ATLANTA -- Falcons players and personnel spread out among various locations around Atlanta on Tuesday for the 10th annual Hometown Huddle. For one hour, the Falcons participated in activities meant to give back to the community and show appreciation for the city's ongoing support.
From Children's Healthcare of Atlanta to police and fire stations around the city, all members of the Falcons' 53-man roster and practice squad were out in the community. On social media, they chronicled the afternoon's events with the hashtag "ATLHometownHuddle."
At Toomer Elementary School, Julio Jones, Desmond Trufant, Dontari Poe, De'Vondre Campbell, Nick Williams and Falcons President and CEO Rich McKay surprised children during a P.E. period and spent time promoting the importance of physical fitness at four different stations in the gymnasium.
Members of the schools fifth-grade class rotated between a pass-catching drill run by Jones and Campbell; an agility drill manned by Poe; a football-throwing station where Williams and McKay helped teach proper technique; and a broad-jump drill with Trufant.
"It's always good whenever you get to do these," Poe said after the event. "You know it's going to be fun, but you never know how fun. Coming to see the kids, I know they always bring the energy and I like that. It's always fun."
With the kids seated along the wall of the gymnasium, the players were introduced individually and emerged from a side room to enthusiastic screams and cheers from some of their biggest fans. After the introductions were made, the fun began.
Jones and Campbell made their pass-catching station a competition of sorts, splitting the group into two separate lines. Whichever line had every receiver complete their curl route first was deemed the winner. The losing line dropped to the floor of the gym for push-ups, a punishment that neither Jones nor Campbell were exempt from.
Keion Turner, a student at Toomer Elementary and a quarterback on his football team, said his favorite part of the afternoon was playing with Jones, and he quickly developed a rapport with the All-Pro receiver.
After running a few routes, and showing off some receiving skills of his own, Turner sought advice from the man passing him the ball.
"I was like, 'how do you make those great catches?' and (Julio) said, 'It's all in the hands,'" Turner recalled, grinning at the memory.
At the agility drill, Poe demonstrated the correct way to lean into turn around a cone, similar to the way he bends around an offensive lineman to sack opposing quarterbacks.
"It's amazing," Poe said of being able to give back. "You've got to understand that where I come from, NFL athletes don't show up at my school just randomly. For me to be one of the guys who can come up and put a smile on their faces is amazing."
For those in attendance aspiring to be a quarterback, McKay and Williams offered plenty of helpful tips. McKay especially took his mentorship role seriously, aiding his line in throwing a crisp pass through the hula hoop that was fastened about five feet off the ground in front of them.
Fresh off a spectacular performance in Sunday night's 34-23 win over the Packers, Trufant enjoyed watching others show off their athleticism at the broad-jump station. At his NFL Combine testing, Trufant cleared 125 inches in the broad jump, but he was impressed with some of the jumps he saw Tuesday.
"I did my demonstration, and about five-to-ten of them beat my jump so we'll see what they've got," Trufant said.
While everyone was all smiles throughout the event, the significance of what it means to those in the gymnasium who got to spend a class period with NFL stars from their favorite team was not lost on the Falcons players.
"It's always cool," Trufant said. "As a kid, you remember these things forever. That's definitely a cool thing. "Just to spend time in the community (is very important). The community, they support us through wins and losses. So, it's only right that we come out here and spend some time and have some fun with them."