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New man in the middle?
Rookie Lofton looking for a starting spot at linebacker
Falcons rookie linebacker Curtis Lofton (50) prepares for a drill during a recent team workout. Lofton, a second round pick in April’s draft, has a chance to earn a starting spot at middle linebacker this fall. - photo by Photo courtesy of the Atlanta Falcons

Even as a 10-year-old, Curtis Lofton knew that football came easier to him than it did to most people. But coming out of a small town in Oklahoma, he had to convince others of what he already knew. As part of an ongoing series introducing this year’s Falcons rookie class, Lofton spoke with Times sports editor Brent Holloway last week about his hometown, the grandmother who raised him and what he’s learning as an NFL linebacker.

Question: When did you start playing football?

Answer: When I was in fifth grade.

Q: At what point did you realize that you were better than most people?

A: Fifth grade.

Q: What do you remember about that?

A: I don’t know, I just felt like I was moving a lot faster than everybody else.

Q: I understand that your grandmother played a big part in your upbringing. Can you tell me a little bit about her?

A: My grandma’s my foundation. Ever since I was a little kid, my grandma’s always been there and been supportive. She put a roof over my head and sometimes worked two jobs just so I could do things. So my grandma, she’s my everything.

Q: How often do you keep in touch with her?

A: Pretty much every day.

Q: You going to be able to get her down here for some games this year?

A: Oh yeah, when she’s not working she’ll definitely be coming down here to check out a few games.

Q: What can you tell me about your hometown, Kingfisher, Okla.?

A: It’s tiny. I’d probably say there are more cows than there are people. It’s a town of 5,000 people, my graduating class was 73 and everybody there’s happy because we just got a Super Wal-Mart.

Q: Were there any doubters that thought a small-town kid like yourself wouldn’t be able to make it in big time football?

A: I think there were. Just coming from such a small school, people didn’t really know if I when I went to college if I’d be able to play with the big dogs. I guess people kind of questioned my ability, but as far as I’m concerned, I knew I could play.

Q: You come from a long line of highly regarded linebackers at Oklahoma and you kind of had to sit back a little while and wait your turn. At this time last year did you think you’d be be sitting here now, at an NFL camp as a second round draft pick?

A: Nah, that never crossed my mind. Going into last year, I just wanted to have a good year and be a solid college player. The way things worked out for me, I ended up in the NFL — kind of a dream scenario.

Q: At what point did you decide turning pro before your senior year was the best option for you, and what helped solidify that decision?

A: It was about two weeks after our bowl game. I went to Florida, just to get away for a little bit, and I just talked to my family, prayed about it, and you know just went through all the pros and cons. Really, there wasn’t much for me to come back for, and I felt like if I went back there was a chance I could lose a lot. So I went back to Oklahoma and had a talk with my coaches to see if they had a different view for me and decided to come on out.

Q: Have they been pretty supportive, the coaching staff back at Oklahoma?

A: Oh definitely. I mean since Day 1, they’re always behind and supporting me if I need anything. It’s a great staff.

Q: You played both outside and middle linebacker in college. How much experience do you have at each position?

A: My sophomore year I started outside, then moved to middle the last five games. My junior year I played the entire year inside.

Q: And you’re playing inside now with the Falcons?

A: Yes.

Q: Which unit are you working with right now?

A: Second squad.

Q: Coming in as a rookie, what are your expectations?

A: Every rookie wants to start, so I definitely want to start. But my main thing is I just want to contribute to the team, whether it be special teams or starting.

Q: What have you been able to pick up from the veterans ahead of you?

A: Just the little things: how (Keith) Brooking takes notes and pays attention and how he works off the field. And just how they conduct themselves when they come to work.

Q: What are you doing on your off days?

A: Really just relaxing, doing a little studying and just trying to get more familiar with Atlanta.

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