ATLANTA - The Falcons addressed a position of need by drafting Atlanta native A.J. Terrell No. 16 overall in the 2020 NFL Draft.
It's a homecoming for the former Westlake High star.
"Of course playing for the Falcons, that came across my mind a lot, you know, dreams coming to reality, but you've always got to put in work," Terrell said. "I was nervous when I got the call. My hands were sweating, but I got the call, just answered it. I had both headphones on, but I couldn't really hear what they were saying, but I knew they was talking that good talk and I was ready to throw on the hat and just represent."
He had a feeling about the Falcons, too.
"Everybody on our virtual call had a good talk," Terrell said. "So I did have a good feeling for them. It means a lot definitely for my high school, for me, my family. I know it means a lot. It's a surreal moment. I feel honored and grateful for the opportunity, and I'm ready to get to work."
The 6-foot-1, 195-pounder ran the 40-yard dash in 4.42 seconds at the NFL Combine and is the ninth corner drafted from Clemson since 2010.
With Desmond Trufant no longer on the roster, Terrell has a chance to contribute as soon as he can.
"I'll fit anywhere they need me to," he said. "Personally I feel like I'm going to come in and make an impact and make my presence felt. I already got a winning gene inside me. Being able to adapt to the culture and join the brotherhood and make it what it's supposed to be, make it great."
He started all 15 games of the Tigers' 2018 national championship season, notching 54 tackles, two for loss, seven pass breakups and two forced fumbles that season. Last year, he was a first-team all-ACC player as Clemson fell in the 2019 national title game. He again started all 15 contests, with 37 tackles, two interceptions and six pass breakups.
Terrell owns six career interceptions, including a 44-yard pick-six against Tua Tagovailoa in that 2018 national championship game against Alabama.
After watching Matt Ryan and Julio Jones connect on touchdown passes his whole life, Terrell will now go against them in practice as a pro.
"That's going to be great, definitely looking forward to the opportunity," he said. "I'm ready for it, coming in to compete and just giving them my best and I know they're going to give me theirs, so just coming in and competing and not being satisfied and like I said, getting my respect."
He was a five-star recruit and top-15 overall prospect before heading to Clemson.
He is now the eleventh former Westlake star playing in the NFL now.
His high school coach said he already carried himself like a pro back in his Westlake days.
"He's what you want in terms of a professional at that level now where he's going to be at," Kareem Reid said. "As a high school kid, I could always depend on him to make sure he was in class, doing what he needed to do, both academically and on the field. He just led by example a lot. He kind of set the standard and the tone for everybody else on our team and in our program."