Montana State

Patience helped Mike Person earn a chance to start in Atlanta

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Patience has led to perseverance for Mike Person.

The former Montana State All-America offensive lineman heard his name called in the seventh round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers. That moment changed the Glendive native’s life, both as a lifelong dream realized and as the beginning of an odyssey that has tried his fortitude more than once.

Person spent the 2011 season on the 49ers practice squad before being released in August of 2012. He signed with the Indianapolis Colts only to be released 10 days later. The 6-foot-4, 300-pounder signed with the Seattle Seahawks in September of 2012 and was promoted to the active roster by the end of October. By September of 2013, he was out of a job again.

“It definitely gets frustrating and tough because when they only dress 46 guys and you are not in that top 46, you are still on the 53 but you aren’t on that top 46, it’s so frustrating because you are right there and you just want to play,” Person said in an interview in July. “It got tough there for awhile but then I saw the light at the end of the tunnel and keep plugging along.”

It didn’t last long as he signed with the St. Louis Rams. He spent his first season with the Rams on the practice squad before finally winning a spot on the active roster before last season. In March, his contract with St. Louis tempPerson_Mike_0313--nfl_mezz_1280_1024expired, making him an unrestricted free agent. It’s a tenuous situation for someone with so little game experience with newfound NFL veteran status. But Person found himself in a position he hadn’t yet been in during his NFL career: he was finally a wanted man.

After spending an entire season on an active roster, Person had film to show teams his talents. Earlier this summer, Person signed a three-year, $3.5 million contract with the Atlanta Falcons. He received a $500,000 signing bonus and $500,000 in guaranteed money to go with an average salary of $1.12 million.

“It’s absolutely affirmation,” Person said. “That’s what you want to do: you want to play. I didn’t play at all my first three years and then sparingly last year. Now it’s just making that push to get over that hump and become a starter in this league.”

The contract capped an off-season of happiness for Mike and his wife, Kelly Ann (Schepp) Person. On June 26, the couple welcomed their first son, Sean Michael Person, into the family. The couple met in 2012 in San Francisco so Kelly has been part of Mike’s constant moving. He said he couldn’t be more thankful for his supportive wife.

As the Falcons heat up one of the country’s most temperate training camps — Person said the Atlanta heat lives up to the legend and then some — Person finds himself in a roasting battle for playing time.

“Right now, I’m playing both guards and center,” said Person, who played right tackle as a sophomore and junior and left tackle as a senior at Montana State. “I’m going into training camp as the starting left guard. Throughout training camp, I’ll bounce around and play a bunch of different positions. It’s an open competition for the left guard spot. There are three or four other guys competing for a starting spot. I’m going to do my damndest to hold on to it.”

With Jon Asamoah on the shelf with an undisclosed injury, Person is battling Chris Chester for the starting job at left guard. Person has now played every position on the offensive line.

mike-person“It’s super difficult because your body gets so used to being in one stance. You have to flip everything over in your mind. It’s definitely difficult. That spring before my senior year when I moved to left tackle, that spring I was terrible (laughs).”

“Last year during the preseason, I played all tackle, guard and center in one game. I started out at left guard, moved to left tackle and finished at center. Switching your mind to each different position can be tough. That’s what you have to do to stick around in this league.”

Person counts his time spent playing for Jason McEndoo at Montana State as one of the most crucial cogs to his development. McEndoo, who spent a few seasons bouncing around the NFL before taking a job at MSU in 2003, continues to mentor Person to this day. Person said having someone who understood his situation helped keep him pushing to stay in the league.

“He went through the exact same things I was going through so I had someone I could talk to who knew exactly what I was saying,” Person said. “It was crucial for me to keep on playing. He helped me so, so much.”

Now McEndoo has moved on, taking a job as the fullbacks and tight ends coach on Mike Gundy’s staff at Oklahoma State. Montana State will have a new offensive line coach for the first time in 12 seasons. Person said he knew McEndoo would move on some day that that “his exceptional coaching style will thrive” in Stillwater.

As for this year’s Bobcats, Person said he keeps up as much as he can. He got himself a DirecTV package so he can watch all Montana State’s games on ROOT Sports this season.

But nothing, not even the Bobcats will take precedent over his current pursuit. Person wants to hold on to his starting job and he wants to prove the faith the Falcons put in him is well justified. He’ll have five weeks leading up to the opening of the NFL season to prove himself.

“I’m trying to take it day by day,” Person said. “I’m focused on Practice No. 1. Once that practice is over, I’m worrying about the next day. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself with these important four or five weeks in front of me. I’m just going to be patient and take my time.”

 

Photos courtesy of Mike Person and Atlanta Falcons.

About Brooks Nuanez

Brooks Nuanez, Director of Operations — Brooks is the co-founder, senior photographer and Director of Operations for Skyline Sports. He is a life-long athlete who enjoys the fierce nature of sports as much as he enjoys the sweet harmony of music. Brooks first gained an interest for photography at a young age, and grew that passion into a craft. Brooks has spent most of his life in Montana, instilling a love for the mountains and the wildlife. The University of Montana alum spent parts of three seasons as a safety for the Grizzly football team while earning a degree in business management, honing his passion for craft beer, people and his entrepreneurial spirit. In July of 2015, Brooks married his lifelong love, Kaila. Brooks currently works as the regional sales manager for George's Distribution. He and Kaila live happily in Bozeman with their sons Ellis (4) and Leo (1). Brooks can be reached at Brooks.nuanez@gmail.com and followed on Twitter @Brooksnuanez and @SkylineSportsMT.

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