Top 50 Falcons: No. 5, Jeff Van Note

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is counting down the Top 50 players in Atlanta Falcons history during the franchise’s 50th anniversary season. No. 5 is center Jeff Van Note.

Years played for Falcons: From 1969-86, one face never changed in Atlanta. It might have gotten a little older and a little more worn, but Jeff Van Note was the foundation and face of the franchise through thick and thin since he was drafted in 1969 in the 11th round until he retired at the age of 40. Van Note was drafted as a linebacker by the Falcons out of the University of Kentucky. During the 1969 season, in order to gain more experience playing against veteran players, he played minor league football with the Alabama (Huntsville) Hawks of the Continental Football League.

Jersey No.: 57

Former Atlanta Falcon Jeff Van Note, 69, has dabbled in color commentary and broadcasting since finishing his playing days. (AJC file)

His impact on the team: Head Coach Norm Van Brocklin quickly moved the versatile Van Note to center after he had played running back and defensive end in college. The moved turned out to be an ingenious one as Van Note would go on to star in six Pro Bowls, hold the team record for most seasons played (18) and most consecutive games played (155). He is second in the team record books with 246 games played and 225 games started. His six Pro Bowl appearances have him tied with Claude Humphrey for most by a Falcons player. Van Note missed only four games during his career and snapped to an astounding 14 different quarterbacks during his 18 years in which he made three trips to the playoffs. Prior to his final game, the Falcons honored his number and presented him with a 1957 Chevy in front of fans at the Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. Van Note was later inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 1999. After spending some time as a color commentator, Van Note was inducted into the Falcons Ring of Honor in 2006 and has his No. 57 jersey retired.

On losing to the Cowboys in the Divisional Round: “We had a great team in '80, and the coaches blew it. I'll never get over that. I had always played against the best. For once, I was part of the best. We had a great offense. No way Dallas can stop us. But we sat on the ball and they scored twice. That was the closest I've come to the Super Bowl.’’ (Sports Illustrated)

Mike Kenn on playing with an older Van Note: “I feel amazement. How can somebody 40 years old bring himself out there and play? It's funny to look next to you and see this sob, who looks as old as my father, executing a block. I ask myself, Why does he do it?’’ (Sports Illustrated)

On why he played so long: “I asked myself a long time ago why I wanted to play this game so bad so long. Money? I only made $12,000 when I started. Publicity? I played on one good team. Respect? No. I play because I love it. I needed something to love. Football was it.” (Sports Illustrated)

Where he is now: Van Note, 69, has dabbled in color commentary and broadcasting since finishing his playing days. He has done work for the Falcons, Tennessee Oilers, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and Kentucky football. He is now retired and still resides in the Atlanta area.

The countdown to the Top 50 players in Falcons history runs through the end of the season.

Top 50 Falcons Countdown

50: Chuck Smith

49: Michael Haynes

48: Jonathan Babineaux

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

37: Matt Bryant

36: Alge Crumpler

35: Michael Turner

34: Ray Buchanan

33: Chris Hinton

32: Terance Mathis

31: Devin Hester

30: Don Smith

29: Greg Brezina

28: Chris Miller

27: John James

26: Bob Whitfield

25: Rolland Lawrence

24: Alfred Jenkins

23: Billy Johnson

22: Chris Chandler

21: Morten Andersen

20: John Abraham

19: George Kunz

18: Jamal Anderson

17: Keith Brooking

16: R.C. Thielemann

15: Tony Gonzalez

14: Andre Rison

13: Julio Jones

12: Roddy White

11: Steve Bartkowski

10: Michael Vick

9: Bill Fralic

8: Gerald Riggs

7: Matt Ryan

6: Jesse Tuggle

5: Jeff Van Note

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