ATLANTA, Ga. - What do you get when you mix four first time dads with four newborn babies, add in one football team and give them one very big win? You have an unbreakable bond and recipe for friendship that no one even knew was possible.
By now most people have seen the photo of the 'Four Falcons Dads' and their sons posted on Piedmont Atlanta Hospital's Facebook page. But few know the story behind the picture that took place on Sunday afternoon, the day the Atlanta Falcons beat the Dallas Cowboys 39-28.
New father, Chris Harris (seen second from the right in the group photo) claimed his ordeal began on Thursday when his wife Shalonda called him from a doctors appointment and told him she was going to be admitted to the hospital. Harris, an Atlanta Fire Fighter with Station 21, was on duty at the time of that call.
As a man, who's job is to drive and maneuver the large fire engines and trucks, Harris said he's not usually nervous behind the wheel, but claimed he quickly left his fellow fire fighters at the station and took a heart racing ride to Piedmont Hospital. After being induced Thursday night, his wife Shalonda gave birth to an 8lb 5oz boy, Perry O'Dell, at 3:17 a.m. on Saturday, September 26.
The proud papa said he's already got fatherhood down pat "I've already changed a bunch of diapers. I've been doing feedings and not getting a lot of sleep."
New Father, Rashaad Reeves (pictured on the far left) said his story wasn't as dramatic as Harris. His wife, Laurin was actually eight days overdue by the time his son came into the world. The IT manager told FOX 5 doctors decided to induce Laurin on Friday and 18 hours later she gave birth to 6lb 15oz Ryland Levi, at 10:44 a.m. on Saturday.
"I brought the Falcons onesie to the hospital so that he could wear it on Sunday. I was so excited for us to watch our first game together," said the proud dad. "His mom is actually from Chicago. So she's a Chicago Bears fan. We're a house divided,"
Reeves was gifted the onesie at their baby shower from a family member so Laurin didn't have to betray her team alliances. Harris is in a similar situation only his house is even more divided.
"My wife is a New Orleans Saints fan," he claimed. Now that is a tough household to be in on game day!
New father Mark Edwards (pictured second from the left in the group photo) said his baby boy came a week early, and that he and his wife Kristen had just finished running a bunch of errands on Saturday when she turned to him and said "Something just feels different. Let's go for a walk."
So the pair went for a four mile walk! Edwards said his wife is quite athletic and was running and walking up to eight miles a day through 37 weeks. But she knew this trek was different, and it was. They later ended up in the hospital and after a few pushes, little Cannon Elliot shot out like his name sake at 2:56 a.m. on Sunday.
"It was no surprise that he was born on game day. Kristen is a big Falcons fan," said Edwards. "Going to a Falcons game was actually on her bucket list of things to do before the baby came. So at 37 weeks we attended the Monday night game against the Philadelphia Eagles."
Edwards claimed it was hours later that he and Kristen were walking the halls of the maternity ward when they ran into Harris, decked out in a Falcons jersey and looking at his son through the viewing window. Kristen said the guys immediately hit it off discovering they lived only a few miles apart and their beautiful wives both worked for Piedmont Hospital of Atlanta, only in different departments.
"Later that day I was in our recovery room watching the game with my wife and it was too funny. Chris came knocking on our door like 'can Mark come out and play?' He wanted to know if I could come and watch the game with him and some other dads."
New father Lawrence Sturkey (pictured on the far right in the group photo) claimed the whole process was emotional for him and his wife Josie.
The first time father said the two of them went to the doctor Thursday for their 40 week checkup and the doctors decided to admit Josie to the hospital. More than 30 hours later, his 6lb 7oz son McCoy Lawson was born at 7:06 p.m. on Saturday.
"I teared up a bit. It was pretty amazing," said Sturkey. "I told myself I'm going to stay above the curtain and not go below. I'm just going to help with the emotional and breathing. But then the doctor told me to grab a leg and I said OK and the next thing I knew I was holding my son."
Natives of Atlanta, Lawrence and Josie are hardcore Falcon fans. So when Sunday afternoon rolled around, Lawrence said he was watching the Falcons game with his wife and sleeping son in her room. However he found himself jumping up, cheering in whispers and even running out of the room to yell and scream. So he wondered if there was another place to watch the game. So he wandered the halls. That's when he ran into Chris, Rashaad and Mark.
The guys looked at themselves, all dressed in Falcons fan gear and knew this was no coincidence, this was meant to be. So they found a TV room, had the nurses wheel their sons out to join them and all eight of them watched the second half together.
"It was an amazing game. It was Arthur Blank's birthday," said Harris.
"I think our sons were definitely the lucky charm that helped with the win," added Reeves.
"I know this is going to be a story I'll tell my son over and over. Every birthday, every game. He'll be so sick of this story. Ha, he'll have the story of his first game memorized," stated Edwards.
"That was an amazing win," admits Sturkey. " I couldn't have plan a better game. All of us dads, we agreed to stick together, keep in touch and maybe go watch a Falcons game together."
The dads also hope that their boys will grow up together, be lifelong friends and of course Falcons Fans for life!