From April 10-11, just days before the team was back in the building at Flowery Branch beginning workouts in preparation of the 2019 season, the Falcons visited the United States Military Academy.
"The history, traditions, and importance of West Point is known to all Americans. The character shown by each cadet is unmatched and impressive. These individuals give all of us so much hope for our future. To experience West Point with our players, coaches, and leadership team was really special." - Falcons President and CEO Rich McKay
During the two-day trip, Falcons players, coaches, and front office members, all got the opportunity to thank individuals within the Academy for all that they do for our country, as well as partake in leadership activities and learn more about the history of West Point.
Led by the Atlanta Falcons Community Relations Department, players including Ricardo Allen, De'Vondre Campbell, Russell Gage, Grady Jarrett, Alex Mack, Steven Means, Keanu Neal, Isaiah Oliver, Foye Oluokun, Logan Paulsen, Duke Riley, and Matt Schaub were in attendance in addition to Head Coach Dan Quinn, Special Teams Coordinator Ben Kotwica, and Senior Assistant Bob Sutton.
Owner & Chairman Arthur Blank, Angie Blank, CEO AMB Group Steve Cannon, SVP, Chief Communications Officer Brett Jewkes, President & CEO Rich McKay and Director of Strategic Initiatives Justin Schaaf joined the players and coaches.
The Falcons are no strangers to the Academy as Cannon, Kotwica, and Schaaf are all West Point graduates, while Sutton spent 17 years coaching at Army.
trail of the fallen
The players got the special opportunity to hike "Trail of the Fallen" at the end of the first day of their trip. The trail, which features stones at the top of the hike that recognize fallen soldiers, was an impactful experience for the players.
“Trail of the Fallen was a really cool experience. We had to carry a large stone amongst your team up a decent sized hill and it was about shared hardship and working together, passing around this burden together of this stone and at the top was this giant pile of rocks that you got to contribute to and feel like you belonged.” - C Alex Mack
The “Trail of the Fallen” is located on the Timp-Torne Mountain near the West Point base. The trail is recognized for the large mound of stones that have been carried up and placed on the top of the mountain in memory of soldiers who have died in military conflicts.
leader reaction course
On day two of the trip, the players, coaches, and front office members got the opportunity to participate in three leader reaction courses at the Academy. The course highlights the opportunity to strengthen team bonding and gives individuals the chance to showcase leadership qualities.
"It was great see the functionality of a team at the highest level. To be up there with teammates really brought us closer, as we were able to see great examples on how to hold each other accountable, how to be a better leader/follower, and the importance of respect and togetherness within our brotherhood." - LB Foye Oluokun
west point cemetery
The group got to visit the West Point Post Cemetery, its mission is to deliver the final salute to those members of the US Corps of Cadets, its faculty, staff and West Point graduates who have dedicated their lives in the service of this nation.
During the visit at the cemetery, the players heard from John Kennedy, brother of Major Thomas E. Kennedy, who was killed in action while serving in Afghanistan on August 8, 2012. Kennedy, who went by 'TK', was a graduate of West Point and a former Army hockey player.
John shared stories to the group about his brother, describing the type of leader TK was, beginning with his time as a hockey player. Later, John went on to share his brother's passion for humility as he made the ultimate sacrifice for his country.
"John said as much as TK would like to be here right now with you guys - meaning the players, his wife, with his twins - he would gladly want you to know that he's glad it was him making the sacrifice, not you. I thought that was heavy. He wanted you to know his sacrifice and he would do it in a second for all of them to live the way they are living." - Head Coach Dan Quinn
CEO of AMB Group, Steve Cannon, graduated with honors from West Point (B.S., Economics). He is Airborne Ranger qualified and served as 1st Lieutenant in West Germany during the fall of the Iron Curtain. During his time in the Army he also served five years as an artillery officer.
The opportunity to travel back to the institution that influenced his life so much with an organization that he cares so strongly about was a special experience for Cannon.
"West Point formed me as a person. Some of the most significant things that I have learned, and the trajectory of my life really does stem from here. I am so proud that I got to bring an organization that I care about and that I love and share a little bit of what makes West Point special." - Cannon