FLOWERY BRANCH - No disrespect to Joey Harrington, or even Michael Vick, but D.J. Shockley considers himself the Atlanta Falcons' starting quarterback.
'You have to keep that mindset, no matter what,' Shockley said. 'I was like that last year. I was like that in Athens. I'm like that now.'
With training camp less than a week old and the first preseason game still 11 days away, it might seem that Shockley has enough time at his disposal to impress new Falcons coach Bobby Petrino.
'I'm the son of a football coach,' he said. 'I understand the scrutiny we're under because everybody's job is at stake. They watch everything you do from the way you prepare to the way you practice and even the way you tie your shoes.'
Petrino named Harrington his starter one day after the NFL ruled that Vick, who faces a federal indictment for running a dogfighting ring in Virginia, could not report to training camp. Vick's banishment moved Shockley to second on the depth chart with Chris Redman a not-so-distant No. 3.
Apparently, Petrino is still waiting for Shockley or Redman to distinguish himself.
'It is very early to decide that because it will take all the way through the preseason to assess the second-string quarterback,' Petrino said. 'We will see how they do in live action and when the (pass) rush is live around them.'
Petrino likes what he's seen of Shockley's work ethic and skills.
'As for D.J., we won't know how well he does (in a game) until he is under pressure, given his scrambling abilities,' Petrino said. 'He is a player that can make plays without (them) being called.'
Born and raised just a few miles south of Atlanta in Clayton County, Shockley rose to local prominence under his father, Don, head coach at North Clayton High School. After signing a scholarship with Georgia, Shockley played three years behind David Greene and spent another season as a redshirt.
Finally, in 2005, Shockley made the most of his senior year, completing 153 passes for 2,311 yards, 21 touchdowns and five interceptions to help the Bulldogs become Southeastern Conference champions.
After the Falcons drafted him in the seventh round of '06, Shockley spent the entire season as the third-string, emergency backup and never took a regular-season snap.
The inactivity hardly made Shockley grow soft. He treated every practice and game as if he were on the field, even going so far as to call his father and keep him apprised.
Another young local sports hero, Braves right fielder Jeff Francoeur, follows a similar routine in talking to his dad after every game.
'It's something that keeps you connected,' Shockley said. 'My dad has always been directly involved in my success as an athlete, so I guess I want to keep that connection in place.'
Just as his rookie training camp presented a culture shock of sorts after five years in Athens, Shockley's first few days of camp this year were bizarre.
Speculation over Vick, the franchise cornerstone since the Falcons drafted him No. 1 overall in 2001, seemed more important to people outside the team than the start of summer practice.
For Shockley, his focus went solely to Petrino's offense.
'Since I've spent most of my life around football, it hasn't been that hard making the adjustment from the offense we ran with coach (Jim) Mora and coach (Greg) Knapp,' Shockley said. 'The language is different, and it's a whole new approach to attacking your opponent, but it's still football. I guess it's just like other times in life when you face a challenge - it just makes you work that much harder.'