HAMMOCK: Titan fan base grows with Cook, Curran

The date was Jan. 4, 1981 and I was a serious Atlanta Falcons football fan. Or at least as serious as a 7-year-old can be.

I begged my dad to take me with him to the hyped playoff matchup with the Dallas Cowboys, but he said I was too young and it was too cold (in the 30s I believe). I'm sure he didn't have an extra ticket, either. So I watched painfully on TV as the Cowboys rallied with three fourth-quarter touchdowns to shock the freezing crowd, 30-27.

Yet that game really sparked my love for the Falcons. I watched many more painful losses over the years and dutifully wore my team attire to school -- even when my mom burned an iron hole in my favorite sweatshirt and replaced it with a Falcons patch. One of my favorite school pictures is me in a red No. 10 Steve Bartkowski jersey. It's got a lot more character than the boring button downs I had on in every other photo.

No other NFL team came close to finding its way into my heart over the years. That may have to change now though.

The Falcons will always be No. 1, but I have a clear-cut No. 2 -- the Tennessee Titans.

Tennessee made sure of that the past two drafts when they selected North Gwinnett grad Jared Cook and Brookwood grad Rennie Curran. They're not only big-time athletes and football players, they're also two of the better kids you'll meet from good, Christian families. It's hard not to root for guys like that who haven't forgotten their roots. Despite their NFL jobs, both are regular fixtures in their home county.

When North was in need of a sponsor for its holiday basketball tournament last season, Cook donated the money in honor of his mother's victory over cancer. He and his older brother Jason, chaplain for the Ole Miss football team, are two of the more polite youngsters you'll speak to.

Brookwood is like a second home to Curran, who makes frequent visits to his alma mater to see old friends and make new ones. Kids in the Broncos' system look up to the hulking linebacker, living proof that their NFL dreams can become a reality. And he takes the time to speak to every player, just like he did in high school when he was the most well-liked student at one of Georgia's biggest high schools.

Both Cook and Curran have relocated to Nashville, where they will no doubt become productive players and build up a pretty good fan base. But they still have a lot of supporters here.

Even from some longtime Falcons.

Will Hammock can be reached via e-mail at will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Thursdays.