Here we are, Atlanta.
The Red and Black – your Falcons – are about to kick off the 2019 season on Sunday. And today, we've launched our season kickoff video with one of the most electrifying and iconic Falcons of all time, Deion Sanders. His words are interwoven throughout this piece.
The road to Week 1 has hardly been an easy one; the offseason has been full of change, setbacks, comebacks as well as one with seeds of hope planted along the way.
“Listen closely. I’m not going to surprise anyone when I say what I’m going to say ... Others, baby, they enjoy counting us out. They reference our lack of legacy ... because theirs was built for them.”
Falcons coach Dan Quinn, who said he understands this team better now than when he first arrived in 2015, added new coaches – and some familiar faces – to his staff while parting ways with some others.
Defensive cogs Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal, who suffered season-ending injuries in 2018 and could only stand on the sidelines and watch as the Falcons finished with a 7-9 mark, worked tirelessly when nobody was watching just to get their bodies back into playing shape.
“We did not inherit our fate. Baby, we are here to define it.”
Behind the scenes and on the practice fields, the Falcons overhauled their offensive line – signing several free agents and drafting two offensive linemen in the first round of April's NFL Draft.
And who could forget when Quinn declared that this team needed to get bigger, nastier and faster.
"Let's make sure we get nastier," he said last February. "It might be big and nasty. It might be fast and nasty. Let's make sure there's no doubt."
And there were many more stories of change surrounding this team.
“We're always evolving. Together. Innovating. Together. Building. And rebuilding. Together.”
Yet, here they are, on the eve of a new season, unfazed with optimism running as high as it's ever been under Quinn. What transpired in the offseason – all of these changes – could have derailed some teams.
These Falcons have embraced it.
In many ways, these Falcons and Atlanta are one in the same: Always changing, always evolving, always trying to get better, always an eye on the future.
Change is in Atlanta's DNA. It – and the people who call "the A" home – refused to be defined by buildings, roads, games or even a score.
“Transient? This is a destination. We chose to be here.”
Just look around.
They tore down Terminal Station, C&S Bank Tower, the Kimball House Hotel and many more iconic buildings only to erect the King & Queen, High Museum of Art and Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Atlanta's skyline is like the people who comprise it: ever-changing.
“We can be the flash of Prime. And Jesse's hammer. Vick's fire. And Matty's ice. Red and Black. Swagger and charm. Personality and Brotherhood.”
And these ATLiens, just like the Falcons, are hardly satisfied with what they've accomplished.
The Deion Sanders years, hosting the Olympic Games in '96 and reaching Super Bowls in '98 and 2016 were all celebrated moments for this city. But like the M.C. Hammer song those beloved '91 Falcons once adopted, this city believes to its core that "we too legit to quit."
Atlanta rapper Jermaine Dupri, who recorded the iconic song "Welcome to Atlanta" in 2001, once said that Atlanta and the Falcons go "hand in hand" because "we've always been a city that people tried to count out."
“This here, this is common ground. This is Atlanta. We're e-ver-y-thing. In one. All walks of life. Unified by one badge of pride.”
Yet here is Atlanta.
Progress is everywhere. The population continues to explode, and some are calling it the "Hollywood of the South" because it has become a major player in the film industry.
“So let them point. So let them count us out. We're not here by chance. We chose to be here. And we're at full strength.”
And here are the 2019 Falcons.
Led by the likes of Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Grady Jarrett and Deion Jones, Atlanta is just as formidable as any team in the NFL. For the most part, though, these Dirty Birds are being overlooked nationally.
And you get the sense they like it that way. As one Falcons coach said this offseason, "I think we're going to surprise some people."
“Overlooked? That's not our problem. You best believe it's about to be theirs.”
See you on Sunday.
Go behind-the-scenes with Atlanta Falcons legend Deion Sanders in an Atlanta Falcons video shoot at Pratt-Pullman Yard.