Titans draw 7,500 fans for "Friday Night Lights" practice at Centennial


Titans draw 7,500 fans for "Friday Night Lights" practice at Centennial

PHOTO: Titans QB Marcus Mariota looks for yardage at Centennial High School on August 3, 2018. / RUSSELL VANNOZZI

By RUSSELL VANNOZZI

High school football may not start games for two more weeks, but the familiar sights and sounds of the game were on full display in Franklin on Friday evening.

That’s because the Tennessee Titans held their second-annual “Pinnacle Friday Night Lights” practice at Centennial High School in a unique effort to reach out to the local community during the team’s preseason training camp.

“It’s homecoming,” Titans cornerback Adoree’ Jackson said of the practice. “Some of the season ticket holders and players [live] here. It’s not a long drive, so that’s nice for the fans. It kind of reminded [me of being] back in Pop Warner.”

The free event drew an estimated 7,500 fans to Cougar Field, topping last year’s attendance of 6,822.

“Having that many people here is awesome,” Jackson said. “When we’re tired and banged up, it helps get our energy get ramped up.”

After stretching and position drills were finished, the team moved into an 11-on-11 scrimmage. The first-team offense and defense swapped out with the second-team offense and defense after each drive.

Quarterback Marcus Mariota ran for a touchdown early in the practice, and he later threw a screen pass to running back Dion Lewis, who scampered 37 yards and into the red zone. That setup a highlight-reel touchdown catch from Corey Davis, who just managed to gain control of the ball and keep his feet inbounds.

The action lasted nearly two hours and finished with most players signing autographs for the thousands of fans lined up along the field’s perimeter fencing.

“I thought it was great,” Titans head coach Mike Vrabel said. “I think our players responded well. It was fun to see the fans and to get out here at night and do some work.”

Centennial’s facilities were well-equipped to handle the demands of a professional team. There was ample parking and bleacher seating, and players took notice of the quality field surface.

“This blows my [school] away,” rookie tight end Ethan Wolf said, speaking of his high school in Minster, Ohio. “I’m from a really small town and we basically played in a backyard. This is a great facility and it’s nice to come out here… it helps the community out a little bit.”

The Titans open their preseason schedule at Green Bay on Aug. 9. Tennessee’s regular season schedule begins at Miami on Sunday, Sept. 9.

Centennial players rub shoulders with Titans’ best

By CORY WOODROOF

Friday night, Centennial High School’s football team took the field with the Tennessee Titans.

Though, the home team was dressed in polos and khakis, onlooking the other home team in practice.

Centennial’s boys’ varsity squad got to observe the Titans practice at Centennial’s stadium up-close Friday, and even got plenty opportunities to snag photos, share in football talk and get autographs from their favorite NFL players once their practice concluded.

Call it the best form of post-practice work a high school footballer player can put in.

“I think it’s actually really cool that they come here,” said Owen Barker, a rising sophomore wide receiver and cornerback for the Cougars. “A little bit before, we helped set up, and we also get to see [the Titans] walk in, which is really cool.”

For Barker and many of the Cougars, it’s not just a good night out; it’s a time to watch the best be the best in real time.

“You’ve just got to pay attention to do what they do; I mean, they’re pros,” Barker said. “You want to mirror as much as you can.”

Senior running back Jariel Wilson, who’s off to Austin Peay when his Centennial career is over, appreciates what the practice means for his team and for the area.

“It’s good for the community,” Wilson said. “It’s good for the atmosphere, for us to come out here and watch a professional team from our state come out here and practice. So, it’s just good motivation for the start of the season.”

Centennial kicks their season off at home against rival Ravenwood on Friday, Aug. 17.

Photo: Tennessee Titans players take a break from drills at Centennial High School on August 3, 2018. / RUSSELL VANNOZZI

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