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 wide receiver Eric Weems.
Eric Grimes Weems was born on July 4, 1985 in Daytona Beach, Fla. Weems attended Seabreeze High School, where he was a letterman in football and basketball. As a senior for the Sandcrabs, Weems was named team MVP and was an All-Area selection and an All-State selection in football as well as an All-Area selection in basketball.
Eric Weems stayed local for college and attended nearby Bethune-Cookman University. Weems played slot receiver for the Wildcats and broke numerous receiving records throughout his four years at Bethune-Cookman. During his senior season, Weems began returning kicks and punts on special teams.
Following the 2007 NFL Draft, the Atlanta Falcons signed Weems as an undrafted free agent. In his first two seasons with the Falcons, Weems didn’t have much impact. He only suited up for seven total games and had just one kick return and one catch, which came in 2008.
In 2009, Eric Weems would see his role significantly increase with the Falcons. He took over the punt return duties when Harry Douglas suffered a season-ending knee injury. Weems went on to return both kicks and punts for the Falcons, and scored his first career touchdown in Week 7 against the Dallas Cowboys via a 30-yard pass from quarterback Matt Ryan.
Weems finished the 2009 season with six receptions, 50 yards and two touchdowns.
The following season, Weems saw his role grow even more when he started his first game at wide receiver in Week 2. In Week 13 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Weems returned a 102-yard kickoff for a touchdown, which remains an Atlanta Falcons record.
His impressive 2010 season earned him a spot in the Pro Bowl, which would be the only selection of his career. He was the only player in the NFC to return a kick and a punt for a touchdown in 2010. In the playoffs, Weems returned a 102-yard kick return for a touchdown against the Green Bay Packers. The Falcons ultimately lost the game, but at the time, it was the longest kick return for a touchdown in playoff history.
The Falcons re-signed Weems prior to the 2011 season, and he started two games at wide receiver, recording a career-high 11 catches for 90 yards. Thanks to his special teams contributions, Weems would be selected as a first-team alternate for the Pro Bowl.
After entering free agency in 2012, Eric Weems signed a three-year deal with the Chicago Bears. That season, Weems contributed mainly on special teams where he had 13 kickoff returns for 231 yards and one punt return for 0 yards.
The following season, Weems returned only five kickoffs and caught only one pass. Due to the team signing wide receiver Santonio Holmes, Weems was released by the Bears prior to the 2014 season.
Shortly after being released by the Bears, Eric Weems returned to the Falcons. Weems recorded his first touchdown of the season, coming against the Green Bay Packers. Two weeks later, Weems caught another touchdown pass, this time against the division-rival New Orleans Saints. On special teams, he recorded thirteen tackles, two fumble recoveries, and a forced fumble.
Weems signed a two-year extension with the Falcons in 2015. He saw action in all 16 games, returning 15 kickoffs for 403 yards and returning 19 punts for 221 yards.
During the Falcons’ epic 2016 season, Weems played an important special teams role. Against the Oakland Raiders, Weems returned a punt for a career-long 73 yards, which would remain the longest of his career. Weems and the Falcons reached Super Bowl LI, where they faced the New England Patriots and lost in a disastrous fashion. In the big game, Weems had two kick returns for 25 total yards and one punt return for no yards.
During the 2017 offseason, Eric Weems signed with the Tennessee Titans. He did little however, only catching one pass and returning only two punts and two kicks. On March 9, 2018, Weems was released by the Titans, and he retired shortly after.
When you think of Falcons greats on special teams, Eric Weems is definitely one of the most recent. As kick and punt returns inch closer to extinction, Weems’ 2010 season looks that much more impressive. I personally reside in Daytona Beach and met Eric Weems prior to his first training camp with the Falcons. I sold him shoes while working at Champs Sports at the mall; good times.
Let me know in the comments below some of your favorite Eric Weems memories. As always, you can find me on Twitter @EvanBirchfield. Thanks for reading, Falcoholics!