Grady Jarrett will remember his NFL draft experience for a long time.
“It’s crazy,” said Jarrett, who escaped a house fire Friday night with about 30 to 40 other family members and friends, who were gathered for a draft party in Conyers.
Jarrett, who’s the son of former Falcons great Jessie Tuggle, was a projected second-round pick before the draft, but was selected by the Falcons in the fifth round (137th overall) Saturday.
“It’s just a mix of emotions,” said Jarrett, as he choked up. “It almost impossible to get that mix of emotions together, you know what I’m saying, (pause) with the draft going on and then the fire. It’s a lot of different things going on.”
Falcons owner Arthur Blank ordered the staff to take clothes and team clothes over to the Jarrett’s after he was told about the fire. Jarrett was appreciative of the support from his new team.
“With the Falcons picking me, it was a blessing,” Jarrett said. “It really lifted up the spirits of my family from just the things that were going on. They see the agony that I was having about falling in the draft. With Atlanta picking me they all get to see me play. That’s just one part of it.”
Kevin Winston, the Falcons’ senior director of player development, coordinated the support with the family.
“They said whatever I need, they’ll help me out,” Jarrett said. “It’s just a blessing. It just felt good to have their support.”
Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff traded the team’s sixth-round pick (184th overall) to Minnesota to move up nine spots to draft Jarrett.
“Arthur Blank was very concerned from minute one on it,” Dimitroff said. “He made sure that the proper people reached out.”
Falcons coach Dan Quinn also closely monitored the situation.
“Talking about a guy and a family with grit, they have it,” Quinn said. “Here there are with a fire in their home, and they were watching the draft on their cellphones.”
Jarrett hopes to make similar career contributions to the Falcons as did Tuggle, who was undrafted out of Valdosta State in 1987. He went on to make the Pro Bowl three times and was inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor.
Jarrett, a scrappy interior player, who battled shoulder injuries over his career, had 144 tackles, including 29.5 tackles for losses over four-year career at Clemson.
Jarrett projected to be selected in the second round by nfldraftscout.com.
He thought he might be selected by the Falcons, who had the 42nd pick. The Falcons instead picked LSU cornerback Jalen Collins.
Ironically, that’s when the fire started at the Jarrett household.
“We were just watching the draft and smelt something a little funny and went to the kitchen and nothing was going on in there,” Jarrett said. “Then some people came running down from upstairs. The fire had already started on the wall. It was too much for water to put out or a fire extinguisher to put out. We couldn’t do (anything), but get everybody out of the house and pray for the best.”
The family stayed with relatives in Covington after the fire, Jarrett said.
The family believes the fire started in a room over the garage.
“The cause of the fire is still under investigation,” the Rockdale County Fire public information officer told Channel 2 Action News. “It started in the bonus room above the garage, which was an addition to the main house. The fire burned through the floor.”
The Jarretts were able to get the cars out before the garage burned. There were no injuries and no one was transported to the hospital, according to Rockdale County Fire.
“That section of the house is just really, really messed up,” Jarrett said. “The key things lost was just a lot of my trophies and accolades and stuff like that. It can get replaced.
“The most important thing was getting everybody out. We have good insurance, so we should be OK.”
About the Author
Credit: Ben Hendren for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution