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 cornerback Allen Rossum.
Allen Bonshaca Lamont Rossum was born on Oct. 22, 1975 in Dallas, Texas. Rossum attended Skyline High School in Dallas, where he played wide receiver, tailback, and quarterback in addition to cornerback and returning kicks. His senior year, Rossum totaled 1,634 rushing yards and 12 touchdown receptions. He was also an accomplished track and field star, as he captained the Skyline High squad for all four years and set the 1993 high school record in the 100-meter dash with a 10.02.
Rossum was recruited heavily, but ultimately accepted a scholarship with the University of Notre Dame. He emerged as a starter for the Fighting Irish during his sophomore season and went on to serve as a team captain in 1997. Rossum set an NCAA career record with nine touchdown returns, and as a cornerback, he totaled seven interceptions, 144 tackles and two sacks. He was also on the Notre Dame track team, becoming a two-time All-American competing in the 55-meter dash. Rossum graduated early from Notre Dame with a dual degree in business and computer applications.
With the 85th overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles selected Rossum. He contributed right away, setting Eagles single-season records for kickoff returns (54) and kickoff return yards (1,347), while ranking fourth in he tNFC with a 24.9 yards per return average.
Rossum went on to play two seasons with the Eagles as a return specialist and backup cornerback. During his career with the Eagles, he returned 50 punts for 437 yards and 98 kickoffs for 2,427 yards with one returned for a touchdown.
In 2000, the Eagles sent Allen Rossum to the Green Bay Packers for an undisclosed draft pick in 2000. Rossum spent two seasons with the team, during which he returned 40 punts for 357 yards and one touchdown.
After his time in Green Bay, Rossum became an unrestricted free agent and signed with the Atlanta Falcons. In his second year with the Falcons, Rossum led the NFL with 545 punt return yards. Following a stellar 2004 season, Rossum was selected to the Pro Bowl, where he competed in and won the NFL’s “fastest man” competition and handled the kick return duties for the NFC, replacing injured Eddie Drummond of the Detroit Lions. In his five seasons with Atlanta, he returned 154 punts for 1,723 yards and two touchdowns and returned 250 kickoffs for 5,489 yards and a touchdown.
During the 2004 season, Rossum recorded two interceptions as a cornerback and set a playoff record in a win against the St. Louis Rams with 152 punt return yards on just three returns, including a touchdown where he faked a lateral to DeAngelo Hall.
To this day, Allen Rossum is still the Falcons’ all-time leader in punt return yards (1,723) and kick return yards (5,489).
Following the 2006 season, the Falcons moved Allen Rossum to the Pittsburgh Steelers for a 2008 conditional draft pick. He only played one season in Pittsburgh, but still recorded 36 punts for 232 yards, and returned 38 kickoffs for 885 yards and a touchdown.
Rossum became a free agent and signed with the San Francisco 49ers on Feb. 29, 2008. The 49ers used him primarily as a kick returner, although he occasionally played as a receiver during the season, scoring a rushing touchdown on a reverse against the Detroit Lions. He returned 15 punts for 223 yards and returned 47 kickoffs for 1,259 yards and a touchdown. Due to his strong performance, he was named a second alternate returner for the 2009 Pro Bowl. On Oct. 12, 2009 the 49ers released Rossum to free up a roster spot for rookie wide receiver Michael Crabtree.
A day after the 49ers released him, Allen Rossum was signed by the Dallas Cowboys. Rossum took over return duties from Patrick Crayton and Felix Jones as the Cowboys were struggling in the return game.
On his very first play as a member of the Cowboys, Rossum suffered an injury which sidelined him. In his absence, Patrick Crayton returned two punts for touchdowns. Rossum was then waived on Nov. 23 and eventually retired from the NFL.
Allen Rossum is not only one of the great returners in Falcons history, but in NFL history as well. As of the conclusion of the 2018 season, Rossum currently has the second most kick return yards (11,947) and 10th most punt return yards (3,056) in NFL history. In the early 2000’s, Rossum was a staple of the Falcons’ return game. The seasons where we don’t have a true, dedicated return specialist make you appreciate and respect his ability even more.
Let me know in the comments below some of your favorite Allen Rossum memories. As always, you can find me on Twitter @EvanBirchfield. Thanks for reading, Falcoholics!