FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Greg Beadles unfolded a large map and spread it out wide. He put a finger on Atlanta and shifted his gaze to the left, all the way to the Pacific Northwest.
Even on this condensed version of the country, Pullman, Wash., looked far. Far away from home. Far away from family. Far away from the life he knew and enjoyed.
There was, however, an attraction out there. A full-time job was available, one as an academic advisor to Washington State athletes. It was in a field the young man wanted to enter, one that would be the first stride following in his father's footsteps.
Beadles' formative years were spent in Franklin Springs, Ga., the son of Emmanuel College's basketball coach and athletic director. After hating his first job in the oil and gas industry, Beadles changed his focus back to what he knew. He enrolled at Georgia State and majored in sports administration with thoughts of being an AD like his dad, completing the master's program with options before him.
The Washington State opportunity was the best he had. It was an entry point into a desired career path with more financial security locked in. But it was far, far away.
There was, however, an alternative. A 10-week internship with the Atlanta Falcons was also on the table. It paid $150 a week and entailed work that might've been beneath him.
The Falcons, though, felt like home. Beadles grew up a huge fan of the franchise, with the replica red helmet and Steve Bartkowski jersey to prove it. He earned extra cash giving Georgia Dome tours and working as a suite-level concierge on game days. So, despite the disparate opportunities before him, Beadles had a tough choice to make.
"There was no Google maps back then, so I pulled out a big atlas and started looking at it," Beadles said in a sit-down interview with AtlantaFalcons.com. "I realized, 'If I drive 20 hours, I'm in Denver and I'm only halfway there. It's a long way from my family and there's no sweet tea.' Ultimately, I decided to not accept the job out there and took the Falcons opportunity."
It was a gamble to be sure, but Beadles was willing to bet on this franchise. He was willing to bet on himself.
The decision has paid enormous dividends. Beadles turned that 10-week internship for pocket change into a return engagement for $300 a week. He survived on scraps and performed well enough during that second internship for the Falcons to create a position to hire him full time as a staff accountant in 1995.
A climb through the organization started at the bottom and reached the top rung on Monday, when he was named Falcons team president by chairman Arthur Blank. This improbable 28-year journey includes twists, turns and switchbacks that have given Beadles experience in every aspect of the organization and makes him uniquely qualified for his new post.
"The institutional knowledge, expertise and integrity Greg brings to the table is nearly impossible to replicate, and that has made him so valuable to the organization and to me for multiple decades," Blank said. "The credibility he has across our organization, with the NFL and front office executives around the league, is immeasurable and positions him very well to take on this new and very important role with the Atlanta Falcons. He has my complete confidence and trust."
Institutional knowledge. Nobody has more. While Beadles spent significant time in finance, he has been involved in every department in the organization. He started as an accountant running the Falcon Inn and a health club adjacent to the team's old facility in Suwanee – you get a gold star if you remember that spot off the 85 – but spent game days in the coaches' booth printing off and arranging bird's eye photos that now VP of operations Spencer Treadwell would sprint down to the sidelines. He would load up the equipment truck after games and help with the coaches' video team.
He was on the official Falcons stat crew for years after that, learning a game he never played but now intimately knows. Beadles was part of the group that started AtlantaFalcons.com, the site you're on right now, setting up an online team store for orders he and wife Jill would fill and personally mail out to fans.
Those were all side hustles compared to his focus on the financial side of a rapidly expanding enterprise.
"Being in the finance area means you deal with every department, finding out their goals and what they're trying to accomplish," Beadles said. "That helps you build relationships in all those areas and understand the organization overall."
There were three financial folks in the organization way back when, and their responsibilities went way beyond keeping the organization in the black. They oversaw player contract negotiations and salary-cap compliance, a role now filled by two full-time employees.
"He has been with us so long that he has a good working knowledge of the salary cap, the NFL debt ceiling and all the ticketing issues we have with gate-sharing," said Rich McKay, Falcons CEO and CEO of Arthur M. Blank Sports and Entertainment, who was previously team president. "There's so much that goes into our organization, and he knows all of it. In this promotion, he'll handle all the business operations. I know for a fact that he'll handle it in an outstanding way."
The same compliment can be extended to his work throughout Blank's businesses. Beadles was instrumental in getting MLS franchise Atlanta United on its own two feet. He and McKay spent a decade plus turning a portion of Atlanta's Westside into Mercedes-Benz Stadium, one of the world's best sporting venues.
The sterling resume could've landed sweet gigs elsewhere, but Beadles and wife Jill didn't want to pull out a map and decide where to go.
"We're engrained in this community," Beadles said. "We live close to here and our kids go to schools here. Our church is here, and a lot of my family is in the area. This is where we want to be. As long as I'm passionate about this and I am valuable to the organization, I want to be here. Being committed to a place is important as well. We're committed to the community, which has been a big theme for us."
Making the Falcons organization better has been a theme throughout his time here, though Beadles rarely reflects on the journey and accomplishments along the way. Except on home Sundays at MBS.
"Because it's what we do every day, it's easy to overlook what we've done while our heads are down and we're working hard," Beadles said. "Game day, though, still gives me chills."
You can find him on the sidelines pregame, soaking the atmosphere in. The opening kickoff remains a surreal moment, when the action starts and fan anticipation reaches a zenith. There are no bird's eye photos to print out or stats to calculate anymore, but he's still active running a stadium he helped build.
Beadles and McKay found time for guided tour, when Steelers ownership wanted to see it up close a few weeks back. The Rooneys were wowed by Mercedes-Benz Stadium, its features, and the way the Falcons steer their ship.
Beadles doesn't stop to smell roses. It's not in his nature. But, on that stadium tour, the gravity of what he and the Falcons have accomplished on the business side hit him like a tidal wave.
"Those moments re-open your eyes and make you think about the amazing things we've done," Beadles said. "You have that time where you reflect, but only for a second. Then it's time to get back to work."
Beadles is taking that approach to his latest promotion. He'll reflect for a brief moment on an incredible accomplishment and then get back to work adding value to an organization that has grown up with him over nearly three decades.
"He has started here as an intern and worked at the Falcon Inn, and now he's the president of the franchise," McKay said. "But the [great] thing about it is that, even before he came here, he was a fan of this franchise. That's really cool. This is a person who grew up in the business and is proud to wear the colors."