With no more than 240 pounds hanging on his 6-foot-4 frame at the University of Arkansas, R.C. Thielemann was taken in the second round of the NFL (36th overall) in 1977. For a franchise that struggled after the first round, it would prove to be one of the best picks ever for the Atlanta Falcons.
Named Ray Charles after his father, Thielemann started all 114 games he played for the Falcons, almost all at guard, joining center Jeff Van Note, guard David Scott and tackles Mike Kenn and Warren Bryant on a line that stayed together for almost eight seasons and was certainly the franchise’s best.
Thielemann also would win a Super Bowl with Washington, but his roots remain in Atlanta, where he was a three-time Pro Bowl selection and is one of the few players who played for the Falcons pre-Arthur Blank to walk away with a winning record.
Born in Houston, Thielemann narrowed his college choices to Arkansas, Nebraska and Texas. He felt Texas was too big and Nebraska too far away, so he joined the Razorbacks.
Beginning in 1973, he played for the great Frank Broyles’ final four teams.
He had no idea what his draft status was after his senior year in a draft where running back Tony Dorsett went second overall to Dallas and the Falcons took Bryant with the sixth pick.
Thielemann joined a team that went 7-7 his rookie season. The Falcons came back the next season and went to the playoffs (9-7) for the first time in franchise history, led by the “Grits Blitz’’ and golden boy Steve Bartkowski at quarterback. The Falcons beat Philadelphia (14-13) and lost to Dallas (27-20) in the playoffs.
Two years later, Thielemann helped lead the Falcons to a 12-4 record in a season where they had the Cowboys beat in the playoffs, but gave up 21 fourth-quarter points.
He stayed with the Falcons until the end of the 1983 season, making the Pro Bowl in his final three years. He left Atlanta with a winning record, the Falcons going 53-50 in his seven seasons.
Thielemann joined Washington, coach Joe Gibbs and an offensive line known as “The Hogs.”
The Redskins won a Super Bowl in 1987, but Thielemann hurt his right knee in his first year in Washington, something that bothered him in 34 starts over four years with the Redskins. The 1988 season was the last of his 12 years in the NFL, which included 148 starts in 157 games.
Where he lives: Thielemann, 61, has been married to Laura for 21 years. They live in Alpharetta. He has two daughters: Alyssa, who is a doctor, and Britta, who is an athletic academic advisor at Arkansas. Both live in Little Rock.
What he does: He is the president and owner of Capital Mortgage Advisors in Alpharetta. Thielemann also is the NFL’s uniform compliance officer at all Falcons homes games, something he has done for 16 years. He handles the Falcons while former Georgia great Garrison Hearst oversees the visiting team. Thielemann also umpires softball games.
On being drafted by the Falcons: “I can’t remember if it was (coach) Leeman Bennett or (general manager) Eddie LeBaron that called. I was excited, as I was making $30,000 playing football. I wasn’t very big when I got to the Falcons, but it was a different era back then. We did a lot of pulling and trapping and run blocking, so I could get away with that kind of size then.’’
On blocking for William Andrews and Gerald Riggs: “They made it easy and definitely helped me get to the Pro Bowl. The thing is back then, we really had a good line. We were together for a long time and Mike (Kenn) was my roommate, and we became real close. The line was together for seven or eight years and you just don’t see that anymore.’’
On the toughest player to block: “There were two. When Reggie White wanted to play, he was unblockable, and then when I was in Washington, the same with Lawrence Taylor.’’
On playing for Bennett: “When I first came in, Leeman was taking over and the franchise was in disarray. He turned it around and Eddie (LeBaron) did a good job of building the club through the trenches. He was all about protecting Bart. I hated to see Leeman go.’’
On the injuries to Andrews: “William and Gerald only got to play together a short time because William blew his knee out. You really have to wonder what we would have been like if William would not have gotten hurt. He had turned into a mini Bo Jackson.’’
On working as an NFL compliance officer: “I just have to check and make sure the guys are not wearing stuff they are not supposed to. I mainly check they have the right logos on. Otherwise, they get fined.’’
On his time in Washington: “The first thing I noticed up there was the expectations. They expected you to win 14 games every year. That was the biggest difference between Atlanta and Washington. Joe Gibbs wanted to win it all every year.’’
On his health: “I actually feel pretty good, and I had my knee replaced, so I am doing things I couldn’t do before. As far as my head, you never know what is going to happen. The thing is they say you sort of get a concussion every time you hit your head and I had been hitting since high school. The only time the family gets to benefit from it is when you die and I am not looking forward to that. I will say that I would do it all again, and I would say if you asked that to most NFL players, they would tell you the same thing.’’