Many football fans outside of Atlanta don’t know a lot about Falcons defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux. He’s not a house hold name like some of the other defensive tackles in the league like Chris Canty, Darnell Dockett, Albert Haynesworth, Ndamukong Suh, and others. But Babineaux has been a solid defensive tackle for the Falcons –recording 238 tackles, 19 sacks and seven forced fumbles over the past eight seasons.
Babineaux does more than just sack quarterbacks and topple running backs. He also give back to the Atlanta community and to his community back home in Port Arthur, Texas.
Since September 2008, Babineaux has donated to more than 61 charities, foundations, at-risk schools and non-profit organizations that serve the medically-fragile or underserved adults and children of Atlanta. Jonathan has received awards for his volunteer activities from the Atlanta City Council and Celebration of Excellence for graduates who are from foster care for his volunteer activities.
He and his brother, Jordan – who plays safety for the Tennessee Titans, have a foundation, Babineaux Family Foundation. The brother created the organization in 2005 to facilitate community development and research for lupus.
I had the opportunity to talk with Badineaux on Saturday at the 6th annual DTRL Football Clinic in Atlanta where he and Chicago Bears Chauncey Davis and former Baltimore Ravens player Daniel Wilcox offered kids hands on skills.
Badineaux talked about his involvement with the camp, the Falcons and the upcoming season, his foundation, and being one of the executive producers of T.D. Jakes’s movie “Woman Thou Art Loose: On The 7th Day.”
I’m actually going on my third year with this camp. I was invited three years ago and asked to participate and give a helping hand with Chauncey Davis and Daniel Wilcox. Ever since then I’ve been hitting the ground running with them every year. Making sure we’re doing the right thing for the little kids, giving back to them, making sure they have the fundamentals of football and know what it takes to develop the right skills and be able to compete on a high level.
What are some of the skills that you are personally teaching the kids?
You really want them to finish. You want them to be able to push themselves when its hot outside and they feel like mentally they can’t go on but if you tell your mind, the body will follow. We’re just trying to energize and keep them energetic in what they are doing and make sure they’re not giving up. Even though when its hot and they’e tired you got to continue to push. That’s the only way you’re going to make yourself better in this game.
The league is pushing player safety among the NFL. How are you implementing that with the kids? Its hot out here and when they get hot they get tired and they’re minds are telling them to stop. How are you implementing safety?
Hydration is the key. You can’t come out here and hydrate when you start sweating. You got to do it before hand. You got to do it before you leave the house, before you practice. The league always stress on that. Every time we finish practice we need to get a lot of ounces [of water] back in our bodies to make sure we’re recovered for the next practice. So, its no different for anybody else. They got to make sure they are hydrated and well-hydrated before they come out to practice. Continue to hydrate during practice and even after.
Besides football skills what are some other aspects that you hope the kids will get out of this clinic?
Understanding leadership skills. It takes a lot to be a leader. A leader don’t always have to be an example of talking but a leader have to be an example of doing it and doing it the right way. So, I think I am that type of person where I don’t speak a lot but I do rely on what I put out shows a lot more than what I’m saying. So, I do my best to make sure that I’m leading by example at all times and making sure that the guys looking up to me follow in my foot steps and do the right things.
Last season ended on a sour note with another early exit from the playoffs. And last season you had to miss a few games due to injury. What have you done this offseason to improve your skills and help yourself to get 100 percent healthy?
I feel good. My body feel good. I had a lot of time to recover from the injuries I had last season. I’m looking forward to a good season this year. I’ve just been working a lot on my core and making sure my core is legit. Any type of movement that you do in football it all starts with the core. So, as long as the strength of the core is up to where it needs to be I think you can be able to do any move anyway possible. Some times I be out there on the field and I be figuring out how did I do that move. But its all in the process of working out, making sure your body is in shape. That is the key. You got to make sure your body can withstand endurance. You got to be able to withstand anything. Its unfortunate. Its apart of the game – that people get injured. So, when you get injured you got to make sure that you come back as fast as you can, but make sure you’re healthy at the same time. I’m looking forward to the 2012 season. I can’t wait. I’m looking forward to getting not just into the playoffs but winning deep into the playoff and possibly getting a ring this year. Our goals and expectations are always going to be high here at the Falcons.
