Members of the Atlanta Falcons organization spent two days this offseason visiting the U.S. Military Academy at West Point located in West Point, NY. From April 10 through 11, Falcons’ players, coaches, and front office members had the opportunity to thank individuals within the Academy for all that they do, as well as partake in leadership activities and learn more about the history of West Point.
Dan Quinn, the recipient of the NFL’s 2016 Salute to Service Award understands the importance of the military, and strives to implements their teamwork and brotherhood into the game of football.
”West Point has been the best leadership laboratory ever to help develop and go through failures. The cadets, they fail a lot - not in the classroom, but they put them in tough scenarios where they have to battle back and show resiliency.” - Falcons head coach Dan Quinn
Players who made the trip to West Point include: Ricardo Allen, Russell Gage, De’Vondre Campbell, Grady Jarrett, Steven Means, Alex Mack, Keanu Neal, Foye Oluokun, Matt Schaub, Duke Riley, Logan Paulsen, and Isaiah Oliver.
Also joining the players were head coach Dan Quinn, special teams coordinator Ben Kotwica, senior assistant Bob Sutton, owner and chairman Arthur Blank, Angie Blank, CEO of AMB Group Steve Cannon, SVP and chief communications officer Brett Jewkes, president & CEO Rich McKay, and director of strategic initiatives Justin Schaaf.
It may have been a trip, but this was no vacation for the Falcons. The players took part in the “Trail of the Fallen” at the end of the first day. The trail features stones at the top of the hike that have been carried up and placed on the top of the mountain in memory of soldiers who have died in military conflicts.
“Trail of the Fallen was a really cool experience. We had to carry a large stone amongst your team up a decent sized hill and it was about shared hardship and working together, passing around this burden together of this stone and at the top was this giant pile of rocks that you got to contribute to and feel like you belonged.” - C Alex Mack
On the second day of the trip, the players, coaches, and front office members participated in three leader reaction courses. The course highlights the opportunity to strengthen team bonding and gives individuals the chance to showcase leadership qualities.
”It was great to see the functionality of a team at the highest level. To be up there with teammates really brought us closer, as we were able to see great examples on how to hold each other accountable, how to be a better leader/follower, and the importance of respect and togetherness within our brotherhood.” - LB Foye Oluokun
Later in the day, the Falcons visited the West Point Post Cemetery to pay respect to the members of the US Corps of Cadets, its faculty, staff and West Point graduates who have given their lives in the service of this nation.
The players were privileged to hear from John Kennedy, brother of Major Thomas E. Kennedy, who was killed in action while serving in Afghanistan on August 8, 2012. Major Thomas E. Kennedy, nicknamed ‘TK’, was a graduate of West Point and a former Army hockey player. John Kennedy shared stories with the group about his brother, describing the type of leader TK was.
”John said as much as TK would like to be here right now with you guys - meaning the players, his wife, with his twins - he would gladly want you to know that he’s glad it was him making the sacrifice, not you. I thought that was heavy. He wanted you to know his sacrifice and he would do it in a second for all of them to live the way they are living.” - Head Coach Dan Quinn
If there’s one thing you can say about the Atlanta Falcons organization, it’s that they honor and respect the U.S. military. A member of the Falcons organization has been the recipient of the NFL’s prestigious Salute to Service Award for the past three seasons (Dan Quinn 2016, Andre Roberts 2017, and Ben Garland 2018). The Salute to Service Award acknowledges the exceptional efforts by members of the NFL community to honor and support U.S. service members, veterans, and their families.
Additionally, CEO AMB Group Steve Cannon, special teams coordinator Ben Kotwica, and director of strategic initiatives Justin Schaaf are all West Point graduates. Senior assistant Bob Sutton spent almost two decades coaching at Army, from 1983-1999.
“By watching and learning from the military the respect within the brotherhood was something I felt was always key to have, so we can know that everything said is to elevate us to higher levels of play.” - LB Foye Oluokun