Throughout their 55-year history, the Atlanta Falcons have had some talented right guards, but arguably none better than Bill Fralic, R.C. Thielemann and Kynan Forney. The more recent of the three, Forney, has been working out with Falcons right guard Chris Lindstrom to help him continue to grow off of impressive limited-action during his rookie season.
While we chatted about Lindstrom, I was also able to talk with Forney about his time in Atlanta and what he’s been doing since retiring from the league in 2010.
The 2004-2005 Falcons Rushing Attack
From 2004-2005, the Falcons rushing attack of Michael Vick, Warrick Dunn and T.J. Duckett ranked at the top, with Forney being a Pro Bowl alternate each of those seasons. During the 2004 postseason, the offensive line set the fourth-highest NFL postseason record with 327 rushing yards.
“We all worked well as a group. Nothing can get done without all five, you know. From left tackle Kevin Shaffer, left guard Roberto Garza to Todd “Mud Duck” McClure, me at right guard and Todd Weiner at right tackle. You can even throw the tight ends in there, Eric Beverly and Alge Crumpler — who is one of the best tight ends in franchise history,” Forney told The Falcoholic. “Just everybody always on the same page. You can’t forget the guys in the backfield T.J. Duckett, Warrick Dunn and Justin Griffith. Michael Vick keeping people honest on the edge but also doing his thing on the rushing attack. From the wide receivers blocking like Brian Finneran, Peerless Price – just great blocking from our receivers, it was a group effort.”
Alex Gibbs may not be a household name, but he’s one of the best offensive line coaches in NFL history and has been referred to as the godfather of the zone blocking scheme, with a reputation in NFL circles that needs no burnishing. He also happened to coach the Falcons offensive line from 2004-2005.
“Alex Gibbs brought a certain mentality and mindset to that group. The offensive line room, or any position, is going to take on the mentality of their coach,” Forney said. “Alex was an old school, hard-nosed coach. He could be tough about certain things, but he had a tough personality. He taught us a bunch of tricks of the trade which I still teach guys to this day. Some of the stuff you can’t use because they’ve outlawed it, but most of the stuff is still good to go. He had years of coaching experience that he brought and taught us.”
Playing for three different Falcons head coaches
While on the Falcons from 2001-2007, Forney played for three different head coaches: Dan Reeves, Jim Mora Jr. and Bobby Petrino. Before he got to Atlanta, Forney played at the University of Hawaii for coach June Jones who played for the Falcons from 1977-1981, served as offensive coordinator from 1991-1993 and coached the team from 1994-1996.
“I played for June Jones when I was at Hawaii. It was great playing for him because he was very professional and even though we were all young, treated us like professionals,” Forney said. “June spoke up for me coming to Atlanta. Coach Dan Reeves called him and asked him about me and asked about me possibly going to the Falcons as a free agent. June said “Dan, you’d be crazy now in the 7th round.” So, June put that word in for me, and they went ahead and pulled the trigger on drafting me. June is more than just a coach, he’s a friend.”
Dan Reeves had a successful stint in Atlanta, coaching the team for seven seasons and getting them to their first Super Bowl in franchise history.
“I’m so appreciative of Dan Reeves for pulling the trigger to bring me in. I still remember getting the phone call from them,” Forney said. “Matter of fact, when I got to Atlanta and we’re practicing, Dan Reeves called my mom. He gave her his phone number, office number, wife’s number – just being very hospitable. Now when I look back on it, I realize he knew we were young kids and they got moms and stuff. My mom still remembers that to this day, if you say something bad about Dan Reeves, she’ll punch you in your chin. He belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. After coach Reeves, they brought coach Jim Mora, Jr. in. Coach Mora was very cool, he was like your cool uncle. He brought that youthful energy to us, same with Greg Knapp. Knapp used to run some of the best meetings during the week, I learned a lot about football under Greg Knapp.”
Naturally, I had to get his thoughts on arguably the most disliked head coach in franchise history.
