FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Thomas Dimitroff was raised to be an NFL guy.
Dimitroff’s bio with the Falcons mentions how his father Tom Dimitroff was a “big influence on his life.” Tom Dimitroff coached at the high school, college and professional levels. He was an NFL scout and, briefly, a quarterback for the Boston Patriots, playing three games in their expansion season of 1960.
Thomas Dimitroff worked his way up the ladder as a scout before becoming the Falcons’ general manager in 2008.
So on Thursday when Dimitroff described the Falcons’ 2013 first-round draft pick, cornerback Desmond Trufant, as “raised to be a football guy in the NFL,” it was no surprise that he sought out a player with that kind of background – what is, in fact, a background similar to his own.
Any football executive tries to make a team in his own image, but now that Dimitroff is in his sixth offseason, he truly has had the power to put his imprint on the Falcons roster and he continues to do so. In a predraft press conference a few weeks ago, he said that while he is not against adding players who might have character issues, he said those players stand out in the locker room the Falcons have carefully put together “like a sore thumb.”
When Dimitroff introduced Trufant, whose two older brothers Marcus, 32, and Isaiah, 30, both play cornerback in the NFL, to the local media on Friday at the team’s headquarters, he said Trufant was “a full package-type player.”
“Not only his on-field abilities but off-field abilities,” Dimitroff said. “The way he carries himself, his approach to the game, his seriousness about getting better all the time, working … Being around a family all the time, he understands what it will take to be the consummate pro.
The Falcons have nurtured that professionalism/love for the game throughout their roster. Left tackle Sam Baker’s father was commissioner of the Arena Football League. Left guard Justin Blalock has worked as a guest conductor at the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Some-time starter at right guard Garrett Reynolds is the nephew of former NFL great Jack “Hacksaw” Reynolds. Defensive tackle Corey Peters has talked about his desire to coach someday. Safety Thomas DeCoud’s grandfather played in the NFL. A slew of other players — Matt Ryan, Tony Gonzalez, Mike Peterson, Jason Snelling, Harry Douglas, to name a few – exude that professionalism.
FOXSportsSouth.com asked Dimitroff to expound on that concept.
“I mean, the presence that Desmond has had, having been around football and NFL programs for a number of years, and, again, seeing what it takes and the effort it takes to be, you know, an All-Pro,” Dimitroff said. “To be a very good professional player inside and out has a lot to do with the make-up and the confidence and the resilience. I believe a lot of that has to do with how he was raised with a very good upbringing with his family, as well as with brothers who have a strong understanding of that.”
Trufant described what his brothers have meant to him. Marcus is a free agent who played for Seattle last season. Isaiah plays for the New York Jets.
“We’re always there to help each other,” he said. “I’m watching their games. If is see them, I tell them what I would have did or vice versa. We always talk ball. Like I say, we’re close. We get on each other, as well, if we need to pick it up. Things like that. My brothers are very tight and we continue to improve ourselves.”
A substantial gulf exists between the brothers in age, but, Desmond said, not in how close they are. When Desmond was young, Marcus went off to Washington State but Isaiah was still around the house. Desmond talked about going “east of the mountains” from the family home in Tacoma to Pullman to see Marcus’ games.
“We always kept in contact, even though there’s an age difference,” he said. “My brothers, they pushed me to get better. I thank them for doing that to get me to this point.”
Isaiah went to Eastern Washington. Throughout both of his brothers’ college careers, Desmond learned football by osmosis, perhaps the best way to learn it.
“I would go visit them and stay up on weekends,” he said. “They would give me tips about the game. Why you do this or why do that. I definitely learned from that.”
Falcons head coach Mike Smith seemed excited by that aspect, that Desmond would have an advantage over other rookies – that he would be more advanced – because of his vicarious experiences through his brothers. While a student at Washington, Desmond attended Marcus’ Seahawks’ games.
With the Falcons in a win-now mentality – call it “Super Bowl or Bust” or whatever – the Falcons needed a player who could start right away and not be overwhelmed. Trufant fit the bill.
Dimitroff was asked if Trufant were the most NFL-ready of the cornerbacks remaining on the board when the Falcons traded up to take him at No. 22. One can infer from Dimitroff’s words that that is what he thinks, even if the general manager didn’t come right out and say so – perhaps not wanting to heap too many expectations on the shoulders of his newest player.
“I don’t necessarily know if he’s any more ready,” he said. “I know that for us, it was something that was very attractive to us — the idea that we have something that we consider a full package. And that’s very important for us. It’s not just about going out there and covering, it’s about being able to tackle, it’s about having an understanding of the game. It’s about having a resilience – especially at that position – to be able to get beat and jump back up and understanding off the field of what it takes to be a professional as well.”
For some players, some things come more naturally than others. In the Falcons’ case, Trufant fits Dimitroff’s bill as an “NFL guy.”