Former Penn football linebacker Brandon Copeland has signed a one-year contract to play for the Atlanta Falcons during the 2021 NFL season.
After stints with five different NFL teams, Copeland joins a retooling Falcons squad that has had three consecutive seasons with a losing record. During his free agency period, Copeland saw interest from the New York Giants as well, but wound up choosing Atlanta instead.
The deal is expected to be worth somewhere around the veteran minimum, and it appears likely that it came about in part due to a recommendation from new Falcons’ linebackers coach Frank Bush, who coached Copeland with the Jets.
In his time at Penn, Copeland was a major contributor to the football team, helping lead the Quakers to Ivy League Championships in 2009, 2010, and 2012. In his final season, Copeland served as senior captain.
After his time at Penn, Copeland went undrafted but was signed by the Baltimore Ravens and also spent some time with both the Tennessee Titans and the Orlando Predators of the Arena Football League.
He returned to the NFL in 2015 and played for the Detroit Lions for two seasons, but a torn pectoral kept Copeland sidelined in 2017. The following year, Copeland played in all 16 games for the Jets, garnering 34 tackles and five sacks.
After being suspended for the first four games of the 2019 season for violating the league's performance-enhancing substance policy, Copeland was reinstated and played the remaining 12 games of the Jets' season.
His final stop before his new deal came with the Patriots, where he had a solid start to the season but suffered another pectoral injury in Week 7 and would not play again for the remainder of the year.
On top of his dedication to football, Copeland has also returned to Penn to create and teach a course about financial literacy and wellness that he refers to as “Life 101.” The course is titled “Urban Financial Literacy: Pedagogy and Practice,” and he’s teaching it this semester alongside Dr. Brian Peterson, director of Makuu: The Black Cultural Center.
Recently, Copeland was named to the 2021 Forbes 30 Under 30 Sports list. The mention came in part due to his teaching work at Penn, but also due to his community involvement, which includes Beyond the Basics, a non-profit organization that focuses on youth empowerment.
For his charitable work, Copeland was awarded the NFLPA Community MVP award in both 2019 and 2020 and the Alan Page Community Award in 2020. The 30 Under 30 honor also came in part due to his business acumen, as he operates two different real estate companies on top of all his other responsibilities.
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