Hometown Kid: AJ Terrell sees dream come true with Atlanta Falcons


by - Senior Writer -
Terrell grew up hoping to one day play for the Falcons.
Terrell grew up hoping to one day play for the Falcons.

AJ Terrell grew up in the Atlanta area and pulled for the Falcons growing up, dreaming that one day he might don the signature red and black.

Those dreams came true Thursday night when Terrell was selected by the Falcons with the 16th overall pick in the first round of the NFL Draft.

Terrell played his high school ball at Westlake in Atlanta, where he was the No. 6-ranked cornerback recruit in 2017, according to the 247Sports Composite Rankings. In three seasons at Clemson, Terrell amassed 101 tackles, 13 passes defensed and six interceptions.

He told the media after the pick that a dream became reality.

“I always thought about playing for the Falcons,” Terrell said. “That (came) across my mind a lot. Now, with dreams coming into reality, its time to put in work now. I had a good feeling, knowing that I had a good talk with coach Dan Quinn. Everybody on our virtual call, I had a good talk with them. I know it’s a need for the organization and I’m here for it. I did have a good feeling for it.

“It means a lot definitely for my high school, me and my family. It means a lot. It’s a surreal moment. It’s an honor. I’m grateful for the opportunity and I’m ready to get to work.”

Where does he see himself fitting in the Atlanta defense?

“I fit anywhere they need me to. I fit perfectly,” Terrell said. “I feel like I’m going to come in and make an impact. Come in and make my presence felt. Come in ….I’ve already got a winning gene inside of me. Being able to put that to the coaches and join the brotherhood and just make things what it was supposed to be. Make it great.”

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney says the Falcons got a steal and compared Terrell to another Georgia kid that became a first-round pick.

"A.J. Terrell is the Deshaun Watson of this group, and what I mean by that is he's a Deshaun Watson at a different position," Swinney said. "The reason I say that — and this is what I've told everybody — is his consistency. He's handled himself like a pro since the day he got here as far as his maturity, his love of preparation, his mindset, and the type of teammate he is. He's got unique intangibles to go along with a rare skill set for his position."

Terrell said while some might be surprised at the pick, he felt like a first-rounder.

“I always knew that. Just coming in. Just staying humble. Trust in myself and believe in myself in the whole process,” he said. “Handling things the right way. Being myself and not trying to be different. Of course, it worked in my favor and just being a hard worker is the main thing. Being a great teammate, person and great leader.”

Playing in the multiple defense of Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables prepared Terrell for the NFL.

“You have to pay attention to details and you have to be able to be consistent,” Terrell said of what it takes to play for Venables. “You have to be consistent and be a leader. That’s basically what it is. Just pay attention to details and watch film. You have to always be ahead of the opponent.”

Terrell was asked about his rough showing in the National Championship and he didn’t back down from answering, saying it gave him a chip on his shoulder.

“It was just competition. It was a great game,” he said. “I didn’t have most of the plays going my way. It just showed how you have to have a short-term memory, come back and compete and never feel satisfied with your success. Just keep on competing and not just laying down for nobody. For me, it’s just competing non-stop and having a short-term memory.

“I always carry a chip on my shoulder, but that one game definitely gave me a chip on my shoulder. I was ready to get back to work and get ready for another game. Just ready for the next game. For me, that game was definitely a learning experience about never being satisfied.”

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