 as well, the number 53 was not as memorable. There were 16 different players that wore this number during the fifty years of Atlanta Falcons football; however, none of the gentleman on the list provided the same impact on the field as veteran linebacker Mike Peterson.
Mike Peterson (2009-2012)
After the 2008 departure of Keith Brooking and the unfortunate moment where he gave up a 3rd down and 19 against the Cardinals in the 30-24 playoff loss, the Falcons were looking to bring another outside linebacker and veteran leader to their young defense at the time. He signed with Atlanta as a free agent before the 2009 season after a great five season run with the Jacksonville Jaguars and from the moment he signed with the Falcons, his impact was felt on and off the football field.
In 2009, Peterson had a solid season posting 109 tackles, 7 pass deflections, 2 forced fumbles, an interception and a sack. Peterson provided immediate leadership to a young Falcons linebacker core at the time. Although he didn't post another season similar to that, we saw Sean Weatherspoon, Stephen Nicholas, Curtis Lofton and the Falcons core at linebacker provide a solid impact in his four seasons. Many of you remember him as the host of the AtlantaFalcons.com weekly players show, D-Block and as we saw on the short segment, he was clearly a leader in our defense. Peterson finished his Falcons career with 206 tackles, 15 pass deflections, 4interceptions, 3 forced fumbles, and 2 sacks.
Keith Newman (2003)
The Falcons acquired Buffalo Bills linebacker Keith Newman during the 2003 NFL off-season by signing him to a three year contract. Although the Newman tenure lasted only one season, he was pretty solid in the 2003 season. Keith Newman started (12) games during the season after being suspended for the first four games for violating the NFL's league steroid policy. Newman posted 40 tackles, 2 passes deflected, an interception and a fumble. Newman was shortly released following the 2003 season and would finish his career as a Minnesota Viking.
Frank Marchlewski (1966-1968)
Marchlewski started the inaugural season for the Falcons as a center; however, he was traded to the Los Angeles Rams in 1968 season. Marchlewski didn't make much of an impact in a Falcons or Rams uniform, in his final NFL season, he became a starter for the Buffalo Bills; unfortunately, they were 3-10-1 on the season and future Hall of Fame running back O.J. Simpson would only rush for 488 yards. The following season, he was replaced in the starting lineup and that was his final season in the NFL.
Paul Ryczek (1974-1979)
Paul Ryzec was an offensive lineman for the Falcons in his first six seasons of his NFL career. At center, Ryzec only started four games in his tenure in Atlanta before having two one year tenures with the New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles. Paul Ryzec decided to leave his NFL career behind shortly after, and decided to keep his family in Georgia, eventually founding a construction business called METASCHEMATICS.
Mark Simoneau (2000-2002)
Simoneau, a 3rd round selection from Kansas State by the Atlanta Falcons in the 2000 NFL Draft, didn't live up to the Falcons expectations in his three year tenure as a linebacker. In his tenure with the Falcons, Simoneau posted 100 tackles, 3 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, and .5 sacks. After the 2002 season, he was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles where Simoneau posted a career high 100 tackles, 2 sacks, and 3 forced fumbles. Those were the best years of his ten season NFL career.
Prince Shembo (2014)
Last season, the Falcons drafted Prince Shembo, a very talented linebacker out of Notre Dame in the fourth round (139th overall) of the 2014 NFL Draft. In his rookie season, Shembo would start only three games last season and would post (59) tackles. Although many fans thought he was a very talented linebacker, his tenure would end on a bad decision off the field. The Falcons waived Shembo on May 29, 2015 after he was arrested for aggravated cruelty to animals after allegedly killing his girlfriend's dog.
#53 was an intriguing number for the Falcons. Featured a leader and a pretty bad list of guys to follow. After further research, there was a clear indicator that Mike Peterson was the winner of the best player to wear this number for our beloved Falcons. Now, here's the rest of the list of players to wear the number, which includes several players who didn't make an impact or were considered one year wonders.
Phil Sobocinski . . . . . . . . . . . 1968
John Matlock . . . . . . . . . 1970-71
Neal Musser . . . . . . . . . . 1981-83
Thomas Benson . . . . . . 1984-85
Doug Barnett . . . . . . . . . . . . 1987
Dwayne Gordon . . . . . 1993-94
Jamal Fountaine . . . . . . . . . 1997
John Leake . . . . . . . . . . 2005-06
Tony Taylor . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2007
Omar Gaither . . . . . . . . . . . . 2013