Former team owner Rankin Smith, Julia Elliott, then-Georgia coach Vince Dooley and Norm Van Brocklin before a game in the 1960s. Elliott, a school teacher in Griffin, suggested Falcons as the team’s nickname.

Teacher helped name Falcons

Q: How was the falcon chosen for the name and mascot of the Atlanta Falcons?

—Kathy McDonough, Peachtree Corners

A: The Falcons could have been called the Atlanta Lancers.

Or other types of fine feathery, and fictional, fowl, such as Firebirds or Thunderbirds.

Those were among the suggested nicknames for Atlanta’s new NFL team.

The franchise held a contest in 1965, a year before the team began play, and the submissions came pouring in, including at least a couple — Rebels and Crackers — that might not fly these days.

There were Bombers and Fireballs, Knights and Thrashers, both of which we would see later as Atlanta hockey teams.

And don’t forget Vibrants.

But Julia Elliott, a teacher in Griffin, soared to the top with the winning entry.

» Super Bowl 2017 preview: Atlanta Falcons vs. New England Patriots

Several people actually nominated Falcons, but Elliott, who died in 1990, won because of her description, the team states on its website.

“The Falcon is proud and dignified, with great courage and fight,” she wrote. “It never drops its prey. It’s deadly and has a great sporting tradition.”

Team owner Rankin Smith said at the time: “I think the Atlanta Falcons is a good name, and we’ll do our best to make it a famous one.”

The Falcons, who began playing in 1966 in the old Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium as an NFL expansion team, are in the Super Bowl for only the second time this year, on Sunday vs. the New England Patriots.

And FYI, Lancers and Thrashers finished tied for second.

The Atlanta Falcons have their own team of famous celebrity fans. From Samuel L. Jackson to former President Jimmy Carter to Usher, these fans have helped pack the Georgia Dome during Falcons games.

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