Top 50 Falcons: No. 25, Rolland Lawrence

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is counting down the Top 50 players in Atlanta Falcons history during the franchise’s 50th anniversary season. No. 25 is cornerback Rolland Lawrence.

Years played for Falcons: Rolland Lawrence’s eight-year career spanning from 1973 to 1980, was one of the most productive stretches a Falcons cornerback has ever seen. Lawrence went undrafted out of Tabor College in Hillsboro, Kan. He quickly made a name for himself as a ball hawking corner and punt returner. Lawrence or “Bay” as he was referred to, retired after the 1980 season as a 29-year-old, leaving many to wonder “what-if” he continued to play into his 30s.

Jersey No.: 22

His impact on the team: From undrafted to becoming the all-time leader in franchise history with 39 interceptions, Lawrence helped the Falcons to two playoff appearances including the franchise’s first-ever division title in 1980. In 1975 he picked off nine passes, a career-high, and in 1977 he was named to the Pro Bowl and was an All-Pro selection, all while being named Falcon of the Year during the “Gritz Blitz” defense’s record-breaking season. He never missed a single game while in Atlanta and was always counted on to thwart opposing teams’ passing attacks. Lawrence, however, was covering Drew Pearson in the 1981 playoff game against Dallas when the Cowboys came back late and won 30-27 on a Danny White touchdown pass to Pearson, a loss that took the franchise years to recover from.

Falcons' Tom Pridemore (27) and Rolland Lawrence (22) try but fail to stop Cowboys wide receiver Drew Pearson (88) catch a pass in the NFC divisional playoff game Jan. 5, 1981, in Atlanta. Pearson went on to score a touchdown, handing Dallas a 30-27 win in the final minutes. (AP)

On holding the Falcons all-time interception record: “Who is that gentleman? Revis. I chuckle because I like to think especially when we had our Gritz Blitz, you talk about being on an island, I was on an island.”

Where he is now: Lawrence, now 64, lives in Franklin, Pa. with his wife Sandy of 29 years. He is recently retired after working 24 years with Vision Quest, a company that helped troubled youth. Today, he still helps substitute teach, coach football and basketball and is an avid golfer with his wife.

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

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