The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is counting down the Top 50 players in Atlanta Falcons history during the franchise’s 50th anniversary season. No. 49 is wide receiver Michael Haynes.
Years played for Falcons: Michael Haynes grew up in New Orleans and took an interesting route to becoming one of the game’s most feared deep threats. Haynes was a track star at Joseph S. Clark High School and didn’t play football until college. He decided to walk-on at Northern Arizona and began as a defensive back before finding his true calling at wide out. He was selected in the 1988 NFL Draft in Round 7 as the Falcons took him with the 166th overall pick. Haynes played seven seasons in Atlanta. He spent his first six years in the league with the Falcons before leaving for New Orleans from 1994-96. In 1997, his final season, Haynes returned home for one last season in Atlanta.
His impact on the team: Haynes is most known for his set of wheels and ability to sneak past a defensive secondary. This was on full display when the 6-foot wide receiver delivered one of the most memorable plays in Falcons history, catching a 44-yard Hail Mary pass from Billy Joe Tolliver in 1991 to beat the San Francisco 49ers 17-14. The game-winning catch marked the first time in Falcons history that Atlanta was able to defeat the 49ers twice in a season.
More importantly, that touchdown catch proved to be a difference maker and vaulted the Falcons into the playoffs thanks to Atlanta holding a tiebreaker over the 49ers as both teams finished the season 10-6. Once in the playoffs Haynes made his presence felt again, snagging a 61-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter to edge the New Orleans Saints 27-20 in the Wild Card Round and give the Falcons their first postseason win since 1978. Head Coach Jerry Glanville described the jaw-dropping speed Haynes displayed as, “the fastest touchdown I’ve ever seen.”
Haynes on the 1991 season: “That  was a fun year. We ran the run-and-shoot offense and Andre Rison was our No. 1 receiver and I was the deep threat. I was fortunate to have a coach that liked to throw the ball deep and with my speed DBs had to be aware of that.”
Haynes on the game-winning wild card touchdown catch against the Saints: “I caught the hitch and it was Milton Mack covering me. Milton is a good friend of mine and he kind of took a bad angle and I just had to outrun the safety. It was an important play not only because it helped us get the playoff win, but it was in my hometown and I always wanted to beat the hometown team.”
Where is he now: Now 49, the former Falcon remains in the Atlanta area and works at XL212 in Alpharetta, leading camps and promoting high school football players and athletes in an effort to get them college scholarships.
50: Chuck Smith
49: Michael Haynes
47: John Zook
46: Ken Reaves
45: Lynn Cain
44: Justin Blalock
43: Bobby Butler