Falcons make changes in the personnel department

Falcons head coach Arthur Smith (left) and general manager Terry Fontenot confer during team practice at minicamp Wednesday, June 10, 2021, in Flowery Branch. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)
Caption
Falcons head coach Arthur Smith (left) and general manager Terry Fontenot confer during team practice at minicamp Wednesday, June 10, 2021, in Flowery Branch. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

With general manager Terry Fontenot settling into his position, the Falcons made several changes in their personnel department Wednesday.

Tokunbo Abanikanda and Michael Ross, who were regional scouts for the Falcons, were promoted to national scouts.

Also, Steve Sabo will serve as pro director, Phil Emery and Ruston Webster will now serve as senior personnel executives and Joel Collier, Dante Fargnoli and Shepley Heard will serve as area scouts.

The Falcons also hired Rob Kisiel as a senior pro scout and Benjamin Martinez as a BLESTO scout.

“I’ve had the privilege of working alongside a talented group of associates and have enjoyed strengthening our relationships since joining the Falcons,” Fontenot said. “We’ve had great conversations about opportunities and growth, and I’m looking forward to our team flourishing in new and deserved roles while adding to our already strong team.”

Abanikanda is entering his 10th season with the Falcons, having served as an area scout covering the Southeast region for the past seven years. The Marietta native, who went to Osborne High, joined the Falcons in 2013 as a scouting assistant, where he handled various logistical aspects of the scouting department for college All-Star games, the NFL Combine, and college visits. Before joining the Falcons, Abanikanda played at the Southern Mississippi from 2005-08.

Ross is set to work his 13th season with the Falcons. He served as a regional scout for the Falcons for the past two seasons after spending several years as an area scout in the Southwest (2016-18), Midwest (2013, 2015) and Northeast (2012). Ross split his time between college and pro scouting during the 2014 season and also worked as a scouting assistant in 2011 after spending two years as a seasonal personnel assistant.

Sabo is set to work his 11th season with the Falcons and his first as pro director. Sabo originally joined the Falcons as an area scout in 2011 before being promoted to director of college scouting in 2013. He served in that role for six seasons before being promoted to director of player personnel in 2019. Before his time with the Falcons, he spent 12 seasons (1998-2009) with the Cleveland Browns after three seasons (1996-98) with the New Orleans Saints.

Emery re-joined the Falcons as a national scout in 2016 after originally serving as the director of scouting from 2004-08. He has more than 24 years of NFL experience as a scout and general manager, including three seasons (2012-14) as the general manager of the Chicago Bears. Emery got his start in the NFL as an area scout for the Bears in 1998.

Webster is entering his 34th season in the NFL and his sixth with the Falcons. He joined the Falcons in 2016 as a national scout following four seasons as the general manager of the Tennessee Titans.

Collier was a national scout for the past two seasons. He will cover the West region for the Falcons.

Fargnoli will cover the Southwest region for the Falcons.

Heard is going from director of pro personnel to Southeast region scout.

Kisiel spent 16 seasons with the Houston Texans where he was the director of pro personnel for the past four seasons.

Martinez was with the Saints for the past 12 seasons. He most recently was a video assistant from 2017-20.

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