LAS VEGAS -- Terry Fontenot was sitting on a balcony at UNLV's Fertitta Football Complex on Saturday during the first Shrine Bowl practice, gazing the field of college players running through drills, intently watching as whistles from Falcons coaches sounded off.
He loves moments like that, where he can just kick back and evaluate.
After all, Falcons general manager admits he's still a scout at heart. Finding the balance between his passion for scouting and the various other tasks related to being a general manager has at times been a challenge, yet, he's managed to find the right balance of all those moving pieces. How? By trusting and building with the people around him.
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"What I love about it is, you appreciate it, and you love all the other things you have to do because you love the building," Fontenot told AtlantaFalcons.com. "You love the people, players and what you're doing."
The Lake Charles native is now entering his third offseason with the Falcons and his 20th overall in the NFL.
This time is often busiest for scouts, coaches and Fontenot, as calendars are marked with college bowl games, the NFL combine, pro days, free agency and the draft.
Still, Fontenot always looks forward to this time of the year.
As the Falcons are gearing up to coach the East team in the Shrine Bowl, Fontenot says this is a unique opportunity to really get a close look at players, in the midst of preparation for Thursday's game.
"You know exactly what they're being asked to do and who's getting it," Fontenot said. "As opposed to, if we didn't have this level of access, then we would just evaluate them being on-field at practice and the game. We have the film part, but we have this extra layer, so it's important to do."
Fontenot's primary task this week at the Shrine Bowl is to mirror the coaching staff and their approach. Whether it's Justin Peele running an offensive meeting or Steven King leading a special teams' meeting, the Falcons general manager always looks to learn from proceedings. As he sits in the back of the team room, he's also observing and watching players and how they treat team meetings.
"That's a big deal. [You can see] whether they're engaged, [taking] notes, asking good questions and you hear what they're being taught," Fontenot said. "Can they transfer that to the field? When you get to practice, you're out there on the field so it's cool to see things up close."
Fontenot was a pro scout for over a decade with the New Orleans Saints. However, the way he evaluates hasn't changed since becoming the Falcons' general manager. When it comes to evaluating a college-level player versus a professional, he says there are differences in each of them, but ultimately, it's the same process.
"You're evaluating players, assessing the makeup, the character, the skillset and looking at the vision for the player and how he's going to fit," Fontenot said. "So, whether you're talking about a young player in college, there's more projecting and more development. Pro players, you can see on pro tape what they are so you're not projecting. Now, you still have to project them into your scheme, in your office and your building. But, ultimately, you're trying to find the vision for the player. So, you have to communicate that in the right way, and you have to be collaborative with the coaching staff in figuring out that vision."
Fontenot also noted the importance having a player with solid core values, which is something he's always prided himself on.
"You want to be the best that you can be, you want to help somebody around you, too," Fontenot said. "So, being a good teammate has been critical my whole life."
In Fontenot's senior season at Tulane University, he played in the Hawaii Bowl and for any college player, bowl games are vital, whether it's the Shrine Bowl or Hawaii Bowl. Exposure and having the opportunity to compete in front of NFL personnel is key to a player's opportunity to playing professionally, and Fontenot saw the confidence in how players approached this week in Las Vegas.
"Ultimately, the guys [who] want to come and play, they're confident and they're competitive and they want to come and show you what they can do," Fontenot said. "They're putting themselves out there in that way. They're busy because they go from their meetings, they're out there playing and then they have interviews with all the scouts and they have a lot going on. So, it's not an easy thing, but they're confident [and] they want to do it."
Join us as we take a look back at our favorite photos of our home, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, during the 2022 Atlanta Falcons season.