Being raised about 15 minutes outside of Dallas, Texas, one would expect Falcons wide receiver Taylor Gabriel to be a huge Cowboys fan.
However, that is not the case.
“No I actually didn’t grow up a Cowboys fan,” Gabriel said. “I wasn’t really into football growing up, fan wise.”
Gabriel’s main focus was playing the sport. A three-sport athlete at John Horn High School, he was an all-state receiver his senior year while leading his school to its first playoff appearance in history.
Upon graduation, Gabriel moved a few hours west of Dallas as he signed to play football at Abilene Christian University. There he would continue to shine, finishing with 215 receptions, which ranks second in school history. Despite his production, he was overlooked in the 2014 NFL draft and eventually signed with Cleveland as an undrafted free agent.
Four years later Gabriel is a mainstay in the Falcons offense and is now looking ahead to his first career game against his hometown team. To him, the key to the game will be execution.
“Nothing outside of what we did last week but every opportunity just execute,” Gabriel said, “I feel like if we go out there and do what we been doing but execute on it we’ll make plays.”
What Gabriel and the Falcons are up against is a Cowboys team (now without Ezekiel Elliott) that’s heading in the opposite direction of Atlanta. Dallas has won three in a row while Atlanta’s lost four of five. However, Atlanta can take advantage of Dallas’ pass defense, which ranks near the middle of the league at 15th. Gabriel believes the heightened intensity at practice this week will do them justice on Sunday.
“The difference I feel like this week we’re on it,” Gabriel said, “The little details in walkthroughs, the little details in the meeting room so I feel like this week will be a good week.”
With Gabriel being from Dallas he has a large amount of family members coming to watch the game, close to 20 in total. He doesn’t expect any extra emotions about playing in this game though.
“Just a regular game, can’t be any bigger than the Super Bowl,” Gabriel said, “Just another game, have to treat it as such.”