FLOWERY BRANCH - D.J. Shockley made the team. Now, he'll have to wait a while for a chance to play in a real game.
That shouldn't be a problem.
The Atlanta Falcons' new third-string quarterback redshirted one season and spent three more years as David Greene's backup at Georgia before finally getting a chance to start for the Bulldogs as a senior.
With Michael Vick and Matt Schaub running 1-2 on the Falcons' depth chart, Shockley faces a similar situation in the NFL - which is perfectly fine with him.
''I think that's one of the things that attracted the Falcons to me,'' Shockley said. ''They know I'm patient. They know that when I'm called up, I'll be ready. Until then, I can sit back, watch and learn, just like college. It's the same situation.''
The Falcons didn't even wait until their final preseason game to make a decision on their third quarterback. Bryan Randall was released on Sunday, assuring that Shockley would get the job.
''It really didn't hit me until I started getting all these calls from my family and friends,'' he said. ''It feels great. I'm privileged to be an Atlanta Falcon. I grew up an Atlanta fan. Now, I'm on the team.''
Indeed, Shockley's whole career has been in the Atlanta area or not far away. He was a high school star in suburban Clayton County. He went to college in Athens, about 75 miles away.
Then he became the first Georgia player since 1988 to be drafted by the Falcons.
Coach Jim Mora said the hometown connection had nothing to do with keeping Shockley.
He thoroughly impressed the Falcons' staff with his actions on and off the field.
''The easier way for me to put it would be to say, 'What didn't impress me about D.J. Shockley?''' Mora said. ''There's nothing he did that didn't impress us. From a leadership standpoint, he has that 'it' factor. He's extremely bright. He sees the game well. He's a good teammate. He's respectful. The only thing he's lacking is NFL experience, and he's not going to get that for a while. That's OK. It will be fun to watch him develop through the years.''
Unless the top two quarterbacks get hurt, Shockley will likely go through the entire season without taking a snap.
During the week, he'll spend most of his time running the scout team offense, trying to simulate the opposing team's quarterback. On Sundays, he'll get to stand around on the sidelines wearing a baseball cap and holding a clipboard.
But Shockley said this will be a valuable year in his development as a pro quarterback. He'll be able to refine his passing skills, learn the offense and get a grasp of how Vick and Schaub do things.
''I have so much to improve on,'' Shockley said. ''I'll get to go against the first-team defense every day. That will be a big help. I'll be able to learn from Mike and Matt. I'll get a firsthand look at them in games, see how they talk in meetings, see how they interact with their teammates.''
If Schaub moves on some day - he can become a restricted free agent after this season - the Falcons clearly feel they have the quarterback who can be Vick's next backup, perhaps as soon as 2007.
Shockley has many of the same strengths as Vick, beginning with the ability to run the ball rather than just take a sack. That could bode well for the rookie as he becomes more comfortable with the West Coast scheme.
''Mike has some talents that other guys don't,'' Shockley said. ''The offense is built around Mike and the way he moves around. I can do some of the same things that Mike does, which should help me get better.''