Top 50 Falcons: No. 46, Ken Reaves

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is counting down the Top 50 players in Atlanta Falcons history during the franchise’s 50th anniversary season. No. 46 is defensive back Ken Reaves.

Years played for Falcons: Drafted in the fourth round, 49th overall out of Norfolk State in 1966, Ken Reaves was a part of the first draft class in Atlanta Falcons history. The physical 6-foot-3, 210-pound defensive back played from 1966 to 1973 with the Falcons, amassing 29 interceptions over his eight seasons. Reaves finished Top 10 in the NFL in interceptions three times and currently places third all-time in Falcons history. He never missed a game in Atlanta and played the fourth-most games of any defensive back. Reaves was also known for his facial hair upon entering the league.

Ken Reaves (second from left, front) often joins former teammates for Falcons alumni festivities. Players from the 1966 Falcons team gather during a reunion around the Falcons first-ever draft pick Tommy Nobis tossing a football in the air in 2013, at Lake Lanier Islands Resort. Front (from left) are general manager Tom Braatz, Reaves, linebacker Tommy Nobis, linebacker Ralph Heck, and wide receiver Gary Barnes. Back row (from left) are kicker Lou Kirovac, tackle Don Talbert, and tight end Bill Martin. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

His impact on the team: As a part of an expansion franchise, Reaves and the Falcons struggled their first three seasons going 6-35-1. Reaves was a bright spot during the woeful 1-12-1 1967 season, picking off seven passes which was good for third best in the NFL. Two years later in 1969 he garnered his only Pro Bowl selection, making him the first defensive back in franchise history to earn the honor. In 1971, the Falcons enjoyed their first winning season with a 7-6-1 mark. In Reaves’ final season in Atlanta, the Falcons went 9-5, the team’s best record in their short franchise history. Reaves finished his career with one season in New Orleans and three full years in St. Louis, retiring after the 1977 season at age 33.

On having to shave his mustache due to coach Norm Van Brocklin’s ban on facial hair: “He believes that personal appearance is a part of the game. I’ve had a mustache as long as I can remember. I wear one in the off-season but I shave it off before I come to camp. It’s a thing of values. I want to play football and to earn a living and I don’t mind shaving off a mustache if he believes that will help us to win.”

On going to Falcons Alumni Days: “I think the best part for me of coming back here is seeing guys from all of the various years that played together and looking at them, talking trash to them but at the same time it’s just fun seeing them again after they’ve had families and have changed into a new life style and just talking about the old days.”

Where he is now: Reaves, who is now retired, celebrated his 71st birthday this Thursday. He has returned to Falcons facilities during alumni events and enjoys connecting with his former teammates and other former Falcons. Joked Reaves, “It’s just fun seeing them again after they’ve all changed and had families and it’s fun talking about the old days and talking trash to them. I like to talk a little trash."

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

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