FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Kyle Pitts walked into a Lids recently, maybe looking for fresh hat or a new tee. The rookie tight end didn't get that specific.
He did detail what happened after coming across his name, freshly pressed on a Falcons jersey. No way it was just one. It was probably a rack of identical items waiting to get scooped up by fans believing he's Atlanta's next NFL superstar.
Pitts had to admit it caught him by surprise.
"I thought, 'Man. This is real,'" Pitts said during a Wednesday press conference. "It was shocking to see my jersey in a store and having people buying it. Seeing people walk around like that is pretty crazy."
Pitts jerseys are selling fast around here. It's usually risky to plop serious cash on one repping someone yet to take an NFL snap, but a black and red No. 8 sounds like a sound investment.
The Falcons took Pitts No. 4 overall, after three straight quarterbacks. No tight end has been drafted higher, but it doesn't seem like a reach. He was the best non-quarterback in the draft. That's not a hot take or a reach. It’s a consensus opinion.
Seeing his jersey for sale or, even crazier, on a stranger's back, constitutes a rare wow moment for someone transitioning well to NFL life.
The speed of the NFL game, often an adjustment for those just turning pro, slowed down in a flash. He's confident executing a diverse role in Arthur Smith's respected, tight-end friendly offense and enjoys diving into the playbook familiarizing himself with it.
He welcomes coaching from everyone from Smith and his assistants, as we saw play out earlier this week. He's all ears around quarterback Matt Ryan and his fellow tight ends, especially elder statesman Lee Smith and established pro Hayden Hurst.
"There have been a bunch of guys I got to for tips and details, like Hayden, Lee, Calvin [Ridley] and [Russell Gage]," Pitts said. "They all bring a different flavor to things, and I try to take everything and use it to help me be the best player I can be."
Pitts, however, had to make one lifestyle adjustment that helps him be his best. The 20-year-old has turned into an early bird.
"I have been asleep by 9:30, maybe 10," Pitts said. "That's the time you need to wake up feeling fresh. In college, I used to sleep late and run off of pure athleticism. You can't do that here. You need to rest, stay on top of your playbook and be ready to go each day."