KU football great, longtime Atlanta Falcons DE John Zook dies at age 72

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Atlanta Falcons defensive end John Zook in 1972. Atlanta Falcons – 1972 File Photos (AP Photo/NFL Photos)

ATLANTA (AP) — John Zook, who teamed with Hall of Famer Claude Humphrey to give the Atlanta Falcons a dynamic combination at defensive end, has died. He was 72.

His brother, Dean Zook, confirmed the death to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The former player died Saturday in his native Kansas after a long battle with cancer.

Initially a fourth-round pick by the Los Angeles Rams out of Kansas, Zook wound up in Atlanta after a pair of trades, first to Philadelphia, then to the Falcons.

Zook was with Atlanta from 1969-75, lining up on the right while Humphrey held down the left side. The team has scant success, with only two winning seasons and no playoff appearances during that time, but the duo was recognized as one of the team’s few strong suits.

Zook never missed a game during his tenure with the Falcons, starting 97 of 98 contests. He made his only Pro Bowl appearance in 1973, joining Humphrey in the all-star 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 dealt to St. Louis in 1976, spending his last four seasons with the Cardinals.

He played 144 games, with 134 starts.

Zook had four career interceptions and notably recorded the first safety in Falcons history in 1971.

He grew up in Larned, Kansas.

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