FLOWERY BRANCH – Akeem Dent recognized the area code when it flashed on the screen of his phone.
He knew the 770 met he had a local call and well there’s only one team in the NFL with a 770 area code.
“I picked up the phone and I was talking to Arthur Blank and then the head coach,” said Dent, the Atlanta native and former Georgia standout from Douglass High. “It was unbelievable.”
The Falcons used their third-round pick to select Dent, 91st overall, in the NFL draft late Friday.
He was a Falcons’ fan for as long as he came remember.
“I’ve been here my whole life,” Dent said. “I’m proud of this team.”
His favorite player is former linebacker Jessie Tuggle, who was also a linebacker from a state school (Valdosta State).
“When he first came in, he was one of those guys they said was under-sized,” Dent said. “He had a motor and he had a nose for the football. I feel that I can take some of his game and install it into mine’s. I want to be one of those guys around the ball and being productive. ”
Dent also had personal tryouts with Baltimore, Jacksonville, Kansas City and the New York Giants.
The Falcons turned down a trade offer from an undisclosed team that was trying to move up and draft Dent.
“I’m just glad to be a Falcon right now,” said Dent, who’s represented by local agent Hadley Engelhard, of Enter-Sports Management.
Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said Dent will be expected to contribute on special teams and backup at all of the linebacker spots.
Dent played outside and inside linebacker at Georgia.
“He’s a tough, hard-nosed guy who fits our scheme as a (middle) linebacker, but he also has the versatility to play all three positions,” Dimitroff said. “He will be a core special teams player for us, which is very important.”
The Falcons were also impressed by Dent being one of Georgia’s captains and by him attaining his degree in Housing.
“He fits in line as far as what we believe in having the right locker room,” Dimitroff said. “He played in the SEC and that speaks for itself. He knows football. He’s passionate about football.”
Dent was watching the draft with family members when Blank called on behalf of the Falcons.
When he was a redshirt at Georgia, he used to hear stories from the older Bulldogs about Falcons defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder.
“He expects a lot from his players,” Dent said. “He expects us to go out and be great.”
VanGorder was the defensive coordinator from 2001 to 2004. Willie Martinez, who succeeded VanGorder, used the same terminology so Dent is familiar with the Falcons’ calls.
“We found that out during his local workout when we sat him down and got a feel for his football knowledge,” Dimitroff said. “Again, that is helpful going into a year that we might be going into as far as maybe being backed up a little bit.”
Dent will not have a problem playing special teams.
“I’ve always had a knack for special teams,” Dent said. “I played on all four units when I was Georgia. That’s something that I’ve been doing since I was in high school.”
The Falcons liked Dent’s versatility.
“If someone goes down, we feel like we have a player who can start if need be,” Dimitroff said. “As well, I want to stress him being rated very highly as a core special teams player by not only our scouting staff, but by our special teams coaches.”
Dent didn’t participate in the linebacker drills at the NFL scouting combine because of a hamstring injury.
He will start out learning the middle linebacker spot.
“Obviously, that’s a position that takes a lot of pounding,” Dimitroff said. “Curtis Lofton works through a lot and plays through injuries. We had to make sure that we have someone there to improve our depth.”
Dimitroff was looking forward to the third day of the draft.
“We believe that you can get players all the way through the draft,” Dimitroff said.
–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog