The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is counting down the Top 50 players in Atlanta Falcons history during the franchise’s 50th anniversary season. No. 47 is defensive end John Zook.
Years played for Falcons: John Zook had a winding road when he was first drafted in 1969, but “Zooker” eventually ended up a Falcon. While at Kansas, Zook earned all-conference honors twice and was named a consensus All-American in 1968. He recorded 202 total tackles over his career which placed him fourth all-time among Jayhawks. Zook was selected in the fourth round, 99th overall by the Los Angeles Rams but before he could ever step foot on the field for the Rams, Zook was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles and then to the Falcons where he began his career in 1969. He played 11 total seasons with his first seven coming in Atlanta from 1969-75.
His impact on the team: The Falcons never made the playoffs while Zook was on the team, but they did win a then franchise record nine games in 1973, a season in which he garnered his only Pro Bowl selection. Over his seven seasons in Atlanta, Zook was known for his durability and ability to play through injuries, never missing a single game. As a fierce pass rusher Zook was among the best sack artists in the league, but sacks were not an official sack back when he played so his total amount is unknown. He is also known for recording the first safety in Falcons history back in 1971.
On coach Marion Campbell: “Marion taught me more about defensive line play than probably all of my other coaches combined. When I played I wasn’t that big and I wasn’t that fast and I wasn’t that strong so I had to learn to play smart to survive and coach Campbell taught me how to do that.”
All effort all the time: Zook carried the reputation gained with his college coach Pepper Rodgers at Kansas University as “the most full-speed player you could ask for’’ throughout his professional career.
Where he is now: Now 68, Zook was inducted into the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame in 2007. He has continued supporting the Jayhawks and is one of 15 players honored in Kansas’ Ring of Honor in Memorial Stadium.
50: Chuck Smith
49: Michael Haynes
47: John Zook
46: Ken Reaves
45: Lynn Cain
44: Justin Blalock
43: Bobby Butler