I turned 23 on Tuesday, and I don’t think my birthday could have been any better. Everything worked out perfectly. First off, we got a win on Sunday, and it’s always a good week after a win. But then my birthday fell on our off day, which was nice, and I celebrated by going out to eat with the ol’ lady then hitting the Drake concert here in Nashville with my fellow DBs.
Then I went home and went to bed.
Practice in the morning, you know?
But yeah, it was perfect. I have a feeling 23 is gonna be a good year. And I’m going to start it off with this Players’ Tribune Mailbag right here.
Let’s see what you guys wanna talk about.
Why #25? – @ciaran_flanagan33
So, let me take you through the evolution of my jersey number. It starts back in East St. Louis when I was playing Pop Warner. I was in fifth grade, and I had this friend named Jeremiah Radford. We played for a team called the Belleville Little Knights, and we had a little LenDale White-Reggie Bush thing going on with him being the big power back and me being the smaller, more elusive guy. The movie Cars had just come out, so my nickname was Lightning McQueen and Jeremiah’s was Thunder.
Jeremiah’s favorite player was LaDainian Tomlinson, so he wore number 21, just like LT.
Jeremiah and I were really tight. He was one of my best friends. Then, when we were freshmen in high school, Jeremiah passed away from cancer.
Not long after that, I moved to California, and I wore number 21, to honor Jeremiah.
I wanted to wear number 21 at USC, but when I got there, Su’a Cravens already had it, and I knew he wasn’t gonna give it to me. He had worn it in high school, too, and there was a significance behind it for him.
So I wore number 2.
When the Titans drafted me, I wanted to go back to 21. But Da’Norris Searcy already had it, and he has a reason behind it as well. The team told me I had two options: 25 or 28.
So I’m thinking, O.K., Titans … number 28 … Chris Johnson. I could do that.
Then I remembered that LenDale White wore 25 in Tennessee. So I called him up and asked him if I could wear his number 25, and he was all for it.
It actually worked out perfectly because I got to represent a fellow Trojan in LenDale, and 25 was the combo of my number in college (2) and Reggie Bush’s number at USC (5). And Reggie had always been my favorite player.
So 25 it is.
But no matter what number I’m wearing, I’m always out there representing Jeremiah.
Who’s the best receiver in the NFL? – @caleb.katz
Oh, man … that’s hard to say because I like a lot of different receivers. I like the get-by receivers like Julio Jones and A.J. Green. I like the small, quick guys like Antonio Brown and the finesse guys like Odell Beckham. It’s so hard to pick just one.
Let me put it this way: If I was a GM right now, and I was starting a team, the first receiver I would pick would be Odell. I love the swag he brings, the emotion he plays with, his tenacity. He can run all the routes on the route tree, he does a little returning, and he has those great hands.
Yeah, I’d take Odell.
Do you have a daily routine that motivates you? – @peterson.ovo
I wouldn’t say I have a daily routine, or anything I do daily that motivates me. I mean, I wake up, brush my teeth, go to meetings, go to practice, watch film, work out — all the routine stuff I gotta do for work.
I do get a lot of free time, though. I watch a lot of Netflix, a lot of Food Network, a lot of reality shows. I like The Bachelorette, and I just watched Bachelor in Paradise for the first time so I’m into that kind of stuff.
And I play video games. I’ve never really been a Madden guy, but Fortnite and NBA2K are my go-tos. They’re pretty much the two hottest games out right now.
My Fortnite game is pretty decent, too. I’m not the best, but I’m not the worst, either. I feel like the sixth man, you know? I can speed it up when you need a spark but don’t count on me to be on the starting line. That’s not my job. I just come off the bench and do my thing and get the clutch kills.
Anything to help the team lol.
I don’t think I really answered your question, but I guess I don’t really have any daily routines that motivate me. I just try to do my job every day and enjoy life as much as I can.
James Kenney/AP Images
Who’s your favorite CB? – @thesaucegodmemes
We talking past or present?
Right now, it’s gotta be Pat Peterson. I liked LSU a lot growing up, and I remember watching him and Tyrann Mathieu ball out. They were two of my favorites.
And past guys … I would say Deion Sanders and Charles Woodson. They both wore number 21, so I liked that, and they played on both sides of the ball. I always looked at myself as a two-way player who could get back there and return kicks, and the fact that those guys could do all three, I respected that.
What is your pregame ritual? – @mikesimeone12
I listen to a whole bunch of Drake. Marvin’s Room or Jaded on his new album. I don’t listen to rah-rah music. I like soft music before I play because I don’t like to be too pumped up. I just listen to the melodies, the flows. I like to be relaxed when I take the field.
I also read my favorite scripture two or three times before every game: Psalm 23.
Then, right before the game, I pray — ask the Lord to remove all the nerves and jitters I may have so I can go out there and play fast and free and have fun.
What was your favorite year of pee wee football? – @Henrichs211
I would say my first year, fifth grade. We had three different pee wee teams in our area, so we had a draft. We had an actual tryout — like a combine — and then the coaches picked their players.
