As a kid, I had my fair share of favorite Falcons who didn’t turn into the phenomenal players I thought they would, which is something I think every fan can relate to. You develop favorites based on play style, unrealized promise, or when you’re young enough just how cool a player seems, and that fondness can endure a very long time.
I’ve mentioned my appreciation for Steve Broussard enough that you probably are well aware of it by now. A speedy bruiser—and indeed, Bruiser is his listed nickname in his Linkedin profile—Broussard was a 1st round pick for the Falcons who never found his way into a full-time starting role and eventually went on to have a productive second career for the Seahawks. I have never quite shaken the feeling that he would’ve turned into a capable starter had he been given a better chance to do so, but over his four seasons in Atlanta he still found a way to help the offense.
Let’s talk Broussard.
Time in Atlanta: 1990-1993
Falcons statistics: 50 games, 16 starts, 348 rushes, 1,742 yards, 4.2 yards per carry, 10 touchdowns, 10 fumbles, 48 receptions, 380 receiving yards, 2 touchdowns receptions, 3 kick returns, 45 yards, 1 incomplete passing attempt
Broussard came to Atlanta after a productive career at Washington State that landed him in the school’s Hall of Fame. Over his final two season there, he averaged well over 5 yards per carry, scored a combined 28 times through the air and on the ground and generally looked like a player who could lead a backfield. The Falcons certainly thought so, as they drafted him 20th overall, just a handful of picks after future Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith and just ahead of productive Giants lead back Rodney Hampton. This was the rare draft where it’s hard to say “well, Atlanta should’ve picked X” unless it was Hampton or linebacker Terry Wooden, because there simply weren’t a lot of great picks right after Broussard.
He’d look good in the early going, helping the Falcons pilot to their first ever 3-0 preseason start, and ran for nearly 190 yards and 2 touchdowns in the first three weeks of the season, adding 6 grabs for 51 yards. His fortunes would take a turn for the worse when Atlanta decided to trade for disgruntled Oilers back and former Heisman winner Mike Rozier, who turned the backfield into a timeshare immediately. Broussard’s season high 15 carries in Week 3 would remain a season high as Rozier eventually became the de facto lead back for Atlanta, dominating touches in the final five weeks of the season in particular. Broussard had a couple of terrific efforts the rest of the way—he busted a 50 yard run against the Bengals in Week 10 and put up 63 yards on just 8 carries against the Saints—but otherwise his rookie season was relatively quiet.
Somewhere along the line, the Falcons and Jerry Glanville soured on Broussard and on heavy usage of the ground game in general, the former perhaps owing to Broussard’s six 1990 fumbles (though Rozier also fumbled six times). They added Erric Pegram to the mix in 1991 with a 6th round draft pick, with Rozier, Broussard and Pegram each receiving a roughly equal number of carries. Broussard was the team’s most effective runner in the playoff season of 1991, scoring 4 touchdowns and managing a team-best 4.5 yards per carry, but he received 10 or more carries just four times that year, managing 310 of his 449 yards in those four games alone. He’d miss the playoffs, unfortunately, after being placed on injured reserve in late December. Injuries would certainly be a part of his career story.
In 1992, the Falcons drafted Tony Smith with the 19th pick, further clouding the backfield picture. Broussard would again lead the team in rushing and receiving yards for a running back, putting up 363 yards on 84 carries (against Smith’s 329 on 87) in an increasingly pass happy offense. In 1993, the Falcons traded for an extremely washed up version of the great Eric Dickerson and then traded him away in October, and Broussard would see action in just 8 games as Erric Pegram had his huge breakout season, putting up nearly 1,200 yards on nearly 300 carries. That quiet year ended Broussard’s time in Atlanta, and he finished with just 348 carries for 1,472 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground over four years.
If you’re counting at home, you probably noted that after drafting Broussard 20th overall, the Falcons would go on to trade for a veteran back, add a veteran back via free agency, draft backs in the 1st and 6th round, and generally do everything but give Broussard an extended look as a starter. I’m not suggesting that he would’ve turned into the next Atlanta great—my fondness for him isn’t clouding my vision that badly—but it would be fair to suggest his production warranted a longer look he never got.
Broussard weighed walking away from football following a spinal injury suffered in November 1994 while he was with the Bengals, but wound up continuing and playing 13 games for Cincinnati, managing 403 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground and a career-best 34 catches for 218 yards. From there he went to Seattle, where over four seasons as a reserve he managed 750 yards and 7 touchdowns on the ground to go with 44 catches for 285 yards and another touchdown. In Seattle he found another calling, too, handling kickoff duties for the Seahawks and averaging a solid 23.6 yards per return over 165 tries, managing one touchdown along the way. He would be named a member of the Seahawks 35th anniversary team in 2010 for his return work.
In his post-playing career after his retirement in 1998, Broussard is now on his third decade of coaching, having started as an offensive coordinator for high school teams and eventually picking up running backs, wide receivers coach, and special teams coaching gigs for Portland State, Washington State, Arizona State, UCLA and SMU. Today, he’s the head coach at St. Bernard High School in California.
Broussard is one of those what-if stories for a Falcons team that has a million compelling ones, but he was still a fun and quality contributor for some enjoyable (if not always great) Atlanta teams of the Glanville era. He’ll always be one of my (entirely irrational) favorites from that era when my Falcons fandom was just beginning, and hopefully you enjoyed a trip down memory lane for this Forgotten Falcon.