ATLANTA — John Zook, who teamed with Pro Football 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 the University of Kansas, Zook wound up in Atlanta after a pair of trades, first to the Philadelphia Eagles and then to the Falcons.
Zook was with Atlanta from 1969 to '75, lining up on the right while Humphrey held down the left side. The team had scant success, with only two winning seasons and no playoff appearances during that time, but the duo was recognized as one of Atlanta's few strong suits.
Zook never missed a game during his tenure with the Falcons, starting 97 of 98. 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 in the NFL with the Cardinals.
He played 144 games in all, with 134 starts, had four career interceptions and notably recorded the first safety in Falcons history in 1971.