“Bobby Petrino started off cool, but a lot of things he was saying wasn’t lining up with what he was doing,” Forney said. “The final nail in the coffin was how he left us high and dry, he’s a coward for that. You come in preaching about finishing and competing but then can’t even come in and tell us he’s leaving to our faces. Instead you leave a letter in our lockers, that’s coward stuff.”
Reminiscing about former teammates
The bond that an NFL player has with his teammates can last a lifetime. Through victories and defeats, it’s naturally going to be a long list.
“I had a bunch of favorite teammates, and I think you could put them all in different categories,” Forney said. “I had favorite teammates who kept it light, kept it funny like Fred McCrary who was a fullback. I loved playing with Freddie Mac, he was hilarious. Of course, the offensive line group, we were all together, so we were always having fun with each other. Mike Vick was one of my favorites, because you know every Sunday you were apart of the Michael Vick experience, you’d always see something new and different. Warrick Dunn was definitely one of my favorites. When I was a kid in high school I’d watch Warrick Dunn at Florida State, and he was my favorite running back in all of college football. Then getting the chance to play with him, that was a treat for me.”
“Demorrio Williams, he was a character. Alge Crumpler is one of my best friends who I still talk with to this day. Patrick Kerney, I loved Patrick Kerney because he was serious about his business, every practice, every rep. You knew if he lined up against you in practice, you better bring you’re best,” Forney said. “Bob Whitfield, don’t let me forget him. He was like my mentor when I first for to Atlanta. He was in his 10th season at the time, so he was able to share with me some different things, as far as technique. I can remember after my rookie year, I’d go to church down off 285, and I’d stop off at his house and we’d sit around for a couple hours just talking different techniques and playing against different styles of defensive linemen. He’s very knowledgeable. Mike Kenn is another one – I didn’t have him as a teammate, but just a great guy. He’s had a hard time getting into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, come on now. Mike Kenn played 17 years, played against the best and probably averaged only one or two sacks allowed per season that whole span. That’s impressive. I’ve learned a lot from him, I wish I could’ve had him as a teammate. Jessie Tuggle is another one. A great guy, one of the best in franchise history. He brought it everyday on the field. But also, too, he wasn’t all “high and mighty” where he wouldn’t take time to talk to us young players. Which is similar to Jamal Anderson and what he did for me. He was the first person to call me up and take me out to eat.”
“In all of my seven years with the team, I only had one teammate who I didn’t like, so that tells you about the quality of guys we had on the squad during those times and their character,” Forney said. “I’m a guy who likes to laugh and crack jokes, so I loved being around the comedians of the squad during those days like the ones I’ve already mentioned, and guys like Juran Bolden, Quinn Ojinakka, Michael ”Moon” Thompson, Tavaris Robinson, Allen Rossum, Karon Riley, Tyson Clabo, Wayne Gandy. Alge Crumpler is one my best friends along with Reggie Kelly and Ben Wilkerson. I’ll always be forever thankful to Jay Feely who took a lot of time explaining and breaking down investment portfolio strategies to me in my earlier years with the team, which helped me to manage money. Mike Vick is hands down, my all-time favorite quarterback and I’m so thankful to have been able to be apart of “The Michael Vick Experience” at the Georgia Dome. I’m forever grateful he asked me to be apart of his “Football Life” story on NFL Network. I’m sorry we couldn’t get a Lombardi Trophy for the city of Atlanta and the Falcons organization because we definitely had the right guy under center to do it. I loved Keith Brooking even though we probably had a fight in training camp every year, haha. Center Todd “Mud Duck McClure” who always kept the Copenhagen and line calls coming, I can’t wait to see him join the Falcons Ring of Honor one day. He was a good friend and fellow 7th-round pick in the room. My right tackle Todd Weiner went about his job every day quietly, never any complaints, just getting the job done. Rod Coleman, Ed Jasper, Travis Hall, Grady Jackson, Jonathan Babineaux and John Abraham made me a better player just having to practice against them day in and day out. Rod Coleman helped me raise my level of play to earn Pro Bowl alternates and ESPN All-Pro accolades. Linebacker Chris Draft introduced me to my wife of the past sixteen years. I admired, loved and respected all of my teammates during my years in Atlanta. I developed a bond with all of them that continues to this day.”
