Greetings, Falcoholics, I’m back with another edition of The Falcoholic’s “Fan Spotlight.” This segment highlights Atlanta Falcons fans from around the globe, and shares how they became a fan of the team and their thoughts on the franchise.
This week’s Fan Spotlight is on David Hicks, a lifelong Atlanta Falcons fan from Iowa. In 1980, David was “drafted” to the Falcons through his town’s little league football program. Through the program, he got the full Falcons uniform — jersey and helmet, and they instantly became his favorite NFL team at age nine.
The 1980 season also happened to be a great season for the Falcons, with players like Steve Bartkowski, William Andrews, Lynn Cain, Alfred Jenkins, etc. and going 12-4 after years of struggling. Like most die-hard Falcon fans, David’s had to endure many hard-to-watch teams over the last 40 years.
For each of the past four seasons, David and his son Evan have flown from Iowa to Atlanta to see a game. While they always sit in the nosebleed sections, it doesn’t matter to them as long as they are there! David and Evan have been able to see games in Minneapolis and Dallas as well. As they prepare for the 2019 schedule release date, they’re already looking forward to seeing the Dirty Birds play in Minneapolis again, as well as picking a game to see in Atlanta. His wife Alyson married into the fandom, and their daughter Jillian has also flown down with them to see a game as well.
Who is your favorite Falcons player of all-time?
Steve Bartkowski is my all-time favorite Atlanta Falcons player. As a kid, I learned that he was born in Des Moines, Iowa – just an hour away from where I live. I thought that was really cool as I didn’t think anyone famous would be from Iowa, let alone my favorite team’s quarterback. I was the only kid wearing Falcons gear in my town – I still have my Falcons stocking hat that I wore in elementary school. Being a Falcons fan in Iowa is pretty lonely... but I know of another Iowa-based super-fan, Dennis Bown, who lives about thirty minutes from me. Josh Rand, of Iowa-based hard rock band Stone Sour, is also a super-fan and is a great guy too! We enjoy talking Falcon football on occasion.
What’s your favorite Falcons memory?
I think I can narrow it down to three memories. Watching a game in the Georgia Dome for the first time (Falcons winning in OT vs. the Washington Redskins on an Alford interception). Julio Jones’s 300-yard performance against the Carolina Panthers. Lastly, Robert Alford’s pick-six in the Super Bowl. I could watch those on repeat for hours.
Who should the Falcons target in the 2019 NFL Draft?
At this point, we have several key players to replace. I think we should draft for the trenches, with an emphasis on the defense. Pressuring the QB and stopping the run is critical as we struggled with that last season. While we know the names of all the likely first-round picks, I have to push for a few local ‘sleeper’ picks – Anthony Nelson, DE, 6’8, 295lbs is a massive kid with over 100 career tackles for the University of Iowa. He doesn’t get mentioned nationally at all, which is a shame. My son Evan just graduated from Iowa State University this past December and he’d like the Falcons to pick up one of his classmates – David Montgomery, RB, who had back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons or Hakeem Butler, 6’6 big body WR, who would be one of the tallest receivers in the league.
Thoughts on the upcoming 2019 season?
The Falcons have re-tooled the coaching ranks so the pressure is on them to put together a winning team. Barring major, long-term injuries like 2018, the Falcons will be in the mix in December for the playoffs. It’s great to be a Falcon fan with so much talent waiting to be unleashed. It will be fun to watch this fall.
Any tailgate, game day rituals?
Back in January of 2012, while on a Caribbean cruise, I happened to run into someone, Jerry Wiese, who was decked out in Falcons gear – hat, jersey, etc. I had to say ‘hello’ of course and let him know how much of a fan I was. He was from Atlanta and was a season ticket holder, which I thought was the greatest thing ever. While on the cruise, his family and mine joined up and watched the Falcons beat the Seattle Seahawks on a game-winning field goal. He said, “If you ever want to fly down to a game, you can tailgate with us anytime.” I kept in touch with him for a few years and I’ve held him to that promise ever since -- each time we fly down for a game, he plays host to a great tailgate. Last year, we partied in the Home Depot Backyard with the tailgate guys. Amazing experience! Evan and I really like walking around the Gulch just to take it all in. In fact, we were featured in the early seconds of a Falcons based rap video several years ago. When we are in Iowa, it is Sunday Ticket on the TV with our home or away jerseys, depending on the game.
Where can folks find you?
I’m the director for YSS (Youth and Shelter Services) of Marshall County in Iowa. We work with young people who need therapy, counseling, skill development, and support. I’ve been with the agency for 24 years and have been the director for the past 14 years. It’s an honor to work in the social services field, and help the members of my community. Several of our programs work with youth in transition – either they are homeless or are turning 18 and facing leaving state-funded foster care. Despite the challenges our young people face, we provide hope and opportunity by putting kids first! Last July, my town was ravaged by an F3 tornado, which destroyed my office building. My staff and I have continued to help rebuild our community – one person at a time, and one building at a time. Much like the young people we serve, my staff learned to be strong in the middle of uncertainty and chaos. Falcons football was a great diversion for me last season, as I worried about the recovery of my community and agency. I can be found on Facebook. We look forward to another trip to the Benz this fall!
I really appreciate David for sharing his thoughts on the Falcons, and for being the focus of this weeks ‘Fan Spotlight’ article. You can really tell he’s got a great heart, and is a loyal fan based on his comments. Again, you can find David on Facebook by clicking here.
If you want to be the next ‘Fan Spotlight’ or know of someone who deserves to be, let me know on Twitter where you can find me at @EvanBirchfield. Thanks for reading!