Every two years since 2004, the Atlanta Falcons have inducted a new member into the Falcons Ring of Honor. Thus far, the choices have been rather easy, as some of the most recognizable names in Falcons history were enshrined by the team. Lets face it…Andrews, Bartkowski, Van Note, Kenn, Nobis, Tuggle, Humphrey, and Sanders were all no-brainers. But in 2012, we are hitting a point where you really have to start scrutinizing the numbers and looking at the overall contribution to the team by a player, both on and off the field. And that’s if there is even anyone worthy at all. There are still some great names out there who have been a huge part of the Falcons franchise, so who of them could possibly be worthy?
You could start by looking at the record books. The Falcons all-time career leader in rushing, Gerald Riggs, leaps to mind. Riggs played with Atlanta from 1982-1988, and still holds team records for rushing yards (6,631), and attempts (1,587), and was named to three consecutive Pro Bowls from 1985-1987. Then there’s kicker Morton Andersen, who still holds Atlanta career records in field goals made (139), and total points (620) covering his numerous stints with the team. Andersen is possibly a logical choice since the Falcons have yet to induct a special teams player in to the ring. Perhaps it’s time to consider some past coaches, which Atlanta has had some colorful, if not great ones in their history. Norm Van Brocklin, Marion Campbell and Dan Reeves all could legitimately claim to be worthy of a spot.
If I had my choice (and I’m sure that Mr. Blank, Mr. Dimitroff and the Board of Directors are paying attention here), I’d go with someone who really meant a lot to the franchise. Someone who’s overall production, and selflessness made him a truly great player and representative of the city and the team. A player who may not have put up all the record breaking numbers, but who’s name is still to this day associated with the team and thought of in the highest regard. The person I’m thinking of played for 12 seasons with the Falcons, through some of the leanest years the franchise has seen. The overall team record during his tenure with the Atlanta was 68-101-3, and he only got to play in two playoff games, one of them a heartbreaking loss to his home state Dallas Cowboys. He was selected to just one Pro Bowl, and was named Falcons MVP by his teammates one season. He didn’t have highlight reel worthy plays, and he never drew the attention of the cameras for on-field antics. It’s really unclear by looking at a stat book how good he was and what he brought to the team, because the categories for which he would be tracked weren’t even logged during the years he played. But those who watched him play, and those who stood by him in battle knew that he left it all on the field every single week, and had an immeasurable amount of heart.
Off the field he was, and still is, a pillar of the community. He runs a Christian counseling ministry in a south Atlanta suburb with his wife, and still gives public speaking appearances as well. I had the opportunity to meet this extraordinary man when I was just a young boy. My father had arranged for him to speak at a Boy Scout meeting, and after the meeting he readily agreed to come back to our house for coffee. When my father came upstairs and woke me up, he simply said “Come downstairs, we have a guest I’d like you to meet”. Sleepy eyed and sporting my favorite Batman pajamas and house shoes, I skulked downstairs to see who could possibly be coming over at this late hour. When I made my way into the kitchen and lifted my eyes, they were met by what seemed to be a giant standing by our table. As my confused little mind was trying to process all this, a huge hulking hand reached out to me. And there I stood, a little 8 year old boy in my parents kitchen in Riverdale, Ga….shaking hands with linebacker Greg Brezina.
For all he did as a player for the Falcons, and for all he’s done to enhance the community in Atlanta, I think Greg Brezina is a fitting name to be added to the Falcons Ring of Honor.
For information on Greg and his ministry here in Atlanta, you can go to http://www.cftministry.org.