Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff doesn’t have a lot of time to spend on his favorite non-football pursuit. Too many players’ names on draft boards, too much film to watch, too many decisions to make.
While I was in high school and college, my dad [NFL coach and quarterback Tom Dimitroff] was vehemently opposed to me or him having a car payment. So I rode a bike all the time. I developed a fascination and love for two wheels. The guys on my college football team had nice cars. So my bike had a name, "Steel Wind."
I’ve done a number of trips on road bikes, hybrids and mountain bikes. I’ve ridden from Vancouver to Tijuana on the Pacific Coast Highway. I’ve done rugged Colorado mountain biking and the pristine trails in the Southeast.
When I lived in Boulder as an NFL scout, I got into mountain-bike racing. Colorado is the most competitive state for mountain biking. I got to the expert level, but I did not have enough points to move up to semi-pro. Training takes so much time and effort, as does scouting, so I didn’t have the time to train at that level.
I have a spin bike in my office. I crank away when I’m watching video of players in the draft. I can get 90 minutes of fitness in while I’m evaluating talent. Here and there I get a one-hour ride on a weekend, but the biggest hit I’ve taken is getting up on the trails in North Georgia. That’s hard to do.
There are great rides in Georgia and Western Carolina -- pine needle-laden trails and really good lush green tracks with a peaceful rolling feel. Tsali Recreation Area is my favorite one. Great little ascensions and descents really get your heart rate up.
I’ve had a lot of accidents, to be quite honest. When I was a Detroit Lions scout based in Atlanta, I went on a 14-mile loop in North Georgia. I was at about 7 miles when I hit this definite whoop-de-doo-doo. My fork bottomed out, and I went over the handlebars and landed on my collarbone. I also hit my head, which left me a little disoriented.
With a collarbone injury, you risk splintering and puncturing some of the vital veins. I mustered up the strength to sit on my bike and coast down. It was very uncomfortable. Another rider got me out, and I drove myself to the hospital. It was a lesson in not to ride hard without someone with me, especially on a trail that’s unfamiliar.
I was on some pretty raucous road rides in Colorado. One time I was riding down a switchback, and my wheels came out from under me. I slammed into a guardrail. I was fortunate I didn’t go over the side of the mountain.
There’s an adrenalin rush in mountain biking just like there’s one in football. You get some players -- and I’ve talked to Tony Gonzalez about this -- who would love to try something like a serious descent on a mountain bike. But their money and family depend on them staying healthy. I’d rather they get their fitness now on a spin bike. They can do extreme sports when they walk away from football.
I’ve met other people through football who ride. I helped draft Matt Russell, a former Butkus Award winner who is now director of scouting for the Broncos. He was in my wedding party, and now we do a lot of riding and snowboarding.
I also play golf, which is such an important sport in the Southeast. I saw [PGA Tour pro] Billy Andrade at a black-tie event at Zoo Atlanta.
“I heard you’re a horrible golfer,” he said.
“I probably am,” I thought. “But do you want to get on a bike?”
As told to Michelle Hiskey for the AJC