The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is counting down the Top 50 players in Atlanta Falcons history during the franchise’s 50th anniversary season. No. 38 is defensive back Elbert Shelley.
Years played for Falcons: Elbert Shelley spent 10 seasons in Atlanta, from the time he was drafted out of Arkansas State in 1987, until his retirement after the 1996 season. A former 11th round pick, the 292nd overall selection was selected to four straight Pro Bowls from 1992-95 and garnered three All-Pro selections. Shelley recorded just one interception during his career playing in the secondary, but it was his special teams play which stood out the most. He was a ferocious gunner who would get down the field in the blink of an eye and thwart kick returns and punt returns every Sunday. Shelley is from Tyronza, Ark., where the population for the last census was 777.
Jersey No.: 37
His impact on the team: Primarily known for his special teams work, Shelley is one of the few players in NFL history that cut his teeth covering kicks and punts. Doing the dirty work and excelling at it, the Falcons made two trips to the playoffs with Shelley flying around the field. He ended up with 53 career tackles and totaled two sacks on defense.
On how he felt on draft night: “Getting drafted was interesting for sure. I had been predicted to go in the late rounds or sign as a rookie free agent. I ended up getting picked in the 11th round by the Atlanta Falcons and I was actually asleep when I got the phone call. They said they were flying me into Atlanta the next day and wanted to meet me. It was a big deal for a small town, country boy going to Atlanta. It was the biggest plane and biggest airport I had ever been in and was a huge culture shock for me. I was pretty nervous at first.”
On his days in Atlanta: “I really enjoyed playing in Atlanta and have great memories from my playing days. I mainly played special teams and third down situations and I really started to enjoy playing a lot more and making an impact in the game in those situations. I was actually named Special Teams Player of the Year one season and I honestly didn’t even know it existed before I won it, but all the individual accomplishments were nice to receive. It’s a good feeling to know you’re good at your job.”
Where he is now: Shelley is 50 years-old and will celebrate his 51st birthday on Dec. 24. When he first retired he ran a limousine business for four years then moved onto working in land erosion in Alabama and Georgia. Today, Shelley is a deputy sheriff in Gordon County. He helps run an annual football clinic with high school coaches and former players in the area.
50: Chuck Smith
49: Michael Haynes
47: John Zook
46: Ken Reaves
45: Lynn Cain
44: Justin Blalock
43: Bobby Butler
42: Tim Mazzetti
41: Buddy Curry
40: Scott Case
39: Jeff Merrow
38: Elbert Shelley
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