Some changes were made in the Falcons coaching staff with the hiring of defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. What was your reaction to the hiring of Nolan?
I really didn’t know too much about Mike before he got here. I know he was the head coach at San Francisco for a few years and defensive coordinator for year in and year out around the league. But as I got to know Mike this off season – he’s a great guy, understands the game at a high level and what I’ve been taught the last few years. So, I’m just always looking to get better and understanding the game year in and year out. With a lot of talent out there I think Mike is going to put us in the best position to win games. And I’m just looking forward to his aggressiveness and how he plays the game and the style he likes to play.
How is Nolan’s scheme different from former defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder’s scheme? Does it personally help you as far as the plays, getting to the quarterback and getting a high number of sacks and tackles as well?
We’re still in the 4-3 defense, which we were in the past few years. Nothing has changed. We have a few different wrinkles that’s in and we got some key guys that we added this offseason that’s going to help us along the way. And really its all about playing. You can write up all the schemes you want to. If your players are not going out there producing and doing the right things you’ll never win. So, its all on the players to learn this new scheme and be able to do the necessary things to win.
Do you think the coaching changes – with new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter and Nolan – were the missing pieces? Will they help the team get over the playoff hump and bring the Lombardi trophy to Atlanta?
I really can’t say that. It all boils down to that they can coach us all day long but its always up to the players to produce it and do the right things. But I will say this, I think everybody is rejuvenated around the facility now with the new offensive coordinator and new defensive coordinator. Our expectations are always to the sky, so we’re not going to limit ourselves to a few things. We’re going into the season with our heads held high and we’re going to be looking forward to hosting that Lombardi trophy at the end of the season.
Do you think this is the year that will happen?
I don’t see why not. I think we have a good core group of guys that have been together the last five years and we’ve been to the playoffs three out of the past four years. So, we know we can get there. We know we can play against anybody but its time to take that next step. Like I’ve been saying all offseason its time for us to swallow and get past that first round in the playoffs and get that win in the playoffs. We’re a good team. I just think that we be selling ourselves short once we get to the playoffs. We just got to find that edge and continue to have momentum going into the playoffs and be able to continue to win into the playoffs and on to the championship game.
Babineaux Family Foundation
Its something that nobody tackles. It seems like everyone was going after the same thing, different foundations going after the same thing. So we wanted to do something different. Nobody in our family has lupus so we just wanted to do something totally different and try to get awareness on what this disease is. Its common in women especially minority women. We just wanted to make sure that anyway we can help the community besides the way other people are doing it. We wanted to do something to be able to help the community in our own special way. That’s why we came up with the decision to tackle lupus and try to be able to have an understanding on what it does to the body and make sure people are aware of this deadly disease.
About two years ago me and my brother had the opportunity to sit down with a businessman out in California who is pretty much big in the urban industry as far as comedy. And that’s how we came about it. Ever since then we’ve been rolling, doing comedy shows and doing our first movie with Bishop T.D. Jakes, “Woman Thou Art Loose: On The 7th Day.” We’re just trying to expand ourselves not just to football but to everything. We don’t want to limit ourselves to anything. We want to be able to do any and everything that we’re able to.
How has that experience been?
Our first movie [Woman Thou Art Loose: On The 7th Day] came out mid-April of this year and we did well in theaters so,we’re looking forward to the DVD release that’s coming out soon. We got some other projects in the working right now. The sky is the limit for us. We know what we can do and knowing that we’re in good company…I think we’ll be alright. Its just a different element besides football but its something different to rely besides football. You can’t play football forever. We’re just trying to expand ourselves in so many ways.
Could this be a post football career for you?
Yeah, why not? I think I’m in the transition of doing that now. I’m still playing but you can’t just wait until you’re ready to retire then decide to do something. I’m feeling it out and I think I like it a lot so hopefully I’ll be involved in a lot of movies coming out by being an executive producers.