Looking back on Falcons moments from the past
One of Forney’s favorite memories from his time in Atlanta is when the Falcons defeated the Green Bay Packers in the wild card round in 2003. This game was historic, because it was the first time an NFL team defeated the Packers at Lambeau Field in the playoffs.
Looking back on it now as an older man, it was pretty freaking big! Back then, it was just another game to me, but now I’m like wow, we really made history,” Forney said. “Some of my other favorite memories are just being around the guys, working out in the offseason. Building up and working towards the regular season. It might sound funny, but just when I’d have a bad game, I’d call up Mike Crews our video guy, and ask for tapes of Larry Allen, Ron Stone and some of these other guys to see what they do differently against guys I go up against. Then you go out and get that last rep and dig deeper. You prove a lot of thing to yourself. Like to this day raising my kids, I use a lot of those old stories and football sayings because football teaches you a lot of things. It teaches about when you get beat, how are you going to come back? It even teaches you how to handle success. If you have some success, are you going to get big-headed and quit working so hard or are you going to keep that same mentality to keep getting better?”
Post-retirement and looking towards the future
As mentioned previously, Forney retired in 2010. He played in 95 games for the Falcons, before signing with the now Los Angeles Chargers in 2008, and the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2009.
“When I first retired, I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do, I just knew I wanted to work with kids. So, Dr. Al Taylor allowed me to come work at Berkmar High School,” Forney said. “I later left to work at Brookwood High School for William “Bo” Ford and I’ve been there working part-time, helping to mentor kids. Being somebody that they can talk to about certain things that they may not be able to talk to their teachers about, with what’s going on in their lives. I had kids on the football team ask me for help, and I’m always happy to help out. When I was younger, I had Steve Wallace help me out and help teach me the game. He gave me advice from a perspective that a coach couldn’t give me. I’ve always been happy to help out in the way Steve helped me, I’m very grateful. So, when those kids asked me, of course I stepped up to the plate.”
Forney lately has been helping young offensive lineman improve their game. He also does community work for the Falcons, and attends special events in Atlanta, as he still calls Georgia home.
“In the next 3-5 years, I hope to continue picking up more guys and help teach them,” Forney said. “Earlier this week, I was worked with Andrew Thomas of the New York Giants and Solomon Kindley who was drafted by the Miami Dolphins. Chris Lindstrom from the Falcons came in on Thursday to get some work in. Jack Driscoll from the Philadelphia Eagles, Mike Horton from the Carolina Panthers they were in there. It’s just great for me because it keeps me around the game, and I can show these kids some things that worked for me. I just want to pass this knowledge down to those kids, so one day they can do the same. I hope to continue doing that, and who knows, if the NFL comes calling and they need a consultant, I’m willing to do that. I also enjoy doing different events for the Falcons organization. I do appearances at places and enjoy being an ambassador for the team. That’s how me and Chris Lindstrom first met. But Mr. Blank, when I see him, I give him a hug and tell him I love him. A couple years after I retired, I was at an orthopedist getting a few things checked out and when my appointment was over with, I walked out and guess who is standing there with his arms wide open? Mr. Blank. I was so shocked, but on the inside, I was emotional because I was like “Wow, this man still cares about me.” He’s a one-of-a-kind owner in the NFL because a lot of owners aren’t like that. Even since then, he’s had me out in the community, I love to do that. I love to use my platform to be out in the community for Mr. Blank, Rich McKay and Thomas Dimitroff. The Falcons PR department does a good job of that, they keep me involved and I’m very appreciative of that.”
I’m very appreciative of Kynan Forney for talking and sharing his experiences with me. He still follows the Falcons just like the fans, and wants to do anything he can to help them win. He’s already agreed to speak with us again soon at The Falcoholic, and you can find him on Twitter at @KForney65.