Top 50 Falcons: No. 5, Jeff Van Note

Jeff Van Note, Atlanta Falcons

Falcons center Jeff Van Note missed only four games during his career and snapped to an astounding 14 quarterbacks during his 18 years with Atlanta. (George Rose/Getty Images)

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

Jeff Van Note, Atlanta Falcons

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
Jesse Tuggle
5: Jeff Van Note

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