Hey Falcoholics, I’m back with another edition of The Falcoholic’s Throwback Thursday series. This weekly segment highlights a former Atlanta Falcons player and discusses their life and what they did for the franchise.
Whether you’ve been a fan since the inaugural season, or just became a fan recently, this series will give insight on players from the past. This week we will be focusing on offensive tackle Mike Kenn.
Mike Kenn was born in Evanston, Illinois on February 9, 1956. Kenn attended Evanston Township High School, where he played ice hockey and lacrosse.
He received a call from The University of Michigan, and headed to Ann Arbor. His freshman year went poorly. Kenn was injured and struggled in the classroom, almost costing him his scholarship. As a sophomore, Kenn started nine games at left tackle for the Wolverines who finished the year ranked No. 3 in the final AP Poll.
In his junior year, Kenn started 12 games at left tackle, and the team finished with a 10-2 record. In his senior year at Michigan, Kenn started 11 games at left tackle, and was selected as a first-team All-Big Ten Conference tackle.
With the 13th overall pick in the 1978 NFL Draft, the Atlanta Falcons selected offensive tackle Mike Kenn. In his rookie season, Kenn started all 16 games at left tackle and was named to the NFL All-Rookie Team. 1978 also marked the first time the Atlanta Falcons had ever made the playoffs in team history. In 1979, Kenn allowed only 4.5 sacks and was penalized four times.
During the 1980 season, Mike Kenn only allowed 3.5 sacks and wasn’t penalized at all, a rare feat even in today’s NFL. For his efforts that season, Kenn was named a consensus All-Pro and was invited to the NFL Pro Bowl.
The following season, Kenn was again voted to the NFL Pro Bowl, and was selected as a second-team All-Pro. He would go on to be selected to every Pro Bowl from 1980 to 1984, putting him behind Julio Jones and Claude Humphrey as the only players in team history with more invites. Kenn was voted as the NFC NFLPA/Coca-Cola Offensive Lineman of the Year Award for 1981 and 1982.
In 1984, Kenn was voted to the second-team All-NFL and started all 16 games. Unfortunately, during the following season, his consecutive games started streak was broken due to a knee injury. In 1988, Kenn allowed only 6.5 sacks and had only one holding penalty. He would be voted to the Pro Bowl as an alternate due to his efforts.
In 1991, Mike Kenn’s pass blocking allowed the Falcons to set a franchise record by giving up only 31 total sacks, in which Kenn only gave up one. During a memorable game against the New Orleans Saints, he shut down defensive end Pat Swilling, who at the time was the NFL’s sack leader. Kenn would be recognized by being voted a first-team All-Pro by the Associated Press for the second time in his career.
During the 1992 season, Kenn was called for only one penalty, allowed five sacks, and was an alternate to the NFL Pro Bowl. Mike Kenn would officially retire following the 1994 season, having spent all 17 seasons of his career with the Atlanta Falcons.
Following his football career, Mike Kenn was the chairman of the Fulton County Commission for six years. He eventually stepped down so that he could run the nonprofit Georgians for Better Transportation. He was very active in the NFLPA, including the eight years he served as the NFLPA president.
In 2014, The Falcoholic’s Jeanna Thomas sat down with Mike Kenn for an interview, which you can check out here.
In my opinion, Mike Kenn is one of the most underrated players in Atlanta Falcons history. The Falcons had losing seasons from 1981 to 1990, and Kenn was still dominant. Overall the Falcons struggled, but their offensive line was impressive with starters Mike Kenn, Jamie Dukes, Jeff Van Note, Bill Fralic, and R.C. Thielemann. Legendary San Francisco 49ers head coach Bill Walsh even said of Kenn, “I’ve never seen any offensive tackle with his agility and quickness.”
Add Mike Kenn to the list of Falcons greats currently snubbed by the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He got close in 2014, as he was named a semifinalist to enter Canton. In 2006, Kenn was inducted into the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame. In 2008, Mike Kenn was inducted into the prestigious Atlanta Falcons Ring of Honor, alongside Claude Humphrey. For more on Mike Kenn, visit his website MikeKennFootball.com
Let me know in the comments below some of your favorite Mike Kenn memories. As always, you can find me on Twitter @EvanBirchfield. Additionally, make sure to follow @The_Falcoholic on Instagram for up-to-date news and information. Thanks for reading, Falcoholics.