Top 50 Falcons: No. 2, Mike Kenn

Mike Kenn, Atlanta Falcons

Mike Kenn played all 17 years with the Falcons after being drafted 13th overall in 1978 . (AJC)

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is counting down the Top 50 players in Atlanta Falcons history during the franchise’s 50th anniversary season. No. 2 is left tackle Mike Kenn.

Years played for Falcons: Kenn, who wore No. 78 and played all 17 years with the Falcons after being drafted 13th overall in the 1978 NFL Draft out of Michigan, was once praised by a future Hall of Fame head coach. “I’ve never seen any offensive tackle with his agility and quickness.’’ Those words came from the late and great coach Bill Walsh, whose 49ers certainly had their fill of Kenn and his ability to protect the quarterback from some of the best rushers in NFL. Kenn started in all 251 games he played for the Falcons, once playing in 94 consecutive games, and went to five straight Pro Bowls (1980-84).

Jersey No.: 78

Mike Kenn, Atlanta Falcons

Falcons tackle Mike Kenn started in all 251 games he played for the Falcons. (AJC)

His impact on the team: It wasn’t long before Kenn was in the lineup with the Falcons and made the all-rookie team in 1978. In his second season, he allowed only 4 1/2 sacks and was penalized four times. That season the Falcons made it to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history and in 1980 he was voted as a consensus All-Pro on a team that was thought to be the favorite to win the Super Bowl. That Falcons team, however, lost a heartbreaking game to Dallas in the playoffs when the Cowboys overcame a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit. From there, Kenn played on nine straight losing teams but he continued to dominate. He went 23 straight games without being penalized. While the Falcons struggled, the offensive line actually was very solid, including such players as Jeff Van Note, Bill Fralic, R.C. Thielemann, Chris Hinton and Jamie Dukes. In a memorable game in 1991 against New Orleans, he shut down defensive end Pat Swilling, who had come into the game as the league’s sacker leader but finished with none against Kenn. Over his NFL career, Kenn grew to 286 pounds and retired after the 1994 season. He actually was offered a contract by coach June Jones to come back for ’95, but he declined, saying, “I was done mentally. They wanted me to come back as a player-coach and teach Lincoln Kennedy how to play. June was once a teammate and friend of mine and I knew it is time to retire when someone like that is your boss.”

On being drafted by the Falcons: “We had pro day and I ran a fast 40, and Bill Curry of the Packers came up to me and said they wanted to draft me and change me into a tight end. He said, ‘Go down there with our receivers coach and catch some balls.’ I caught all 50 and Bill then told me I couldn’t run a route worth a damn, but they would teach me how. The irony of all that is if I would have been taken by the Packers and moved to tight end, I don’t think I would have ever lasted 17 years in the NFL.’’ (AJC)

On why his technique was so solid: “I had to compensate for a lack of bulk. I couldn’t beat people with size. I had the best line coach (Jerry Hanlon) at Michigan. He taught me the fundamentals of leverage and angles. Also, I think the only other lineman that had my athleticism was Anthony Munoz. I also watched a lot of film, frame by frame.’’ (AJC)

On playing on nine consecutive losing teams: “That is my whole point about the Hall of Fame. It is much harder to play at a higher level with a poor cast of characters.’’

On the loss to Dallas in 1980: “We sat on the ball and let them back in the game. But the big play came when it was third-and-1 and we could have knocked two more minutes off the clock with a first down and we still had a two touchdown lead. We had a play called ‘Zero 1 Trap,’ which William Andrews ran and worked all year. But before the ball was snapped, Ed ‘Too Tall’ Jones stepped into the neutral zone which was OK back then if you got back. But he never got back on his side before it was snapped. And he was right in the hole to make the play. I watched that film and he was offside. Then we went into a prevent defense and Danny White just stood back there and could throw the ball to anyone.’’ (AJC)

On getting into the Falcons Ring of Honor: “It was great for me and my family but also for the people back home because I came from a blue-collar area and a lot of them were living vicariously through me being a football player.’’ (AJC)

On whether he should get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame: “I do believe my play merits the Hall, but I don’t have a vote. The thing is, during my career I think my sack ratio was 2.97 percent and I played left tackle uncovered with no help. I played against all the great pass rushers that are in the Hall. My daughter started a campaign and finally got me into the semifinals. But I have stayed at arm’s length. I do hope I get there while I am still eligible over the next three or four years because after that, I would have to be selected as an old-timer and there are an awful lot of good football players in that category.’’ (AJC)

Where he is now: Kenn, 59, lives in Atlanta and has two daughters, Lisa and Kristy. He has been married to wife Joanie for 36 years. He remains very active and is president of the startup Government and Municipal Finance Systems. He works out every day and has lost 45 pounds since his playing days.

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
4: Warrick Dunn and William Andrews
3: Deion Sanders
2: Mike Kenn

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