Atlanta Falcons tutor high school coaches

FLOWERY BRANCH -- The Atlanta Falcons hosted their Georgia High School Association Coaches Clinic on Friday for the sixth straight year and 226 high school coaches from around the state of Georgia enjoyed an informative and fun-filled day at the team's training facility.

Presented by Russell Athletic, coaches from as far away as Savannah made their way to the Falcons' complex to watch a team that played in last season's NFC championship game begin to gear up for the 2013 season in organized team activities (OTA).

"This is just one of many events," Falcons head coach Mike Smith said. "We have about five a year where we try to focus on the high school players and the high school coaches."

Following a two-hour practice, coaches were treated to sessions on concussion awareness and steroid education with Dr. Ralph Swearngin of the GHSA, Kelly Sarmiento of Centers for Disease Control, Dr. Kaveh Khajavi of Georgia Spine and Neurosurgery Center, and Donald Hooton Jr. and Kyle Purdy of the Taylor Hooton Foundation.

The clinic concluded with coaching sessions from some of the Falcons' assistant coaches, including offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong and strength & conditioning coaches Jonas Beauchemin and AJ Neibel.

"We felt like we needed to change it up somewhat this year," Smith said. "Instead of having it at night, we allowed (coaches) to come out and watch us practice and see how we do business. After practice and after lunch, we do the normal clinic things where our coaches have an opportunity to speak to the high school coaches."

Two former Falcons were in attendance as Kevin Shaffer and Kynan Forney participated in Friday's activities.

Shaffer, who played for Atlanta in 2002-05, was recently named the new head coach at Hebron Christian Academy after two years as offensive line coach.

"I came out here last year when I was the offensive line coach at Hebron and I thought it was really an awesome event," said Shaffer, who also played three years in Chicago and two years in Cleveland. "They don't have to reach out to high schools, but they do and it's a free event that has a lot to offer with the on-field practice and the coaches speaking to us."

Shaffer played on the same offensive line in Atlanta with Forney, who is currently the offensive line coach at Berkmar under fourth-year head coach Jonathan Sanks.

"I have a coach (Forney) who played seven years for the Falcons and I figured it was a good idea to take advantage of what the Falcons were offering," said Sanks. "The bottom line is: football is football, so there's so much to gain from being out here today from the highest level. I particularly like to pick up on the way the Falcons are organized and run their practices. That's something we can take back to our kids."

Former Jacksonville and New England punter Chris Hanson, head coach at Trinity Christian School in Sharpsburg since 2011, was another former NFL player present with a group of his coaches.

"It's a great way to see former players that are working with young men because high school football is the pipeline for the NFL," said Smith. "(The coaches) take it very seriously. The clinics that I've attended are not only well-attended, but the coaches are very attentive. They're always learning and wanting to learn new things."

Friday wrapped up Atlanta's OTAs and now the focus turns to next week's mini camp that runs June 18-20.