Falcons coach looks for FCA traits in players

Photo by Kristen Ralph

Photo by Kristen Ralph

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith spent all day Thursday evaluating free agents and potential draft picks.

He was not only looking for players that can catch a football, make an open-field tackle or block well, but ones that have a good set of core values.

He calls them Falcon traits. Things like integrity, team work and excellence.

"The Falcons' traits are based on many things the FCA believes," said Smith as the guest speaker for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Gwinnett awards banquet.

The banquet at North Metro Baptist Church honored the FCA's male and female high school athletes of the year, cheerleader of the year and coach of the year. The event, which featured more than 300 people, also had a live and silent auction to raise money for the FCA. The money raised went toward financing local FCA Gwinnett programs, student scholarships and salaries for FCA personnel.

"Gwinnett County, the FCA here is a success," Smith said. "Look at the number of people here supporting it."

Buford basketball player Joyclyn Kinsey was named the FCA Female Athlete of the Year and Collins Hill football player Obehiaghe Idiake was the Male Athlete of the Year. Buford's Taylor Dixon and Mill Creek's Shannon Young shared Cheerleader of the Year honors and Archer's Jim Peevy was selected Coach of the Year.

In his first two seasons as the Falcons' head coach, Smith has led Atlanta to back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in the franchises' history.

Smith wouldn't reveal who the Falcons would select at No. 19 in next month's NFL Draft, but he did share how his faith has influenced his coaching style and personal life.

"Balance in your life is very, very important," Smith said. "The thing you have to have is balance in your life. It's just as important in football, business and school. I think my relationship with Jesus Christ helped me with that."

"He's a lifework walking it out," former NFLer and Falcons team chaplain James Trapp said. "People say they have faith, but when you walk it out people know it."

Smith stressed the values of patience like when he spent 20 years as a college coach before ever getting a shot in the NFL. But once he reached the pros, he realized that athletes from high school to the NFL want to be coached, or as he put it mentored.

"I get asked all the time what's the difference between college and NFL coaching," Smith said. "It doesn't matter what level you're at, pro athletes want to be coached because you can help them. You can be a mentor and a mentee at the same time."

Smith's outlook on football, family and his coaching influences hit home with many people in the audience.

"I thought it was awesome," Buford basketball player Andraya Carter said. "Just hearing him talk and how the impact of his walk has been in sports. He's famous and to hear that means a lot."

"I wrote down a lot the things he said," Parkview athletic director Mark Whitley said. "It's good knowing as a high school coach hearing someone at a higher level that is walking the walk."

FCA is the largest Christian sports organization in America and the Gwinnett chapter has been part of the community for two decades. For more information about FCA Gwinnett, go to www.fcagwinnett.org