Rade spent his entire nine year career in Atlanta, serving as an inside linebacker from 1983-1991. He only played all 16 games three times in that span, but he was a relentless presence in the middle of the defense, putting up three interceptions, five forced fumbles, 10.5 sacks and a boatload of tackles over those years, including a 145 tackle season in 1990. He was the kind of tough, solid linebacker the Falcons have been fortunate enough to unearth again and again in their history.
The other two contenders are Michael Boley, who is likely familiar to many of you, and Robert Pennywell, who is probably not. Boley spent four seasons in Atlanta and put up five picks, six sacks and four fumble recoveries from 2005-2008 before heading to New York. Legal troubles and declining play put him out of the league by age 31, but Boley was a nasty linebacker who was one of my favorites from those 2005-2007 teams, and I was bummed when he went to New York.
Pennywell also spent just four years in Atlanta, from 1977 to 1980, but he was out of the league after his age 26 season. He had two defensive touchdowns in those seasons, but was more well-known for being a solid interior presence (you're sensing a theme with these numbers in the 50's, no?) and a helpful special teamer.
Joplo Bartu currently holds the number, and if he can carve out a significant role this year, he may be in this conversation a decade from now. Let's hope.
Your thoughts on Rade and #59?