Nobis etched his name in the history books before he ever played a professional game, becoming the first draft pick for the expansion Atlanta Falcons in 1966 and the first linebacker to be drafted in the top spot in the NFL. He was also drafted fifth in the AFL by the Houston Oilers and his impact was expected to be so great that Gemini 7 astronaut Frank Borman reportedly radioed that Nobis should “sign with Houston.” Instead, he would spend his career with the Falcons. He aided Atlanta from the start with a single-season record 296 combined tackles and was a five-time Pro Bowl selection.
QB Steve Bartkowski
Bartkowski remains a favorite among diehard Falcons fans years after his retirement. He was the No. 1 pick in 1975 and quickly lived up to the expectations that bred, earning the Rookie of the Year award for a season in which he threw for 1,662 yards and tallied 15 touchdowns. He would go on to earn 50 wins, including the Falcons’ first playoff win, against the Philadelphia Eagles in 1978. He led the NFL in passing in 1980, one of the two seasons in which he earned a spot in the Pro Bowl, and spent all but the final full season of his career in the team’s uniform.
LB Jessie Tuggle
A Georgia native, Tuggle was an undrafted free agent when he joined the Falcons in 1987 and spent his entire career playing for the team. Before he retired in 2001, he racked up a series of records. The hard hitter tallied 12 consecutive 100-plus tackle seasons, with a team-leading 2,065 over the course of his career. In his 14 seasons, he made 189 starts and played in 209 games. He went to the Pro Bowl five times (1992, ’94, ’95, ’97 and ’98) and was the record holder for tackles from 1990-99 with 1,293.
CB Deion Sanders
Sanders was a new breed, a two-sport star who at one point played both professional football and baseball in Atlanta. Nicknamed “Prime Time,” he was fast and lethal after being drafted fifth overall in 1989. Once he took the field, he started tearing into the Falcons’ record books with his dynamic style. He set 12 club records in his day. He would go on to play for the Baltimore Ravens, Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys, winning a pair of Super Bowls, and made a total of eight Pro Bowl appearances (1991-99), three of them for the Falcons. In 2011, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
QB Michael Vick
When he joined the Falcons for the 2001 season, Vick delighted fans and re-energized the offense with his fleet-footed style. Dangerous running or passing the ball, he tallied big numbers and brought fans to the stands wearing his No. 7 during his six-year tenure with the Falcons. He was tough for opponents to manage. Vick threw for 71 touchdowns and rushed for 21 during that span and earned the Falcons’ highest average career gain of 7.29. He proved capable of passing or rushing with frightening accuracy and skill, making three of his four Pro Bowl appearances while with the Falcons (2002, ’04, ’05). But Vick is most known serving 21 months in prison after pleading guilty to dog fighting charges in 2007, ending his career with the Falcons.