On a rainy, humid Monday morning, most Falcons’ fans, almost all of them, were somewhere other than Training Camp.
School is back in for most of the area, so most parents had taken their kids to school and either gone to work or back home.
Not Joe Allen. And not Eric Parker.
The two know each other only through the lens of their Falcons experience but have become good friends.
Joe was the first one through the gates on Monday and walked steadily through the drizzle, past the refreshments tent, the merchandise tent and into the gates and on to the hill. I walked fast to catch up to Joe and I had to know “why”. Why was he the first one here? In the rain. On a Monday.
Joe drove up from Columbus, GA on Sunday. But this was not the craziest part of Joe’s Falcons experience. Joe has been to every single day of Training Camp this year. He has family in the area, so he stays with them to save money on hotels. He attends camp for a few days, heads back to Columbus, GA and goes to work for a few days and then comes back again for the next week.
And he’s been to most all of the days of every single Training Camp for over 20 years. Joe’s also been a season ticket holder or that long as well.
Joe told me he had over 100 Falcons jerseys at his house in Columbus. Someone broke in a couple of years ago and stole around 20 of them, but he’s working on his collection again.
He has obtained almost every single autograph available at Training Camps throughout the years too. He’s got Julio, Matt Ryan, Devonta and all of the current stars, plus autographs going way back.
He was proud to show us his glasses, necklace, hat, jersey, his t-shirt, his helmet, chair, etc. He was decked out in Falcons’ gear and proud of it!
Sitting next to him, arriving only a few minutes into our interview, was Eric Parker from Dacula, GA. Eric has been to almost every session of camp for the last 4 years. He missed one day due to work.
Eric sat his chair and umbrella right down next to Joe, like he does every morning of camp, and the two began talking Falcons football.
Joe and Eric both said they thought the camp was moving fast. Not only was it going by fast, but the action on the field was faster than normal. And if anyone outside of the coaches room can compare the action from camp to camp, it’s these two guys.
Both guys really liked the picked of safety Keanu Neal when it happened, and they’ve both sat and watched in wonder as the rookie has taken camp by storm. They said they had a good feeling about him all along and so far their intuition seems spot on.
Lots of fans buy some jerseys, maybe season tickets, and a magnet for their car and call it a day. Many fans might make it out to Training Camp at Flowery Branch 2, 3 or 4 times each year. And we’ve met fans than barely meet either of those criteria that refer to themselves as superfans.
But until we met Joe Allen from Columbus, GA and Eric Parker from Dacula, GA on Monday we hadn’t truly met any superfans.
These two are dedicated. And for that, we say thank you. Rise Up!