By Adam Van Brimmer
The Athens Banner-Herald
FLOWERY BRANCH - Differentiating Falcons red from Bulldogs red was impossible Saturday at the opening practice of the Falcons' three-day post-draft minicamp.
D.J. Shockley didn't even try.
"It's all red to me," said Shockley, the former Georgia quarterback drafted by the Falcons two weeks ago. "I'm familiar with it. I'm enjoying it."
Approximately 1,000 fans saw Shockley take his first snaps as a professional quarterback Saturday, and as many wore Bulldog jerseys and shirts as did Falcons' apparel. They confirmed their allegiance after the practice, as Shockley attracted one of the largest groups of autograph-seekers and picture-takers of any Falcon.
"You're my favorite NFL quarterback now, D.J." shouted one young fan dressed head-to-toe in Georgia gear - a sentiment that drew head nods and enthusiastic smiles from several others.
Shockley's pro future is not assured, though, at least not with the Falcons. Head coach Jim Mora made that clear Saturday, saying Shockley will compete with second-year player Bryan Randall for the third-string job behind starter Michael Vick and backup Matt Schaub.
"We really like him. He's a classy, talented, mature kid with a lot of leadership qualities," Mora said. "But it's important that everyone keep it in perspective. He's a seventh-round pick, and he's got competition with Bryan Randall. He's not walking in here assured of a job."
Shockley would be placed on Atlanta's practice squad or released by the team if he loses the competition with Randall.
Shockley won't have to compete with a veteran like Ty Detmer for the spot. Detmer was the third-stringer last season, there to mentor Vick and Schaub as well as Randall, who spent the year on the practice squad.
But Detmer is not on the roster this season, and Falcons general manager Rich McKay said he didn't anticipate signing Detmer or another veteran quarterback as the third stringer.
"Schaub is going into his third year," McKay said following the draft. "He's our veteran backup now."
That leaves Randall and Shockley.
Randall has the experience in the Falcons' system; Shockley the stronger arm, higher potential and hometown buzz.
"He definitely has the support of the fans and they want to see him make the team," said Randall, a former Virginia Tech star and 2004 ACC offensive player of the year. "At the same time, I'm trying to win a job here. They love him and that's great and all, but they can't go out and play for him.
"It's going to be me and him and may the best man win."
Shockley said he is still too preoccupied learning the offense to focus on the competition with Randall.
He is also still pinching himself about being a Falcon - a Friday night meeting with the offensive coaches was a surreal experience for the Atlanta native.
"I'm thinking to myself, 'I'm sitting in here a member of the Atlanta Falcons learning their offense and tomorrow will be my first practice with them,'" Shockley said. "After going through it at Georgia, it was still an experience."