Hard hitters are a thing of legend in the NFL. The grainy images from decades ago tell the same story as the high-definition highlight reel of today: hard hitters on the football field are timeless. The Hall of Fame is filled with players that hit hard and made a career doing it. Who are the hardest hitters in Falcons franchise history? It turns out you don’t have to look too far beyond the Falcons Ring of Honor to find them.
5) Claude Humphrey: Joining the team as the third overall pick in the 1968 draft, Claude Humphrey played 11 seasons in Atlanta and holds a few franchise records. Regarded by some as one of the original fierce pass rushers, Humphrey owns the franchise record for sacks in a career with 94.5 and most sack yards in a season with 757. The six-time Pro Bowler was a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009 and he was inducted into the Falcons Ring of Honor in 2008. Humphrey was known for his athleticism and at 6-foot-4 and 252 pounds in the early 70’s, he dominated offensive linemen on his way to bringing down quarterbacks with hits they didn’t soon forget.
4) William Andrews: When you think of heavy hitting, you think of defensive players, but there are a few players on offense with the opportunity to hit back. William Andrews came to the Falcons as a third-round pick in 1979 and by 1980 he was a Pro Bowl running back. Andrews spent six seasons with the Falcons and during that time he was known as one of the most bruising and powerful running backs in the league. San Francisco 49ers Hall of Fame safety Ronnie Lott, a player with hard-hitting credentials, said the hardest hit he took in his career came when he tried to tackle Andrews. One of the most memorable hits in Andrews’ career came in 1982 in a game against Denver as Andrews hits and sheds a defensive back on his way to an 86-yard touchdown run. Andrews was inducted into the Falcons Ring of Honor in 2004.
3) Tommy Nobis: Many would say Tommy Nobis is among the hardest hitters in the history of the entire league, but here he is just No. 3. The first ever draft pick by the Falcons in 1966, the man known as “Mr. Falcon” went on to play in five Pro Bowls and was Defensive Rookie of the Year in ’66. In that rookie debut, he secured 294 tackles, a figure that unofficially is the most credited to a single player in a season in NFL history. Nearly every NFL Films video from Nobis’ era featured hits by the linebacker. Nobis’ hits would stop players in their tracks, on the ground or in the air. Nobis was inducted into the Falcons Ring of Honor in 2004.
2) Scott Case: Drafted in the second round of the 1984 draft, Scott Case spent 11 seasons in Atlanta and made many fans with the way he fearlessly played the safety position. Case’s only Pro Bowl came in 1988 when he led the NFL with 10 interceptions, but his entire career is filled with big plays and big hits. During Case’s career, the Falcons were in the NFC West with the San Francisco 49ers, and Case has numerous highlights of memorable tackles against the likes of Jerry Rice and Roger Craig. The adjective “urgent” is often used to describe the current-era player with energy and the necessary athletic ferocity to dominate opponents and Case definitely fit the bill as an urgent player.
1) Jessie Tuggle: Few conversations about the greatest Falcon ever take place without mentioning Jessie Tuggle. The linebacker and Georgia native entered the Falcons’ 1987 training camp as a college free agent and he not only made the team, but carved out a career that saw five Pro Bowls and three All Pro honors over his 14-year career. Tuggle was a running back’s worst nightmare and his specialty was breaking up screen plays to running backs with his hits. He became known as “The Hammer” and he continued to bring the hits deep into his career. Some of the greatest of his generation understood what it meant to be hit by Tuggle. Jerome Bettis, Natrone Means, Barry Sanders and Emmitt Smith all knew how Tuggle came to play each Sunday. Tuggle is the Falcons' franchise leader in career tackles (2,065) and was inducted into the Ring of Honor in 2004.