Falcons announce personnel department changes

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The Atlanta Falcons have announced several changes within the organization's personnel department. Regional scout Michael Ross and area scout Tokunbo Abanikanda will now serve as national scouts. 

Additionally, Steve Sabo will serve as pro director, Phil Emery and Ruston Webster will now serve as senior personnel executives, and Joel Collier, Dante Fargnoli and Shepley Heard will serve as area scouts.  

The Falcons have also hired Rob Kisiel as a senior pro scout and Benjamin Martinez as a BLESTO scout.

"I've had the privilege of working alongside a talented group of associates and have enjoyed strengthening our relationships since joining the Falcons," said Falcons General Manager Terry Fontenot. "We've had great conversations about opportunities and growth, and I'm looking forward to our team flourishing in new and deserved roles while adding to our already strong team."

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The 2021 season will mark Ross' 13th year with the Falcons. He served as a regional scout for the Falcons for the past two seasons after spending several years as an area scout in the Southwest (2016-18), Midwest (2013, 2015) and Northeast (2012). Ross split his time between college and pro scouting during the 2014 season and also worked as a scouting assistant in 2011 after spending two years as a seasonal personnel assistant.

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Abanikanda is entering his 10th season with the Falcons, having served as an area scout covering the Southeast region for the past seven years. The Marietta, Ga., native joined the Falcons in 2013 as a scouting assistant, where he handled various logistical aspects of the scouting department for college all-star games, the NFL Combine, and college visits. Prior to joining the Falcons, Abanikanda played at the University of Southern Mississippi from 2005-08.

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This will mark Sabo's 11th season with the organization and first as pro director. Sabo originally joined the Falcons as an area scout in 2011 before being promoted to director of college scouting in 2013. He served in that role for six seasons before being promoted to director of player personnel in 2019. Prior to his time with the Falcons, the Willingboro, N.J., native spent 12 seasons (1998-2009) with the Cleveland Browns after three seasons (1996-98) with the New Orleans Saints.

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Emery re-joined the Falcons as a national scout in 2016 after originally serving as the director of scouting from 2004-08. He has more than 24 years of NFL experience as a scout and general manager, including three seasons (2012-14) as the general manager of the Chicago Bears. Emery got his start in the NFL as an area scout for the Bears in 1998.

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Webster is entering his 34th season in the NFL and his sixth with Atlanta. He joined the Falcons in 2016 as a national scout following four seasons as the general manager of the Tennessee Titans. He also spent four seasons with the Seattle Seahawks' personnel department (2006-09) and 18 seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1988-2005).

Collier has most recently served as a national scout for the Falcons for the past two seasons. Prior to joining Atlanta in 2016, Collier spent five seasons as the assistant general manager for the Kansas City Chiefs. In his new role, Collier will cover the West region for the Falcons.

Fargnoli has spent the past two seasons as a scouting assistant for the Falcons where he handled various logistical aspects of the scouting department in both college and pro scouting. Prior to joining the Falcons, Fargnoli served as a scouting assistant for the Reese's Senior Bowl and completed camp operations and scouting internships with the Kansas City Chiefs. In his new role, Fargnoli will cover the Southwest region for the Falcons.

Heard joined the Falcons as a scouting assistant in 2005 before serving as a pro scout from 2006-08. He then shifted into college scouting, serving as an area scout from 2008-12 and a regional scout from 2013-19. Heard then spent two seasons as Atlanta's director of pro personnel. In his new role, Heard will return to the road covering the Southeast region for the Falcons.

Kisiel comes to Atlanta after spending 16 seasons with the Houston Texans where he served as the director of pro personnel for the past four years. In his role with Houston, Kisiel supervised all pro player evaluation, the advance scouting process, free agency and the monitoring of player transactional movement in all professional leagues.

Martinez joins the Falcons after spending the past 12 seasons with the New Orleans Saints. Martinez began his tenure in New Orleans as an equipment assistant from 2009-13 before joining the personnel department as a scouting assistant from 2014-16. Most recently, the University of New Orleans graduate served as a video assistant for the Saints from 2017-20.

A look at the team behind the scenes putting in the work to build the Atlanta Falcons' future.

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