Former Falcons Pro Bowl DE John Zook Loses Battle With Cancer

Falcons helmet

Getty The helmet of an Atlanta Falcons player.

Former longtime Atlanta Falcons defensive end, John Zook has died at the age of 72. Zook teamed up with Hall of Famer Claude Humphrey to create quite the dynamic duo during his playing days.

Zook’s brother, Dean Zook, confirmed the passing of John to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He died Saturday morning in his Kansas home after battling cancer for several years.

Popularly known as “The Zooker,” Zook was a fourth-round pick by the Los Angeles Rams until he eventually landed in Atlanta after a trade with the Eagles. He spent seven seasons with the Falcons from 1969-75.


Humphrey’s Rememberance of Zook

Humphrey shared his favorite memory with Zook to the AJC, taking it back to the nine-win 1973 season where they were both selected to the Pro Bowl.

“The most fun I had the whole time I played football was the time John and I had that (’73) season when we were both selected to the Pro Bowl,” Humphrey told the AJC Sunday. “We had it down pat, man, I tell you. We figured out we were better together than we were individually.

“He and I got along better than I’ve been able to get along with anybody,” Humphrey added. “I guess because we both had to work hard to get where we were going.”

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Zook’s Legacy in Atlanta

Zook was always there for his team – and by that, I mean he didn’t miss a single game as an Atlanta Falcon during his seven seasons. He put his blood, sweat, and tears into the game regardless of the pain he was in.

Atlanta never made the playoffs while Zook was on the team, but they did win a then-franchise-record nine games in 1973. That was his only trip to the Pro Bowl.

Humphrey and Zook played during an era where the only way to tell if someone was good, was by watching them. Sack stats weren’t recorded on paper yet, so we don’t know the total amount but Zook was a fierce sack machine.

The defensive end also had four interceptions, three of which came in his first two seasons. He is also known for recording the first safety in Falcon’s history back in 1971.


Teammates Said Their Good-Byes Hours Before His Death

Just hours before his death, some of Zook’s old teammates and friends were able to say their good-byes.

“We’ll always remember that wonderful, happy-go-lucky attitude of his,” said friend and former quarterback for the Falcons in 1971, Leo Hart.

Humphrey, after all of these years, still can’t fathom why Atlanta traded John away to the St. Louis Cardinals.

“After John left, I had a good year (with the Falcons), but it wasn’t as much fun as when we played together,” Humphrey said. “I hate they sent John away. I don’t know where they could have found anyone better.”

According to Zook’s brother, he will be buried in a family plot outside Larned, Kansas.

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