ATLANTA -- As a Brookwood High graduate and former football player, when Mike Crews began classes at Georgia Tech, he didn't want his days around football to be over.
"I went down there to be around the football team," Crews said. "I was not ready to give the game up."
Willing to help out as an equipment manager or trainer, when Crews started out, he and another student helped a couple of seniors in the video department for the football program.
Then when George O'Leary was hired as head coach, O'Leary hired Crews as the program's first full-time video director in 1996, Crews said.
Two years later, Crews joined the Atlanta Falcons as an assistant video director, and has been the director for the last 12 years.
"It's a lot of hours and a lot of stress, but at the end of the day, I'm around football all year long," Crews said. "To be able to do it here in my hometown with an NFL team, I'm just blessed."
Crews and the Falcons' Event Marketing Coordinator Tron Stamper are the only Gwinnett natives working for the Falcons off the field, Stamper said. Stamper, a former Central Gwinnett football player who went on to play at the University of West Georgia, has worked for the Falcons full-time since 2008.
Stamper arrives at the Georgia Dome at 5 a.m. on game days to manage "Falcons Landing," an area where fans and sponsors interact, win prizes and get autographs from Falcons cheerleaders and mascot Freddie Falcon.
Stamper said fans are always excited at the Dome, but he's noticed a difference around town.
"You see a lot of Falcons gear," said Stamper, who was introduced to working for the Falcons in a sports management class in college. "Somebody wearing a Falcons hat, or (who) scream out, 'Rise Up,' no matter where you are."
Because his first season with the team was in 1998 when the team went to the Super Bowl, Crews said he didn't immediately realize how special a season is when the team wins in the playoffs. Work routines don't change, so he's tried to make an effort to "enjoy the ride" this time, he said.
That work schedule includes long days, and Crews said he doesn't take a day off after training camp starts until the offseason. Monday and Tuesday are his longest days because Crews and his staff prepare video for players' iPads, and breakdown the opponent's last game in preparation for Tuesday's workouts. Except for Fridays, Crews typically works at least 12 hours each day.
So Crews is one of the first to get an idea of the team's weekly game plan by filming each game and practice, and editing it for players and coaches.
"You definitely have to have a love for the game," said Crews, who has a degree in management and a minor in marketing. "You can't just have a love of video."
All of Crews' experience in video is from on-the-job training; Crews said he hasn't taken any formal training for what he calls a dream job.
Crews enjoys his work so much that before he and his wife had children, he said he would shoot video on Friday nights at Brookwood football games for his uncle, Broncos head coach Mark Crews.
For Stamper, working for his hometown team is also a bonus.
"There are 32 teams, so to get any spot with one of those teams is great, you have to be very blessed and fortunate," Stamper said. "You have to work hard before any team will take you."
The energy around the community developed from the team winning the NFC South Division, and playing host to its first NFC Championship game in organization history is not overlooked, Crews said. But he said everyone in the organizaton understands the energy "we give and get from the community."
But as a long time Gwinnett resident, Crews also realizes that hasn't always been the case.
"Everywhere you go everybody is talking Falcon football," he said. "Being from Gwinnett and from the area, it's hugely different (because) at times Falcon football hasn't been a hot topic, and the exciting thing year in and year out."