Brian Poole calls starting at nickelback after going undrafted ‘a blessing’

Falcons cornerback Brian Poole tackles 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick on a quarterback keeper during the first half in an NFL football game on Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Falcons cornerback Brian Poole tackles 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick on a quarterback keeper during the first half in an NFL football game on Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

To rookie nickelback Brian Poole, being a Falcon is everything.

The 5-foot-10, 211-pound defensive back went undrafted last April after a solid senior season at Florida. In May, Poole answered a call from the Falcons and was quickly signed as a rookie free agent.

“It was a blessing,” Poole said. “Just to know that somebody believed in me to give me a chance, it means everything. That’s why I go out there and play so hard.”

Since the Falcons took a chance on him, Poole has been a noteworthy contributor mostly because he knows he wasn’t guaranteed to land on a roster.

The Falcons became interested in Poole through defensive line coach Bryan Cox’s son, Bryan Cox Jr., who was a senior defensive lineman at Florida alongside Poole last season. In Poole’s final season in Gainesville, he registered 40 tackles and finished second in the secondary with 10 pass break-ups, drawing attention from the Falcons.

Defensive coordinator Richard Smith gushed about Poole’s ability to come in as a rookie and play the nickel position the Falcons are so fond of.

“We were really glad to get him,” Smith said. “What I like about him is his personality and his demeanor that he brings to the table. He’s not a guy who has highs and lows. He’s got a really nice personality to him, so you can coach him hard and he likes to be coached hard. And if he makes a mistake, he can correct the mistake and we’ve been very, very pleased with him.”

This season, Poole has played in all 14 games with seven starts at nickelback while also contributing on special teams.

While the former Gator’s talent has helped him record 55 tackles, one sack, two fumble recoveries and six deflected passes so far, Poole said the experience and time spent with veteran teammates has pushed him beyond what he could accomplish on his own.

“In our (defensive backs) room, we have some good older guys, from Robert Alford to Ricardo Allen to Desmond Trufant so they’re all helping me with my transition and everything,” Poole said. “Before camp, me and Ricardo Alan used to meet up and watch film and it really mattered to him that I was ready to go when camp came.”

While veterans have helped Poole adjust to the speed of an NFL game and the power of fully grown men he’s now playing against, the nickelback position wasn’t completely new as Poole has some experience at nickelback while at Florida.

Even with his college experience, he’s improved greater from when he was signed as a free agent.

Last Sunday against San Francisco, Poole had a season-high of seven combined tackles. Three came against running back Carlos Hyde, who accounted for 71 rushing yards, and three more tackles came as Poole dragged 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to the ground.

“He’s a very good zone player and he’s a good tackler. Those are the things that allow him to play well at nickel... In the NFL today, you play a lot of defense and offense for that matter in three wide receiver sets. Maybe from year’s past from covering the teams, that position didn’t get as much recognition. But now that position, our nickelback, he’s a starter. We’re pleased with Brian’s progression,” coach Dan Quinn said.

Poole is one of four Falcons rookies who has earned starts on defense this season along with linebackers Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell and safety Keanu Neal, the Falcons’ first-round Draft pick.

While Quinn realizes experience is a main factor in breeding success, he has confidence in the Falcons’ young defenders as the season progresses.

“We don’t look at them as young guys anymore. We just look at them as ball players who are ready to go play,” Quinn said.

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