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Falcons Uniform History: #44 Passes The Torch

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The greatest Falcon to wear #44? You know him, you love him, and I sure as heck miss him.

George Rose/Getty Images

I don't need to give you a history lesson to tell you the winner of this number, but before I get to the winner, I'm going to give you the history lesson first. After all, our winner holds some of the most memorable plays in Falcons' history, and we're gonna relive 'em together.

But first, the memorable players to wear #44!

Steve Broussard

Fun fact: Steve Broussard spent three seasons wearing #34 for the Falcons. He spent one season - his fourth season with us - wearing #44 for some reason. The only pictures I could find of him that I could use involved him wearing #44. He's the article display picture guy. Joke's on all of you.

Bubba Bean

Alright folks, wrap it up. We've found our winner. With a name like Bubba Bean, nobody else need enter the competition. Bean spent three years with us from 1976-1979. He did not accrue any stats from the 1977 season due to a torn ACL, leading me to believe that his absence is what caused the Gritz Blitz to happen. There were no other Gritz Blitz defenses when he played for us. Therefore, you are not allowed to argue with my logic.

As luck would have it, our own Dave Choate says Bean was one of the worst picks in Falcons history.

Jerry Simmons

Jerry Simmons was the first memorable Falcon to don #44 in 1967. He was not the first, but he was the first memorable one. A split-end from a small college by the name of Bethune-Cookman - you might've heard of it - Simmons spent ten seasons scattered around the league. He played for the Falcons in three different seasons, but he spent two of those seasons on different teams at one point.

He is not to be confused with the Panthers' Strength and Conditioning Coach, also named Jerry Simmons.

Eddie Ray

I google'd Eddie Ray in an attempt to learn more about the guy and lo and behold a murderer by the name of Eddie Ray Routh popped up. You may know him by the movie American Sniper, based on the life and death of Chris Kyle.

That is not this Eddie Ray. This Eddie Ray played for the Falcons from 1972-1974. His career wouldn't be particularly noteworthy except the way his career played out. Check this out:

1972: 8 Car, 34 Yds

1974: 46 Car, 139 Yds

He didn't do much, did he? Well...as Deion Sanders used to say, hold on playa'!

1973: 96 Car, 434 Yds, 9 TD - 19 Rec, 192 Yds 2 TD

Whaaaaat? Where did that come from? Maybe it was injuries, maybe it was luck. Maybe it was a divine O-line. Either way, Eddie Ray's 1973 season was incredible, in spite of his relatively few touches.

A further review shows that Eddie Ray was quite a large running back. 6'2" 240, a hybrid RB/TE. Our first Steven Jackson! Maybe he was a fullback. Hard to say, given what little information is out there about Ray. Either way, he was a one-year wonder.

D.J. Johnson

DJ Johnson only spent two years with the Falcons, though they were arguably two of his best years as a football player. A defensive back drafted in the 7th round, Johnson spent 8 seasons in the NFL with three different teams. In two seasons plus two games in 1996, Johnson had 7 interceptions. Nothing particularly amazing about the guy, but here we are.

(No credit provided in image description)

John Settle

Perhaps not our first iteration of Jacquizz Rodgers, Settle was an example of how size does indeed not matter...in football.

Born in Reidsville, NC (in my station's tv market!), Settle grew up in the NC area before attending Appalachian State University. At ASU, he was particularly good, accruing well over 4,000 yards rushing and 43 TDs, 20 of which came his senior year. All that said, he went undrafted, because...

...at 5'9", Settle didn't sound like a guy that would be particularly impactful at running back. When you throw in that he was nearly 210 pounds, however, you can see why he might be able to do some damage. For two of his four years as a Falcon, he did some damage.

In 1988 and '89, Settle had 411 combined carries for 1,713 yards and 10 TDs. He also had 107 receptions for 886 yards and 3 TDs.

Pretty awesome, right? There's more! He was the first undrafted running back in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. Think about how long the NFL has been around, and realize a FALCON IN 1988 was the first undrafted RB to rush for 1,000 yards. We have some awesome history even in our sad franchise history, folks.

He was elected to the Pro Bowl in '88 for his 1,000 yard season, though after his run in '88 and '89, his did almost nothing in 1990. My guess is that he got injured, but we did have an influx of younger RBs (Settle was only 25 at the time, though) so maybe that played into it.

Settle has bounced around as an RB coach, recently with the Panthers (2011-2013), and now with the University of Wisconsin. For what it's worth, Panthers fans believe Settle was not at fault when he was fired from the Panthers.

Bob Christian

I know Falcons fans remember this guy. He lead the way for not one, but two different eras of great Falcon rushing attacks from 1997-2002. He blocked for Jamal Anderson in 1998 and DVD in 2002. His career rushing and receiving stats aren't noteworthy - he's a fullback, anyway - but his work as a blocker earns him high praise.

Christian was actually drafted by the Falcons in the 12th round of the 1991 draft, but didn't actually play with the team until 1997. He didn't accrue any stats at all in 1996, though he was selected by the Panthers in the 1995 Expansion Draft and did play with them for their inaugural season.

(Photo by Rob Hoskins/Allsport)

And now, finally, let me introduce you to our winner:

Jason Snelling

No surprise here, but Snelling is the greatest Falcon to wear #44. Snelling was picked by the Falcons in the 7th round of the 2007 draft. In fact, he was one of the few players (including Babineaux) to have been on the 2012 team that was also on the 2007 Team-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named.

Looking back on his stats, I was honestly surprised at how little yardage he had despite playing for the team for 7 years. He only had 1,420 yards rushing and 1,249 yards receiving. He did have 613 yards in 2009, but never reached anywhere near that mark afterward.

Snelling was a fantastic special teamer, a great all-around player, and a great guy. He also played with epilepsy, something that is impressive all to itself but I believe he also has a charity for kids with epilepsy as well. He was very involved with charity work when he was a Falcon.

Join with me friends, as we celebrate Snelling's career by taking one last ride.

(Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

This picture right here shows why Snelling was so awesome. This, if you recall, was an onside kick recovery in the 2012 NFCCG game that ended in the single worst way possible at the end of 2013. It was a critical moment in the game and there was Snelling, not only recovering the ball but tiptoeing both feet just inbounds. He was max effort all the time, even though he didn't get as many offensive reps as he probably deserved.

Cheers to Snelling and the rest of the great Falcon #44's. Here's hoping Vic Beasley can carry the torch to even greater heights.