The sun came up in clear skies over North Georgia on Wednesday, June 17th, 2015. Kids from all over the area put on their Falcons’ jerseys… some Matt Ryan, some Julio Jones, even some #39 Jackson jerseys from last year…
It was hot. The high in the upper 90’s. Kids were covered in sunscreen so thick you could see it on their skin.
They all made their way to Flowery Branch, GA. The parents parked across from the Training Facility and walked anxious groups of kids over to get in line just outside the gates.
Some played football with each other, with new friends they’d met only minutes before.
Some hunkered under umbrellas trying to stay out of the sun.
As the gates opened around 12 Noon, the kids and their parents, lugging beach umbrellas, folding chairs, blankets and more, made their way into the Camp.
It was Kids Day.
They walked past the giant “Welcome To Mini Camp”, past the enormous “RISE UP” wooden letters, that must have seemed even bigger to the little ones, and made the turn left into the Coaches parking lot. That lot on this day was used for food service tents, merchandise tents and lots of games to play and things to do provided by Arrow Exterminating, 92-9 The Game, King’s Hawaiian and Home Depot.
Just across that parking lot, there it stood… the gates that led on to the field.
Making the turn right and heading up to the hill, lots of families set up their umbrellas and got settled in for the long hot day.
But many of the kids wanted to do as kids will do… run, throw the football, grab some burgers and hotdogs.
Freddie The Falcon and a handful of Falcons’ Cheerleaders entertained the kids while they waited to see their favorite players take the field.
After all, it was Kids Day.
The prizes included t-shirts and even Xbox 360’s.
The players took the field, warming up, stretching… and finally, running plays and routes. When one of their favorite players like Julio Jones would make a catch in the corner of the endzone, near the hill, the crowds would cheer and applaud. You would have thought it was the last play of a play-off game. This is when the parents turned in to kids too.
Jumping up and down, cheering, splashing water from water bottles on each other.
Everyone on the hill, and in the parking lot, having as much fun as you could squeeze out of the hottest day of the year so far.
It was Kids Day… little kids AND big kids.
Practice came to a close and, unlike at the end of most days of full Training Camp, almost every single player went to the rope line and took out a Sharpie. None of these players wanted to let down a single one of the “kids” that watched them practice and cheered them on in that intense heat. Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Levine Toilolo, Roddy White, Joe Hawley, Peter Konz, Pat DiMarco… they could all be seen signing autographs and taking selfies with the parents and kids.
The horn sounded, and the players were called in for the day… but there was one thing did not stop with the sound of that horn…
The smiles on those kids faces.
Most of them were ready to get out of the heat, climb into an air conditioned car and head home… but they talked about those autographs and that super catch that Julio made in the endzone all the way to the car. Probably all the way home.
After all, it was Kids Day.
It was their day.