We're not starting a new chapter here," said Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank. "We're starting a new book."
That was in the days leading up to the 2008 NFL Draft, which, the team hopes, produced one successful page-turner.
The new Falcons book opened with a first-year general manager in Thomas Dimitroff, a rookie head coach in Mike Smith…and the No. 3 overall pick in the draft—Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan.
"We had options picking at No. 3," says Dimitroff. "But looking at the skill-set that Matt Ryan possessed, along with his intelligence and leadership ability, we were excited about going in that direction."
"This guy is a prototypical quarterback," continues Dimitroff. "He can stand tall in the pocket. He's very intelligent. A big-time leader. He has accuracy at all levels. He's a game-winner. In the end, he'll take a shot in the face and get up. He's a persevering, hard-nosed quarterback."
Ryan, who was nicknamed "Matty Ice" throughout high school and college, because he played as if he had ice water in his veins, impressed the Falcons during his pre-draft workout and interview.
"In our meeting, Matt had an opportunity to sit down with offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey and quarterback coach Bill Musgrave," recalls Smith. "They let him get up on the board and see what he could do. It's real easy to evaluate a guy on the field and see how he throws the ball. So when they sat him down in a meeting situation, they really tried to stump him. They really gave him some difficult stuff in terms of trying to find out what he knows and what he doesn't know. He was outstanding on the board. He's very cerebral."
The 2007 ACC Player of the Year, Ryan set numerous Boston College single-season passing records, including yards (4,507) and touchdowns (31). He led the Eagles to a 25-7 record (.781) as a starter in his career. Included were three bowl victories. He hopes to bring that success to Atlanta.
"I was really excited when I got the call from the Falcons," says Ryan. "I wanted to be in Atlanta."
He knows a lot will be expected from him. He’s looking forward to the challenge.
"There are certainly a lot of adjustments you need to make when making the transition from college to the NFL," says Ryan. "But for me, I think decision-making is the most important part of being a quarterback. You've got to make your decisions and know where to go with the football. So I'm going to work as hard as I can and learn the playbook, and learn the offense and work on making good decisions."
In his first Falcons minicamp, the quarterback impressed many, including the man who drafted him.
"In his first practice, there was an element of focus and presence," says Dimitroff. "You look at him and you see his savvy and his ability. In that session, he was tapping himself on the helmet when he made a mistake, saying it was his fault."
The head coach was also pleased with Ryan’s first outing as a Falcon, and was enthusiastic about his dedication for the game and his ability to stay calm under pressure.
"Matt is a very passionate football player," says Smith. "You can see his passion and how he brought his team back to victory time and time again in college. That's the kind of player we want on our football team."
And the type of player the Falcons want to star in their new book.