James Smejkal was only 5 years old the last time he saw the Atlanta Falcons in the Super Bowl, but he remembers it well.
This time around, the Mercer law student is expecting a different outcome than the 1999 game Atlanta lost to Denver after the 1998 season. He wore quarterback Matt Ryan’s jersey as he sat with friends at Bearfoot Tavern on Sunday in Macon and watched his team whip Green Bay in the NFC title game.
“I think Matty Ice is going to show out in two weeks,” he said. “He’s going to show Tom Brady or Ben Roethlisberger how it is done. ... I think this is going to be the year.”
Lifelong Falcons fan Matthew Hammock was also watching the game at Bearfoot.
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“I’m still kind of in shock right now,” he said as the final seconds ticked off. “I can’t really believe it. It’s been a longtime coming, that’s for sure.”
He said he would be optimistic about the Falcons’ chances whether they play the Pittsburgh Steelers or the New England Patriots, who faced off later Sunday in the AFC championship game.
“They’ve won too many, so it’s our time,” Hammock said.
He was 8 years old when Atlanta lost its only other Super Bowl appearance.
“I remember losing, and I remember my dad cussing a lot,” he said.
Rodney Rozier was driving back to his home in Atlanta with his wife when they stopped at Bearfoot to watch the game.
“It was awesome,” he said. “We are going to win it all.”
He goes to two or three games each year but was not optimistic about this season.
“I was just hoping we would have a winning record,” he said. “I never expected this.”
Carson Chang, of Macon, said he likes the way the Falcons have played this year.
“They’ve used a lot of rookie talent to win and I’m just super excited about it,” he said. “I just think we’ve got all the tools needed to win the Super Bowl.”