NFC Championship Game
49ers at Falcons
When: 3 p.m. Sunday
Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta
TV: Fox; pre-game show starts at 2 p.m.
The Hall County Honor Guard has been bestowed the honor for the second time of presenting the colors for Sunday’s NFC Championship game at the Georgia Dome.
Last Sunday, five members of the Hall County Sheriff’s Office Honor Guard presented the colors before a crowd of more than 71,000 at the NFC divisional playoff game in the Dome.
“We had done some Braves games in the past, but that was our first Falcons game,” Honor Guard commander deputy Jonathan Jackson said.
The Falcons won a heart-pounding 30-28 victory, sending them into Sunday’s NFC Championship game against San Francisco.
Being invited to the game was an unplanned coup for the office.
“Sheriff (Gerald) Couch received a phone call from someone on the Falcons staff asking if the Hall County Honor Guard would be interested. It was a very last-minute request,” Jackson said.
It probably helped that Hall County is well-connected, he noted, as the Falcons’ headquarters and training facilities are in Flowery Branch.
Gainesville Police Department Spokesman Cpl. Joe Britte is the guard’s liaison with the Falcons when they perform the colors, Jackson said.
Jackson bore the national colors, while Deputies Charles Wallace and Michael Mount bore the Georgia and Hall County Sheriff’s Office flags, respectively.
Deputies Thomas Hyde and Mike Wester served as right and left color guards.
The Honor Guard consists of deputies from all divisions of the Sheriff’s Office and serves as the department’s ceremonial unit, volunteering services to the local community, spokesman Sgt. Stephen Wilbanks said.
Originally formed in 1988 with 12 members, the unit now includes 20 regular members, augmented by five field musicians.
“The Honor Guard is simply an outstanding asset to the Sheriff’s Office and our citizens,” Couch said. “These deputies go above and beyond their normal duties to provide our community with a pure and honorable service. They earn no extra pay and take a tremendous amount of pride in what they do. I couldn’t be more proud of these deputies and the way they represent the Sheriff’s Office.”
Jackson said part of the reason for the invitation from the Falcons was simply streamlining preparations for game programs and other entertainment aspects, but added that “we did a good job, and they were impressed.”
For the guard, tens of thousands of screaming fans is a departure from the normal atmosphere, Jackson said.
“Most of the time the Honor Guard is asked to do something, it’s for funeral services or memorial services — generally it’s quiet when we have to do these things,” he said. “With 70 thousand-plus screaming fans at the end of the anthem, you can’t hear at all. It makes it a little more difficult to maneuver and call commands and formations. It was done strictly on feel and counts.”
Not that he’s complaining, Jackson said.
“In a nutshell, it was just a proud moment for us to have the opportunity to represent the department, the community and our Atlanta Falcons,” he said.
The guard’s brief return to the national stage airs during the Sunday pre-game coverage on Fox. Kick-off is at 3 p.m.