We’re in the dead period of football (you can read about how much I hate this period here), and with it, we don’t have much to talk about except for some speculation here and there.
I figured this would be a good time to look back on some moments in Falcons history and maybe re-live them while we wait for football to come back.
That idea has given rise to a new series of “Throwback Thursday” articles I’m planning on writing throughout the dead period. Each week, we’ll re-live and discuss a certain moment in this franchise’s 52-year history.
You can find last week’s Throwback Thursday article, about the Michael Turner free agent signing here.
Following an NFC Championship appearance in 2004 (we’ll talk about that later), the Falcons went into the 2005 draft looking to give superstar QB Michael Vick another weapon or two to work with, in their pursuit of a Super Bowl.
As a result of their great season, Atlanta had the 27th pick in the draft. Teams with this late of a first-round pick are generally satisfied with a solid contributor, but Atlanta came away with an all-time franchise great. Wide Receiver Roddy White, out of UAB, would end up being a steal.
The White pick didn’t always look as good as it does now, however. After totaling 952 combined receiving yards and three combined touchdowns in his first two seasons while struggling with drops, many were ready to vilify Roddy as a bust. There was even a report that during White’s rookie season, a Falcons’ assistant coach claimed that White wasn’t good enough to succeed in the NFL without any argument from other members of the coaching staff in response.
After those first two bad seasons, Roddy White’s career took off. He credits the arrival of longtime rival receiver Joe Horn as a catalyst for helping him turn his career around.
“Playing with Joe was the best thing to ever happen to me,’’ White said. “He was a guy who had been to Pro Bowls and he took me under his wing and really taught me what this league is all about. He’s the one who made me realize what’s expected of you if you’re going to be a good pro. He’s the one who taught me that you have to prepare mentally every day and you have to go out and practice hard every day. He’s the one who showed me that this game takes so much more effort than I was putting into it.’’
Horn, a former New Orleans Saints great, only spent one season with the Falcons and didn’t provide much on-field production (243 receiving yards and one touchdown in 12 games), but the veteran leadership and the help he provided for White was more valuable than anything he could’ve done for Atlanta on the field.
2007 marked the first of six straight 1000+ receiving yard seasons for White. The 1202 receiving yards he had in the 2007 season was the first time a Falcons receiver eclipsed the 1000 receiving yards mark since Terance Mathis had done it in 1999. White had also totaled the most receiving yards in a single season for the Falcons since Mathis’ 1342 yard season in 1994.
Roddy White ended up being the logical first option in the receiving game for rookie QB Matt Ryan in 2008, after instantly developing a rapport with the young Boston College product. Roddy would total 1382 receiving yards (a single season franchise record at the time) and seven receiving touchdowns on the way to his first career pro bowl appearance that season. It would be the first of four straight pro bowl appearances for the UAB alum (and he got snubbed in what should’ve been his fifth straight appearance in 2012).
The best season of White’s career was in 2010 when he played a crucial role in helping the Falcons secure an NFC best 13-3 record. He would register 1389 receiving yards (breaking his own single season franchise record, which would stand until Julio Jones’ 1593-yard season in 2015) and 10 receiving touchdowns (his second straight season of double-digit touchdowns) while leading the NFL with 115 total catches. 2010 would mark White’s only ever First Team All-Pro appearance.
White would be the top option in Atlanta’s receiving game through the 2012 season before ceding that role to Julio Jones, whom the Falcons had moved up to get with the sixth overall pick in 2011. Roddy White no doubt passed along a lot of invaluable information to a young Jones at the time, in the same manner as Joe Horn in 2007.
White would end up losing a step after turning 32 and would fail to reach the 1000-yard mark in each of his final three seasons before retiring following the 2015 campaign. He would retire as a Falcon, however, and would never go on to play for another team. Seeing Roddy White in any other jersey just wouldn’t have been right, and I’m sure he thought the same thing.
White played 11 seasons in his career, all with the Falcons, and finished as the franchise’s all-time receiving leader with 808 catches, 10,863 yards and 63 touchdowns. He is the greatest receiver in franchise history, and we should see number 84 in the team’s ring of honor one day.
Looking back at that 2005 draft, White was the sixth receiver taken behind Braylon Edwards, Troy Williamson, Mike Williams, Matt Jones and Mark Clayton. White would go on to have a much better career than all of them.
Expect these “Throwback Thursday” articles to be recurring throughout the offseason, to reminisce about the team’s history and to give us some stuff to talk about. Don’t expect them to go in order, however. The next one could look back on a moment that occurred in the 90s or even a few years ago. Between you and me, I’m just making it up as I go along.