Q&A with Falcons QB T. J. Yates

Taylor Jonathan Yates was out to dinner in Houston with his wife and childhood sweetheart Amy when he received the news that he was traded by the Houston Texans to the Atlanta Falcons on Wednesday night.

The former Pope High standout, who went on to star at North Carolina, was elated.

Yates, who was named the 2010 Tar Heel of the Year, was one of three recipients of the school’s Patterson Medal for career athletic accomplishment. Yates finished with 9,377 yards and 58 touchdowns. He set more than 40 school records, including every mark for single-season and career pass completions and yards.

After flying to Atlanta, visiting Flowery Branch and returning to Houston, Yates gave The Atlanta Journal-Constitution a phone interview about the trade and how he plans to start reading his playbook immediately.

Here’s what Yates had to say on his first day with the Falcons:

Q: When did you hear about the trade?

A: I was leaving Chipotle with my wife. I'd just got a Burrito. I got the news about 8:30 central time last night. It was awesome news. It was great news for me and my wife. We get to go home and be around our families. Go to a great organization. Man, I couldn't be more happier or more excited about going to the Falcons.

Q: What do you remember about beating the Falcons 17-10 in your first NFL start back in 2011?

A: That was definitely a whirlwind. It was the week after I'd gotten into a game for the first. It was my first start. My first time playing in front of the home fans in Houston. It was a good day for my career and a good day for the Texans because that win kind of got the ball rolling for the rest of that season. It got us headed toward the playoffs. It was a good day. I was definitely nervous. The Falcons were rolling at that time. We knew it was going to be a tough task ahead of us. It was a good team win. We had all aspects of the game. The defense definitely helped a lot. They helped me ease into my first start in the NFL. It was a great day.

Q: What happened the last two seasons in Houston for you?

A: Going back to my rookie year, beating Atlanta definitely helped me with a lot of confidence going forward and with moving our team throughout the rest of the year. We made our first playoff appearance here in Houston. We got our first playoff win and we kind of used that as momentum to build on for the next season. We made it to the playoffs again and had a disappointing loss up in New England. The Texans and The Falcons' seasons the past two years were very similar. We were both leaders in our divisions and had a lot of promise going throughout the season (in 2012.) We were both 11-1 at one point and looking to make a run. Then everything just flip-flopped (in 2013). It was injuries in Atlanta and all types of stuff that happened here in Houston. Things just kind of flip-flopped. It's interesting when you know that you have a great football team, but just nothing is going right and a lot of things are happening the wrong way. It was definitely an eye-opener. It was a humbling thing to be on such a high for a couple of years and then to come right back down to where you're in the top six in the draft. You can learn a lot of from a winning season and going to the playoffs. You can learn a whole lot from a losing season. You can learn from both situations. Good or bad. There are a lot of things that you can take from a losing season, like a lot of things not to do again. You'll know how to do things differently that second time around so that stuff like that doesn't happen. I've learned a lot over my three years in the NFL. I've been through a lot of situations like having winning seasons, a losing season and being thrown into the fire my rookie year. Every situation that I've been in, I've learned from it and I've gotten better from it

Q: When did you leave for Atlanta?

A: I left (Thursday) morning. Went and got a physical. Went to the facility and met all of the coaches. I got to meet a few of the players as they were breaking for the summer. I took a tour of the facility and I'm already back in Houston. I caught a quick flight in and a quick flight out. I actually had planned to take a little vacation. …I'm definitely excited to get into this playbook, even though I can't talk to the coaches for the next couple of weeks until training camp. I'll be inside and out of that playbook, trying to learn as much as I can before I hit the field.

Q: Did the coaches give you some direction on how to attack the playbook?

A: We didn't get into too much detail. Just the basic stuff. It's so much information to receive at one time. I'm going to have to break it up and learn it in parts, go through practice scripts and learn as much as I can. I'll write all of my questions down. I'm going to have a notebook full of questions for the coaches when I get there. I'm going to do my best to learn as much as I can over this next month. Then I'll try to hit the ground running when I get to training camp.

Q: Did they tell you that you were the No. 2 quarterback now?

A: I saw that they released Dominique (Davis). I haven't had a chance to meet all of the guys really. I saw Matt (Ryan) and one of the other players. I'm ready to come in and do whatever I can to help this team out. Whether if it's the No. 2 or whatever. I'm coming in to do whatever I can to make this team better and help this team win. I'm excited for the opportunity. I can't tell you how happy me and my family were last night when I found out I was coming back home. I'm ready to get to going.

Q: Did you call your parents, Carol and John, first?

A: I couldn't even get a hold of my Dad because he's out of the country on business. …It was an exciting time for us last night. I had a great time meeting all of the coaches and being in the facility today. I'm pumped up and ready to work.