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Whether it's big plays or a big voice, Sean Weatherspoon brings it to Atlanta Falcons


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Whether it's big plays or a big voice, Sean Weatherspoon brings it to Atlanta Falcons

April 25, 10:40 PMAtlanta Falcons ExaminerDaniel Cox

When the Atlanta Falcons selected linebacker Sean Weatherspoon with the 19th pick in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft, they had a pretty good idea what they were getting.

Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff describes a player they'd been monitoring for well over 14 months, an enthusiastic three-down tackling machine.

Head Coach Mike Smith describes his athleticism and ability to play in space.

Everyone knew they were getting a talker. Once the offseason began Weatherspoon built a reputation as a loud player on the field.

At the Senior Bowl, some franchise executives found it annoying. Others wondered if he was putting on a show. Teams like the Falcons loved his swagger. They saw Weatherspoon as a vocal leader, a player with an infectious and excitable personality.

"I kind of felt like I needed to be that guy to step up and loosen everybody up a bit," Weatherspoon said at the NFL Combine in March. "Everybody was so uptight."

Weatherspoon knew he'd be asked by teams about that at the Combine. During his time with the media he shared how he handled those questions.

"Some teams asked me if I was putting on a front at the Senior Bowl," the linebacker said. "They were like 'Is that you all the time?' I told them that's me. That's the way I grew up. I've always been that loud guy. When I was a kid I would always get those marks on my progress report that said 'talks excessively'. I'm very loquacious. That's what I do, I chit chat. I chatter."

The Falcons knew of his chatty ways when they had Les Snead, Director of Player Personnel, call Weatherspoon a few picks before No. 19 on Thursday night. But they still didn't expect for him to refuse to hang up the phone.

The young linebacker, realizing his dream was right before him, didn't really want to talk so much as he didn't want to be left alone with thoughts.

Snead placed the call to let Weatherspoon know Atlanta was about to select him...unless they traded the pick. He told the three-time First-Team All-Big 12 player that he'd call him back.

That's when the linebacker took control of the call.

He said 'We're going to call you back.'" said Weatherspoon on Friday at his introductory press conference, relaying the phone exchange. "I was like, 'No, no, don't call me back. Keep me on the line. Keep me on the line.' I said 'Where's TD? I want to talk to Thomas.' So he found him. The only time I got butterflies was when he put me on hold and I was waiting. I finally got on the phone with Mr. Dimitroff and he told me what the plans were. He put me on the phone with Coach Smith and he told me what the plans were. I talked to Mr. Blank and it was said and done."

As he spoke with team owner Arthur Blank, he began to see his name flash on the screen as the Falcons' pick and a moment that he has described as surreal began.

But a lot of other moments had to come before that, including the conclusion of the 2008 Alamo Bowl win, Weatherspoon's 21st birthday. He and his roommate, wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, were wrestling with decisions to enter the NFL Draft or return to Missouri for their senior seasons.

Maclin turned pro and became the first-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2009. Weatherspoon returned to school. He believed his senior season as a Missouri Tiger had a purpose.

"I wanted to go back to become a better leader," said Weatherspoon. "We had six guys get drafted last year. Somehow I just inherited this role of being an ambassador of Mizzou athletics. Every time something went wrong or something went good, I was the guy in front of the camera. I kind of relish that role, talking to the media and trying to just be that ambassador for the team."

An ambassador. A leader. But he wasn't always that way.

His mother, Elwanda Weatherspoon, who was with Weatherspoon on his first trip as an Atlanta Falcon, shared a tale of a time when following another's influence got young Weatherspoon into trouble.

As a youngster, Sean and his older brother secretly had duplicate keys made for their older sister's car; however they could only open the car door, not start the engine.

Mrs. Weatherspoon didn't recall where they were headed or how long the punishment lasted. The thing that struck her was that the one time she recalled Sean getting into trouble was when he was following someone else.

But the majority of the time, Sean, just as he tried to do with his nervous Senior Bowl teammates, was always trying to make people excited, a trait that gave her the feeling he'd go on to do great things.

"That outgoing personality," she said. "He'd wake up in the morning smiling and singing. When everybody else was just getting out of bed, Sean was up singing. Just making sure everybody was happy, making everybody laugh. He was very outgoing even then."

Mrs. Weatherspoon, a polite and reserved school teacher, laughed as she said she had no clue where that disposition came from, but was thankful it was there.

"It's just Sean being Sean," she said. "I was quite amazed to be a witness to that personality."

If Weatherspoon's big personality and big-play college career translate to NFL success, Falcons fans will be just as amazed as her.

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