INDIANAPOLIS -- Like many young adults his age, when it came time for Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud to choose a jersey number, he only had one number in mind: No. 7.
For Falcons fans, they should know what that No. 7 jersey number represents.
"Growing up, one of the reasons I wore No. 7 was because of Michael Vick," Stroud said at a podium at the 2023 NFL Combine on Friday. "He inspired me not only just to be athletic and use my athleticism but as a Black quarterback to stay in the pocket and throw. That's something he was very underrated in."
With media days continuing in Indianapolis, all eyes (and cameras) were on the quarterbacks on Friday morning, and for Stroud he wasn't done connecting himself to the Falcons. Stroud confirmed he had completed a formal interview with Atlanta, meeting Arthur Smith, Terry Fontenot and Dave Ragone in the Falcons' suite in Lucas Oil Stadium. Stroud said the interview went "very, very well."
"They were real fiery in there," Stroud said of his interview. "They're kind of like big kids, kind of cool but at the same time asking really good questions, being very honest and I appreciated that."
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The Falcons released Marcus Mariota from the team on Tuesday morning, right before Fontenot took to the podiums at the combine for his own media availability. The Falcons general manager was - of course - asked about the quarterback position in Atlanta. Desmond Ridder started the final four games of the 2022 season for the Falcons and with Mariota's departure, were the Falcons willing to say they were going to ride with Ridder as the starter in 2023? In February? At the NFL Combine?
No, they were not.
"We're never going to put ourselves in a corner," Fontenot said on Tuesday. "We're always going to leave every door open. Again, draft, free agency, whether it's the eighth pick or whether it's at some other point in the draft, we could definitely bring in a quarterback. We don't want to box ourselves in and say something we're not going to do."
So, as the week continued, they did exactly that, interviewing the likes of the quarterbacks who made the trip to Indianapolis. That included Stroud, as well as Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson, who threw a little bit of sly shade at a certain former Florida teammate.
"They asked me how fast I was going to run in the 40. They asked me if I was faster than Kyle (Pitts)," Richardson said. "I've got to brag on myself a little bit. I definitely told them I am faster."
Richardson said the interview went well, but added his apologies to Pitts if he sees he said this.
The Falcons will be adding to the quarterback position in 2023. They have to. But how they choose to do so will tell us a lot about 1) what they think of Ridder and 2) where the position could be going in the post-Matt Ryan era in Atlanta.
The combine showed, though, that the Falcons are holding true to something Fontenot said earlier in the week: They're not closing any doors. And that includes the door that opens to the option of drafting a quarterback in the 2023 NFL Draft in a couple months. They're doing their due diligence in Indianapolis this week to see if that's a door they want to eventually walk through.