What is the best jersey number in Atlanta sports history?
That simple question led me on a journey through time to find the answer. Icons can come packaged in every feasible way. Whether it be in a crisp clean single digit like No. 7 (Michael Vick), a classic like No. 21 (Deion Sanders, Dominique Wilkins) or a relatively unassuming numeral like 31 (Greg Maddux), each of these numbers means something in Atlanta sports lore.
Jersey History series: Nos. 1-5 | Nos. 6-10 | Nos. 11-15 | Nos. 16-20 | Nos. 21-25 | Nos. 26-30 | Nos. 31-35 | Nos. 36-40 | Nos. 41-45 | Nos. 46-50 | Nos. 51-55 | Nos. 56-60 | Nos. 61-65 | Nos. 66-70 | Nos. 71-75 | Nos. 76-80 | Nos. 81-85 | Nos. 86-90
Over the coming weeks, I’ll be unveiling my findings five jersey numbers at a time. I looked at each of the major sports franchises in the city’s history, from the Falcons, Braves, Hawks, Dream, United, Thrashers and Flames, all in order to catalog the definitive list of jersey numbers and whose worn them.
Before we get to the list, a few rules: A player had to play multiple seasons in Atlanta to be considered. I did not include any player who played for a franchise while it was located in another city; they had to have played in Atlanta.
To determine value and talent, I used a value-related stat for each sport such as Wins Above Replacement (baseball) or Point Share (hockey). Sometimes, I will make a subjective call. You may disagree, but that’s the fun of all of this, right? So, feel free to debate in the comments and let’s have a fun walk down memory lane. Let’s go!
Jersey No. 91
Best player: Falcons DE Brady Smith (2000-05)
Honorable mentions: Falcons DT Corey Peters (2010-14)
Total number of Atlanta athletes to wear No. 91: 6
Summary: This is a real toss-up because a strong argument could be made that Corey Peters had the better career, but his best days came, unfortunately, away from Atlanta. Brady Smith, however, hit his stride once leaving the New Orleans Saints and joining their rival.
Smith may be somewhat forgotten as a Falcons defender, but was the right-hand man to Patrick Kerney and helped give Atlanta a respectable pass rush. In 2001, Smith set a career-high with eight sacks, and he sacked Brett Favre in the playoffs when Atlanta made it that next year. The Saints convert had one last gasp of greatness in 2004, his second-to-last season. Smith intercepted the lone pass of his career, he had six sacks, he forced three fumbles, recovering two, and scored his only defensive touchdown in the NFL. He wasn’t done then, however, as in Atlanta’s postseason run he recorded two sacks and a safety.
An Achilles injury, sustained in the second-to-last game of the 2013 season, likely prevented Peters from spending the bulk of his career in Atlanta. Peters was enjoying a breakout season with career highs in sacks (5) and tackles (46), and he was seemingly in line for a multi-year extension with his rookie contract expiring. That injury led to Atlanta giving Peters a one-year contract, and he started just two games, although he was a productive rotation player. In an offseason of change for Atlanta, Peters left to join Arizona as a free agent, and he’s been a starter for them ever since.
Jersey No. 92
Best player: Falcons DE Lester Archambeau (1993-99)
Honorable mentions: Falcons DT Chauncey Davis (2005-10)
Total number of Atlanta athletes to wear No. 92: 12
Summary: Lester Archambeau was involved in some of the biggest games for the Falcons during the 1990s. Atlanta faced the expansion Carolina Panthers in the 1995 season-opener, and the Falcons were looking to welcome them to the NFL properly. The defensive line did just that, sacking Panthers quarterback Frank Reich a franchise-record nine times. It was Archambeau who got the last one, however, and his strip-sack of Reich on the first series of overtime set up Mort Andersen’s game-winning field goal. Archambeau’s best season came in 1998 for a defense ranked among the league’s best. The veteran defensive end led all Falcons with 10 sacks and five forced fumbles, and he continued that great play with another overtime strip-sack in Atlanta’s memorable NFC Championship game victory against the Minnesota Vikings. In his seven seasons with Atlanta, Archambeau registered 31 sacks and 11 forced fumbles.
Chauncey Davis was a nice rotational piece for the Falcons defense, but his years also coincided with the team’s inability to adjust to the changing speed of the game. Still, Davis had a knack for making plays, and his career-high four sacks in 2008 played a factor in Atlanta’s surprise run to the postseason.
Jersey No. 93
Best player: Falcons LB Aundray Bruce (1988-90)
Honorable mentions: None
Total number of Atlanta athletes to wear No. 93: 16
Summary: Man, No. 93 in Atlanta history is brutal. It is not aesthetically pleasing in the least, although it does look kind of like someone tried to draw a bee if you rotate it 90 degrees to the left. Alright, I’m vamping here.
To be honest, this one just kind of stings a little. Only three pure linebackers have gone No. 1 overall, and the Falcons made two of those three selections. The first, Tommy Nobis, went on to become, well, Mr. Falcon. The second, Aundray Bruce, we don’t really talk about him too much. Taken in 1988, Bruce started a combined 28 games in his first two seasons and had a respectable 12 sacks. He lost his starting in his third year, however, and even played some spot snaps at tight end in 1991. That offseason, Bruce left to join the Los Angeles Raiders as a free agent. And he’s the best we’ve got at No. 93. Seriously.
Jersey No. 94
Best player: Falcons LB Henri Crockett (1997-01)
Honorable mentions: None
Total number of Atlanta athletes to wear No. 94: 12
Summary: This is slightly better I guess, but not really. Another linebacker drafted by the Falcons – although not No. 1 overall, I should add – Henri Crockett did eventually work his way into a starting role as a rookie fourth-round pick. Crockett, who won a national championship with Florida State, remained in that role throughout his five years in Atlanta, including a start in Super Bowl XXXIII. He just wasn’t very productive. In 73 games for the Falcons, Crockett registered 193 tackles, 6.5 sacks and 22 tackles for a loss.
Jersey No. 95
Best player: Falcons DT Jonathan Babineaux (2005-16)
Honorable mentions: Falcons DT Ed Jasper (2000-04)
Total number of Atlanta athletes to wear No. 95: 8
Summary: Let’s end with a fan favorite! In a time where it is becoming increasingly rare for a player to spend his entire career with one franchise – let’s leave it right there – Jonathan Babineaux played 12 seasons in Atlanta. Best of all, he went out on a Super Bowl run in 2016. A reliable defensive tackle throughout his prime, Babineaux was a solid pass rusher who three seasons with double-digit tackles for a loss. Even during the few seasons he wasn’t a starter, Babineaux made his presence felt as part of the rotation, and he helped mentor a young Grady Jarrett. Playoff-caliber teams are often built by compiling players like Babineaux around the core parts of the roster, so it’s no surprise that the Falcons made the playoffs in four of his sevens seasons as a primary starter. When he hung up his cleats, Babineaux had 394 tackles, 103 tackles for a loss, 27 sacks and 10 forced fumbles on his career stat sheet.
Ed Jasper was a force for two Falcons playoff teams in the early 2000s. Although a little undersized for a traditional nose tackle, Jasper played with scrappy energy that allowed him to still make tackles in the backfield despite taking on blockers. Jasper played six seasons in Atlanta and finished with 205 tackles, 36 tackles for a loss and 14 sacks.
Next up: No. 96-99
Who is the best player to wear No. 91-95
This poll is closed