June 28, 2012, by D. Orlando Ledbetter, AJC
Falcons linebacker Akeem Dent, an Atlanta native, spent the first week of his summer vacation giving back to city.
The former Douglass High and University of Georgia standout worked the Kids & Pros football camp Monday through Wednesday at Grady High School.
Dent led the agility drills and tackling station. Also, he spoke to the group of more than 200 campers after lunch on Tuesday.
The Falcons broke minicamp last Thursday and will not report for training camp until late July. Some players left for tropical locations, but Dent stayed around to work.
"It's been great to come out here and work with this group of kids," Dent said. "We just want to get them active and playing sports."
During Dent's little chat with the kids, he stressed education over football.
"I just told them about my history, my background and my story," Dent said. "I was just trying to give them some focus and direction. I tried to tell them about maintaining and working hard. They need to make sure that they are doing everything that they can to be successful in life not only on the football field, but in the classroom."
Dent told them that it was cool to be smart and that he graduated with honors from Douglass High with a 3.4 grade point average. He also noted that he received his bachelor's degree from Georgia.
"That was really my main focus and to let them know that football doesn't last forever," Dent said. "You always must have something to fall back on if football doesn't work out for you in the beginning; education is the key."
Over the offseason, Dent has been working to win the open starting middle linebacker spot. He will compete with Lofa Tatupu for the position.
"I'm going to work hard," Dent said. "It's something that everyone else might make it bigger than it really is. We're going to go out every day and give it our all. We are working together. We are trying to help each other out."
Dent or Tatupu will replace Curtis Lofton, who signed with the New Orleans Saints during free agency. Lofton led the Falcons in tackles in each of the past three seasons.
"At the end of the day, it's going to be what's best for the Atlanta Falcons and not for Akeem Dent or not for Lofa Tatupu," Dent said. "It's going to be what's best for the team. We'll have two guys that are going to be able to go out and play football at any point in the season."
Dent was selected in the third round of the 2011 draft (91st overall). He led the Falcons with 19 special teams tackles and was selected to the all-rookie team by the Pro Football Weekly/Pro Football Writers of America as a special-teamer.
He takes pride in his special teams play.
"Playing special teams has always been a key thing throughout my entire career," Dent said. "Ever since I first started playing football, special teams is something that I'll continue to keep doing."
Much has been made about how wide receiver Julio Jones and running back Jacquizz Rodgers have benefited from the offseason program. Dent also missed that training during the lockout last season.
"It felt great to have that coaching and direction during organized team activities and training camp," Dent said. "You never know how things are going to work out or how things are going to shape up."
He feels ready to compete for the starting spot against Tatupu, a former Pro Bowler.
"I'm just happy just for the opportunity," Dent said.
Kids & Pros, founded by former Atlanta Falcons Bobby Butler and Buddy Curry, has been holding camps since 2002. They set out to teach kids about "character and skills through athletics."