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Georgia's Brown joins Falcons

POSTED: May 9, 2008 5:01 a.m.

FLOWERY BRANCH — Thomas Brown fits everything the Atlanta Falcons say they want in a football player.

He’s smart. He plays and practices hard. He’s versatile, and the injury bug doesn’t affect him.

The Falcons drafted Brown, a former starter at Georgia, in the sixth round of the NFL draft on Sunday.

"It’s been a dream of mine," Brown said, "especially coming from Georgia and being born in the city of Atlanta."

He was one of four Bulldogs selected on the second day of the draft, though none went higher than Georgia Tech linebacker Phillip Wheeler, a third-round pick of Indianapolis, and Yellow Jackets running back Tashard Choice, who landed with Dallas in the fourth round.

Wheeler is now a teammate of Georgia defensive end Marcus Howard, whom the Colts chose in the fifth round.

Tech punter Durant Brooks went to Washington in the sixth round, and the Bulldogs had two players taken in the seventh, guard Chester Adams (Chicago) and kicker Brandon Coutu (Seattle).

Brown learned that the Falcons were selecting him when he took a phone call from first-year coach Mike Smith.

"Actually, (on Friday), I had four or five calls from a number of scouts from the Atlanta Falcons that told me they were really considering me and that they would love for me to be here," Brown said. "But you never know how the draft is going to go, and I was just sitting around waiting in anticipation."

It’s safe to say that this was a busy weekend for Brown, who married his high school sweetheart on Friday evening at West Mitchell C.M.E., just down the street from the Georgia Dome.

"It was a relatively small wedding," Brown said. "Both of our families were there, and a few of my old Georgia teammates had an opportunity to come."

Brown has made a habit recently of needing only a little time to accomplish his goals.

Last fall, during his senior season, Brown graduated early by passing seven classes, including five in his major, while also rehabbing a shoulder injury that sidelined him for three games.

He also teamed with freshman Knowshon Moreno to give the Bulldogs a 1-2 punch at running back that combined for nearly 2,000 yards rushing. More importantly, Brown’s perseverance helped Georgia finish the season with an easy win over Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl and a No. 2 national ranking.

What impressed the Falcons about Brown was his refusal to let injuries sidetrack his football career.

After breaking his leg as a senior at Tucker High School, Brown was No. 6 on Georgia’s depth chart when fall practice began in 2004.

He finished his first year with a career-high 875 yards rushing with eight touchdowns in 11 games, but a torn knee ligament ended his junior season after seven games.

Working out recently for the Falcons, Brown kept his hopes alive for a career in the NFL. He passed every drill without a problem.

"It was a combination of not only his ability to move and cut and his vision but his athletic ability, his body control, also his ability to catch the ball and field kickoffs," general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. "We did due diligence on his injuries. He came in clean enough for us. We have a grading scale for injuries, and he was well within the range of being acceptable."

Brown has needed some patience to get through the last few months in answering so many questions about his injury history.

"I think it was mainly whether or not I was sturdy enough," he said. "I think (NFL teams) would look at my size, being 5-8, 205, that I can’t carry (the ball) low and can’t handle pounding. Like I said, overall, I feel like I’m an every-down running back. I just ask them to let me come out and prove that."

Falcons quarterback D.J. Shockley, who’s fourth on the depth chart behind Matt Ryan, Chris Redman and Joey Harrington, played with Brown at Georgia in 2004-05.

Brown’s best chance to make the final cut and earn a spot on Atlanta’s 53-man roster will come on special teams. He needs to show the coaches he can handle return kickoffs as well as he did at Georgia (33 attempts for an average of 22.7 yards and one touchdown in his career).

There’s little chance Brown will have too many chances to run the ball in the regular season unless Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood can’t play.

"I come from a system at Georgia where I’m used to competing with a number of guys," Brown said. "I’m just excited to play with (Turner and Norwood) and contribute in anyway I can to this team."



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