I was the first pick.
I had never even played football before. I had been playing basketball and soccer. I didn’t even want to play. I didn’t think football was for me at all. But I had this friend in elementary school named Cody, and he showed me two highlight tapes: Reggie Bush’s from USC, and Cody Paul’s, which you might remember because it went viral back in the day:
I saw Cody Paul’s tape and I thought, O.K., I can do that.
So I went home and told my dad to sign me up.
I wanted to wear number 5 because after I saw that Reggie Bush highlight tape, he became my favorite player. But I couldn’t get 5 — I don’t remember why. So the coach told me to take 25 because that’s what Reggie was wearing with the Saints.
That was actually the first time I wore 25. It was my original number.
My dad was my biggest critic and my biggest fan. That first year playing pee wee, he made me a deal that if I scored three touchdowns in a game, he would take me to Dave & Buster’s.
And I was scoring touchdowns like crazy, so we were going to Dave & Buster’s like every week. It was pretty sweet.
At one point he had to stop taking me. I guess he got tired of spending all that money ?
Our team wasn’t really that good. Out of the three in the area, we were probably the weakest. But I think we had the most fun because of the relationships we built. It was a bunch of guys I already knew, but a lot of new guys I got to meet, too. I had a lot of good friends on that team in fifth grade. We played with each other for the next four years, then we all went and played in high school together.
I always thought that was pretty neat.
Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty Images
Why did they take kick returns away from you? You’re on another level with that ish….. – @DHforHOF
It wasn’t that the Titans took returns away from me. It was more of them asking me if I liked returning punts or kicks more, and I chose punts. I fell in love with punt returns watching Devin Hester do it — that dude was phenomenal. So I always favored them over kickoffs.
Also, I had seen Darius Jennings in practice, and I told the coaches, “Man, Darius looks deadly with the ball in his hands. He should be out there returning kicks. He might do something special.”
Then he went out in Week 1 and did this:
So it wasn’t that it got taken from me. It’s just that the coaches wanted me to focus more on defense. Between defense and special teams, I played a ton of snaps my rookie year. My body felt fine, but you know … I’m young. That kind of workload isn’t sustainable long term. It’s a lot of wear and tear. So it was a decision the coaches and I made together, and it was more about longevity than anything.
But I appreciate your saying I was on another level!
What’s the biggest difference between the NFL and college football? – @PranavRama1
Time management, man.
You have a lot of free time on your hands in the pros. You don’t have to study for school. You don’t have people telling you what to do or where to be all the time. A lot of things are optional — even some team activities and workouts.
But you can get fined if you miss a meeting. In college, they’d just make you run sprints. In the NFL, you miss a meeting or you’re late to treatment or something? They hit you in the wallet, man. It’s real life.
With the secondary off to a good start this season, has there been any discussion on a nickname for the squad between Logan, Malcolm, Kenny, Kevin and yourself? – @rizzovegas
You know, we have a little motto that we go by — something our secondary coach, Kevin Coombs, always says. It’s MMCNB, and it stands for My Man Catch No Balls. And this off-season, when we came back from OTAs, Logan showed up with T-shirts for all of us that said MMCNB. Like, he went and got the slogan patented or trademarked or whatever.
I guess it’s not really a nickname, but more of a motto. It’s just a mindset and mentality that we have. We know that we get paid to make plays, and we’re trying to be the best in the league at it. And to do that, each one of us has to have that dog mentality and make sure we’re locking our man down.
How did it feel to snag your first INT covering Hopkins? #TitanUp – @TheReal_MVP_7
I was just grateful. When we were watching film, we talked about what we were going to do if they ran that play and had Hopkins deep. But when the ball was in the air, all that went out the window. I just ran as fast as I could and went up and got it.
I didn’t have any picks my rookie year, and, you know … you can see what everybody says about you on social media. Even if you’re trying not to see it, you’ll still see it. You’ll be looking for something else or just be on Twitter and you’ll see something. And a lot of it is negative, even when you’re playing well. People put us up on a pedestal, and they love knocking us down. They treat us like material things. One day they love us, next day they hate us.
Jim Brown/USA TODAY Sports
I mean, it’s all good. We signed up for this, you know?
I just don’t think it’s right.
So for me to get that interception after some of the things I’ve seen people say about me … it was more self-validating than anything.
I always talk about how God didn’t bring me this far just to bring me this far. So to be in the position to make that play, and then make it — my first pick, at home, in front of our fans, in our first win — it was pretty emotional. I know I’ll remember it forever, if for no other reason than the satisfaction. Because when people are out there talking negatively about you, it’s easy to lose confidence. I think maybe I did, a little. But I realize now that as long as I’m confident in myself, it doesn’t matter what anybody else says. As long as I know I gave everything I had and I’m happy with my performance, then I’m good. That pick validated me, in that respect.
Now it’s my job to go out there and make it a regular thing.