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Ex-Atlanta Falcons DE John Zook dies at 72

Former Atlanta Falcons defensive end John Zook, who starred alongside Hall of Famer Claude Humphrey, has died after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 72.

Zook’s brother, Dean, confirmed the death to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Sunday. According to his brother, Zook died Saturday in his native Kansas after stopping cancer treatments at the beginning of this year.

The newspaper said Zook, who grew up in Larned, Kan., connected with some of his former Falcons teammates during a video conference call Friday as a final goodbye.

The Los Angeles Rams selected Zook in the fourth round of the 1969 NFL Draft out of Kansas. He wound up in Atlanta after a pair of trades — first to the Philadelphia Eagles and then to the Falcons.

Zook played for the Falcons from 1969-75, lining up on the right side while Humphrey anchored the left side of the defensive line. During that time, Atlanta finished with only two winning seasons and had no playoff appearances, but the duo was recognized as one of the team’s strengths.

Zook never missed a game during his time with the Falcons, starting 97 of 98 matchups. He earned his only Pro Bowl appearance in 1973, joining Humphrey in the game.

“The most fun I had the whole time I played football was the time John and I had that season when we were both selected to the Pro Bowl,” Humphrey told the Atlanta newspaper. “We figured out we were better together than we were individually.”

Zook was traded to the then-St. Louis Cardinals in 1976 and spent his last four seasons with the franchise. He had four career interceptions and notably recorded the first safety in Falcons history in 1971.

Zook played 144 career games (134 starts) in his career. He was named second-team All-NFC in 1972 and 1973 and second-team All-Pro in 1973.

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