After Sunday’s victory over the Carolina Panthers, I had a chance to speak with RB Ito Smith and RG Brandon Fusco. Both are new additions to the Falcons for the 2018 season, and Sunday marked their first ever regular season game—and win—in Atlanta.
I asked each of them about their transition to a new team, what it was like to play in front of the crowd at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and also tried to get a little information about their personal life—hobbies, musical tastes, and such—in order to give fans a more complete picture of who they were as people. Read on for their responses.
Before Sunday’s game, I had a chance to speak with Brandon Fusco’s family. His mother and father confirmed that their last name is pronounced FUSS-CO, not FOOS-CO. That will be very helpful on The Falcoholic Live going forward. They also introduced me to Fusco’s college coach from Slippery Rock, who was finally getting to see Fusco play in the NFL for the first time.
They were very nice people who spent a lot of time talking to me, and served as a great reminder that despite many of us only seeing NFL players as football robots, they are far from that. NFL players have families that care about them and they are people, first and foremost. For me personally, I’m going to try to remember that more clearly going forward.
Also, Fusco’s dad told me to be sure to lampoon our own Cory Woodroof for using the wrong PFF stats in an article about Fusco. So, take that Cory!
Now, on to Brandon Fusco himself. The 8-year NFL player spent time with the Minnesota Vikings—who he was drafted by in the sixth round of the 2011 NFL Draft—and San Francisco 49ers before joining the Falcons this offseason. Fusco won the competition between himself and third-year G Wes Schweitzer for the starting RG position in training camp.
I first asked Fusco about what it was like to play in front of his family and coach for the first time in Atlanta.
“It was good. Getting that first win with the Falcons was very special to me. It was a good day. After 8 years, my coach finally got to come see me, so I was happy about that—it was good to see him. I know he’s always proud and I was glad to have him on the sideline.”
Next, I asked Fusco what it was like to transition from Shanahan’s offense in San Francisco to Sarkisian’s offense here in Atlanta, and if there were any adjustments he had to make in training camp.
“No, not really—just basically, a lot of the terminology [was different]. Basically the same scheme, same offense. I didn’t really miss any rhythm there. Just getting to know and learning to play next to everyone—that was different. So it took some time but I feel comfortable now. I like this offense, and I feel very comfortable in it, and it suits me well.”
Finally, I asked Fusco if there were any hobbies or interests that he could share with fans to help us get to know him a little better.
“I like to travel. I like to play golf in my spare time. I like to go out and try different restaurants, but I haven’t gotten the time yet to go out in Atlanta and see the city. I’m excited to find new restaurants in Atlanta—I know the guys will hook me up.”
This is a man after my own heart. I know he’ll love the restaurant scene in Atlanta. Fusco and his family expressed a lot of excitement about being part of the Falcons brotherhood, and we’re all excited to have them here too.
Next, I was able to speak with rookie RB Ito Smith. The first-year player was drafted by the Falcons in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft out of Southern Miss. Smith won the RB3 job in training camp, beating out Malik Williams and Justin Crawford. With Devonta Freeman sidelined on Sunday, Smith became the de-facto RB2 and looked quite good with the starters.
First off, I welcomed Smith to Atlanta and asked him what it was like to take his first significant regular season NFL carries with the Falcons.
“It was very exciting you know, just going out there with my teammates. We go out there and we execute what we practice every day. We just brought it to the field today.”
Next, I asked Smith what it was like to go out there and get his first ever NFL victory in front of the fans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
“It was lit man. The crowd was going crazy the whole game, and we came out and we got the job done.”
Finally, I asked Smith the same question I asked Fusco: any hobbies or interesting things about you that you’d like to share with the fans?
“No, not really...I’m a chill guy.”
This man eats, sleeps, chills, and plays football. That is determination, and not at all a bad attitude to have for an NFL rookie. Maybe Fusco and the guys can take him out to some restaurants, too.
I came away from speaking with both of these new additions very impressed. Both Fusco and Ito Smith are very excited to be in Atlanta, and looked like they were having a great time enjoying their first ever victory as Falcons. Let’s hope we can watch them achieve even more in the coming weeks.
Welcome to the Brotherhood, Brandon and Ito.