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Penny Hart returns to Atlanta, discusses Arthur Smith, Falcons opportunity

When it came down to it, the former Georgia State standout felt he shared a similar mindset to that of his new head coach in Atlanta. 

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The name Penny Hart is not foreign to Atlanta natives. For some, they remember Hart as a high school kid, running circles around opponents for King's Ridge Christian School in Alpharetta, Ga. Others can recall his time at Georgia State where he broke school records right in the heart of Atlanta.

Now, the kid from Roswell, Ga. finally gets the opportunity to play for his hometown team after spending the last few years 2,600 miles away in Seattle.

"Being here," Hart said after one of his first OTA practices as a Falcon, "it meant everything."


To set the stage, Hart will be one of the many receivers fighting for a roster spot come August. Because of his experience on special teams, that may help his chances, particularly since he has punt return experience.

Avery Williams will miss the entire 2023 season with an ACL injury, so the Falcons are in need of a return man. With Williams having previously moved to receiver prior to his injury, it would seem that Hart is someone with a similar skillset and build who could fill the role vacated by Williams.

He'll have to work for it, though. There are others fighting for a roster spot, too. Fortunately for Hart, he's no stranger to work. In fact, it's what he prides himself on.

"This organization showed me how much they appreciated my game from over the years and watching me. Seeing how hard everybody works here, that's my identity and that's what I do," Hart said. "So, just knowing that I'd have the opportunity to be a part of this culture, it meant everything to me. I couldn't resist that."


In fact, this shared mindset is something Hart said he felt from the top as much as from those around him when he finally got back to Atlanta, and even now.

He knew Arthur Smith's reputation as a coach. It's one Hart felt connected to.

"I knew that he was a blue collar kinda guy, to where he likes to work," Hart said of Smith. "He likes the attitude of going out and making something of yourself and having to earn the respect of everybody around you. I really respected that in him when I first got here and when I was talking to him."

For Hart, he sees that attitude in himself, too.

"I would much rather go out and earn my respect and put in the work to do what I have to do to help myself get better, help my teammates get better," Hart said.

More than that, Hart said he appreciates the nature of Smith's scheme, saying it keeps not just defenders on their toes, but those running the scheme, too. Hart likes that because as he said: He enjoys the comfort of the uncomfortable.

"I like that it's really fast paced. It's about getting it in and grinding," Hart said of the offense in Atlanta. "I think that it's an extremely versatile offense as well, and you can be in at any position at any given time and I think we do a really good job of doing that. It's exciting because that's what I love best. I say all the time that I am most comfortable when I am uncomfortable. I work in the uncomfort of being in different positions, having to know a lot of different things, having to know what the quarterback might know, just to be able to help my team with whatever they may need from me. If that is the case, to just be anywhere and everywhere. So, I appreciate that a lot about this offense."

In 2023, Hart's story comes full circle, bringing him back to the state - the city - that shaped him. For that, he's ready to get to work. He has something he wants to show Atlanta.

"Everybody is excited to know that it's a full circle moment to all be here again and have me at home again," Hart echoed. "I was a five-hour flight away before, but now being able to be here and seeing people who haven't been able to see me play since high school, college, they have that opportunity to see the grown man in me."

Take a look at the 2023 Atlanta Falcons in action during mandatory minicamp, presented by MegaFit Meals.

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