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Former Bulldog looking for a spot in Falcons backfield

POSTED: May 23, 2008 5:01 a.m.
Scott Rogers | The Times/

Thomas Brown awaits the snap during the Atlanta Falcons' Monday morning workouts at the team's minicamp at Flowery Branch. The former University of Georgia running back is going through his first camp with the Falcons.

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FLOWERY BRANCH — Rookie running back Thomas Brown spent his first three days as a professional football player doing what most rookies do — acclimating to the surreal life.

"I think I’m adjusting pretty good," said Brown, the Falcons’ sixth-round pick out of the University of Georgia. "The first day was extremely stressful and nerve-racking for me, but I hear that’s the general consensus for most guys coming in as a rookie. I mean, it’s the first time you’re out here competing against guys you grew up watching.

"But after I was able to calm down and kind of relax and get that confidence in me to know that I can come out here and compete with these type of athletes, it’s a lot easier."

The 22-year-old Brown is vying for a Falcons’ roster spot at running back and faces a difficult challenge.

Atlanta has three other running backs on its active roster, including free-agent signee Michael Turner, Jerious Norwood and Jason Snelling. Throw in fellow rookies Chad Hall and Jamar Brittingham, and Brown could have a tough time finding space on Atlanta’s opening day roster.

Brown, however, isn’t focused on the task ahead, but the task at hand.

"The main thing is coming out here every day, being focused on that day, and competing," he said.

The Tucker native, who also started at defensive back in high school, finished his career for the Bulldogs with 2,573 rushing yards on 510 carries and 13 touchdowns.

But he knows what was isn’t always a good indication of what will be, and college standouts don’t always translate to professional stars.

"When you come to this level, everybody can play; everybody was a star where they come from, and can come out here and perform. So the main thing is to get yourself prepared and go hard," he said.

Brown’s effort didn’t go unnoticed by first-year Atlanta coach Mike Smith.

"Thomas Brown has fit in well with our running back crew in terms of what he has been able to do athletically," Smith said. "He’s a guy who can run the ball between the tackles while having the speed to hurt you when he gets free. I was impressed with him. I saw him do some nice things too with his blitz pick-up."

Brown admitted that he took little time off after his Bulldogs routed Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl in his final collegiate game.

"I had a number of things in the offseason that helped me stay in shape," Brown said. "It was important for me to stay in shape because every edge helps. So I played in the East-West Shrine Game and just worked out non-stop to prepare for the combine and then pro day."

Staying in shape, however, did little to prepare Brown for one thing: The overall speed of the professional game and the uncanny athletic abilities of those that play it.

"Like everybody says, the speed of the game is a lot different," a smiling Brown said, shaking his head. "Playing in the SEC, in my opinion, the conference probably has the best athletes in college football. But I mean you may have two or three guys on the defensive side on an SEC team that can run like these type of guys and are athletic like all of these guys."

Brown, who only four months ago was the elder statesman on a talent-laded Georgia team, has in the matter of a few days been relegated back to rookie status.

"(Being a rookie) is like being a freshman," Brown said. "You are just supposed to come in and do your job and not really say much. The main thing is that it’s a job now and as a whole you can see the maturity level coming from college to the pros.

"Guys come out and don’t have to have their backs ridden about working hard and doing what they’re supposed to do and that’s a lot different from college."

So, Brown’s thoughts when his first three days as a professional football player concluded?

"I think I’ve done really well," he said. "Of course there are mistakes that are going to be made, but being a rookie that’s kind of understandable. I’m just trying to come out here everyday and compete the best that I can and try and make as few mistakes as possible."



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