I have always admired Atlanta.
It is a city rich in history, connected to iconic civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., Andrew Young, and others, laden with sports legends like Dominique Wilkins, Hank Aaron and Deion Sanders.
I was born and raised in Philadelphia, just under 800 miles north, in a city like Atlanta in its passionate sports fans but much different in its climate. I was introduced to sports as a six-year-old, beginning with basketball and football. I later ran track, which I continued in college.
Not only did I quickly fall in love with playing sports, but I also loved watching them. My television was always on whatever sports show, football or basketball game that was on. Beyond television, I loved — and still do — playing video games like Madden, NBA 2k, and FIFA.
I found that my love of sports often put me in heated debates about a player or a team.
And after what seemed like my millionth sports argument during my junior year in high school, my friend, who wrote for the student newspaper, suggested that I join up.
- I'm Tori McElhaney. 'Why' I joined the Atlanta Falcons digital team
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Once I joined The Centralizer, I soon became sports editor. I still remember the anxiety and joy of seeing my first piece in print, a feature on the football team's quarterback, Jeff Coplin. After sitting down for the interview and turning it into an article, I fell in love with sports media.
Now five years later, I look back at my first piece and am amazed at how far I have come — and embarrassed at how poor my writing was. My rewarding internships, fellowships, freelancing, and other media opportunities have helped me grow significantly as a sports journalist.
As an intern with the Philadelphia news site Billy Penn, I wrote about my friend and competitor, Kristian Marche, who was shot and killed a day before leaving on a track scholarship at Penn State University. The story used data to show how Marche's death was not an isolated incident in Philadelphia, and that young Black men like me hope we are not the next victim of the city's gun violence issue.
Before this story, I thought I was in love with journalism. I realized that I would not be good enough to make a living playing sports and decided that being one of those people I watched on TV talking sports was my next best bet.
That story with Billy Penn, however, made me fall in love with storytelling.
While I enjoy the games and the X's and O's as much as anyone, I am in love with profiling people underneath the uniform and those that make the on-field product possible. I have learned that my passion lies in telling stories that use sports as an avenue to discuss family, perseverance, or even amplifying injustice.
Those are the kinds of stories I plan to write for AtlantaFalcons.com.
I will be telling stories that go beyond what happens on the field, concentrating on what players, coaches, and staff have done to get to this point and how their upbringing shaped the way they are today. I'll focus on the things and people who make the players who they are, from music to food to fashion.
There is still much I must learn about the Falcons and the city of Atlanta — I am still looking for a barber; I am very serious about my haircut even though I don't have much hair — but I am ecstatic to get started. And I hope you all will be reading along the way.