By Matthew Asher
John Antonio Abraham, DE #55
Hometown: Timmonsville, South Carolina
College: South Carolina
Experience: 13 years
One of the most important questions in sports is truly a paradox: Is the best offense a good defense? Is the best defense a good offense? Regardless of how you choose to answer that question, one thing is clear: John Abraham and the Atlanta Falcons’ defense make it tough to score points against them. Abraham may not have been drafted by Atlanta, but his six-plus years as a Falcon have definitely endeared him to the fans packing the Georgia Dome on Sundays. He already owns the Falcons franchise record for most career sacks with 65.5 (as of Nov 5, 2012).
Abraham was born in Timmonsville, South Carolina but he grew up in the city of Lamar, South Carolina. At Lamar High School John was a standout athlete in track. His time for running the 200-meter dash still stands as the South Carolina record.
With track as his primary sport, Abraham only spent one year in high school playing football. That one year was good enough for the University of South Carolina to recruit him. In all four years as a Gamecock, Abraham led his team in sacks. He was one of the few bright spots those four years in South Carolina as the team compiled a horrendous 12-32 record including an 0-11 senior season.
Still, Abraham’s play did not go unnoticed by NFL teams. Abraham was the 13th pick in the 2000 NFL Draft by the New York Jets.Despite playing in only six games his rookie season (due to injuries) John recorded 12 tackles and 4.5 sacks. He continued to improve his sophomore year in the NFL with 58 tackles, 13 sacks and six forced fumbles with one returned for a touchdown. On the November 4 game that year against the New Orleans Saints, Abraham tied a Jets franchise record held by Joe Klecko and Mark Gastineau with four sacks in one game. For his efforts, Abraham was selected to the AFC Pro Bowl team.
Abraham’s third season for the Jets was a slight step back from his second year. While he recorded only 48 tackles, 10 sacks and one forced fumble, John’s play was still good enough to be selected to the Pro Bowl for a second straight year. The 2003 campaign for Abraham, like his rookie season, was cut short due to injuries. Still, Abraham managed to rack up 37 tackles and six sacks in just seven games.
The Jets traded Abraham to the Falcons after the 2005 season for Atlanta’s 2006 NFL Draft first round pick. It wasn’t until John’s second year with the Falcons that his play started to improve. In that 2007 season, Abraham started all 16 games for just the second time in his career. He recorded 32 tackles and 10 sacks.
Abraham had a career year in 2008 when he picked up 16.5 sacks and 38 tackles. Despite his banner year, Abraham was not selected to the Pro Bowl. In the 2010 season Abraham recorded 13 sacks giving him 102 for his career. Abraham is just the 25th player in the NFL to eclipse the 100-sack mark.
It seems as though Abraham thrives against the Saints. In 2010, he achieved another milestone against New Orleans when he picked off Drew Brees for his first career interception. That year, Abraham was selected to his fourth Pro Bowl and first as a Falcon.
After the 2011 campaign, the Falcons signed Abraham to a 3 year $16.72 million contract. With the 2012 season half completed for the Falcons, Abraham is currently on pace to record 40 tackles, 14 sacks.
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Matthew Asher is a freelance writer covering all things Atlanta sports related. His work can be found on Examiner.com.