ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Broncos' trip to Atlanta to take on the Falcons on Monday Night Football will be one of the NFL's most anticipated matchups of Week 2.
For four Broncos players – linebackers Wesley Woodyard and Keith Brooking, cornerback Champ Bailey and wide receiver Demaryius Thomas -- the Falcons game takes on added importance because it will be played in front of family and friends. Brooking, Woodyard, Bailey and Thomas were all standouts during their high school football days in Georgia.
For Brooking, he's returning to where he grew up, played in college and also to the stadium he called home for the first 11 seasons of his NFL career.
Before beginning his career with the Washington Redskins in 1999, Bailey was a standout at Charlton County High School in Folkston, Ga. and the University of Georgia. Bailey said playing so close to home at this point in his career will make Monday a special night.
"I've got a lot of family that are going to be at the game, so it's a little special to me," Bailey said. "This might be my last time I'm going to play in my home state, so I took full advantage of making sure everybody that I cared about was there."
At this point, Bailey is unsure what his emotions will be like during pregame. But he knows that seeing his family members in the stands prior to kickoff will affect him.
"I don't know," Bailey said of how he will react. "I'll see when I get there. When I see all the fans and people that I know—there are people that I've had in my family that will be there, so there's a lot of reasons to put something special on this one."
Thomas played college football in Atlanta at Georgia Tech. Though he grew up just a few hours from the Georgia Dome in Montrose, Ga., Thomas has only played in the Falcons' home stadium once. Thomas has heard from a number of friends and family members hoping to see his second appearance in the Dome.
"I think I've got about 40 so far," Thomas said. "I still have people asking. Mostly my family, though. A couple friends."
Thomas said he's looking forward to playing in front of a number of people who have yet to see him play in the NFL firsthand.
"It's important," Thomas said. "A lot of people can't get to come out here and watch me play. Most of the time it's on TV. To be able to play in front of them and them seeing it live – it's very important they finally get to see me."
Woodyard played his high school football in LaGrange, Ga., before attending college at the University of Kentucky. Like Thomas and Brooking, Woodyard's excited to play in front of family and friends.
"I know my mom is going to be in the stands so I'll most definitely give it my all," Woodyard said. "She loves to see her baby boy play so I'm excited to get out there in front of my mom and play."
For Woodyard's last trip to Atlanta, he estimates that 75 friends and relatives were able to see him. He's also looking forward to a home-cooked meal.
"My aunts do all the cooking so they'll bring me a plate," Woodyard added. "I'm also excited to get me some of that home cookin'. They're excited. It's a big family thing for us. Everybody can't see their family play in the NFL, so it's an exciting event for us."