NASHVILLE – Growing up in a big family, Titans defensive lineman Teair Tart had to fight for everything he got.
Tart, you see, is the second youngest of 11 children in his family.
"The oldest right now is 48, and the youngest, which is my little sister, is 23," the 25-year-old Tart said on a Zoom call on Tuesday. "It is a pretty big age-range. … For the most part it was like a war zone – if you didn't eat first, you wasn't eating. But it was good having a large family, and it brought everybody together. We had to learn how to work, and to negotiate – imagine trying to get the TV remote. … But it is good, man. I have three older brothers and the rest are sisters. It's a good family – I came from a basketball family."
After making it to the NFL after a long and winding journey, Tart is still scrapping.
He knows he busted his butt to get to the league, and he's not about to let up now.
"The key for me to get to this point is resilience," Tart said. "Just staying resilient and staying focused and knowing: If you just keep fighting, something good is going to come from it. You never have anything good coming from standing in one spot. So, just staying resilient and keeping working, and not giving up.
"This is a dream come true for me, having an opportunity to play in the NFL, playing at this level. I don't want anybody to ever feel like you can take this for granted."
Tart, in his third NFL season, has gotten a lot of attention this week after making one of the biggest plays in Sunday's game in Indianapolis, when he batted a pass by Colts quarterback Matt Ryan into the air before intercepting it, in the team's 24-17 win over the Colts.
Tart's play made the highlights on all the national TV shows, and the 6-foot-2, 304-pounder has been celebrated in the building.
In the locker room at Lucas Oil Stadium after the game, Tart clutched the football with both hands.
"It's been pretty funny – I'm getting some jokes from the DBs, some of my teammates, about me break-dancing on my head," Tart said. "So, it's been fun and cool, finding other ways to impact the game."
Tart's road to the NFL wasn't an easy one.
Growing up in Philadelphia, Tart played two years of high school basketball at Palmer Leadership Learning Partners Charter School — a school that did not have a football program. Then, prior to his junior year, West Philadelphia High School's defensive coordinator, Karl Patrick, saw Tart playing in a basketball tournament and eventually convinced him to transfer and begin playing football for the first time in his life.
Two years later, Tart continued his football career at ASA College in New York, but he left six games into his first season after an older brother, Rasheed Spencer, was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident. Tart then went to Valley Forge (Pa.) Military Academy, followed by stops at East Mississippi Community College and Ellsworth (Iowa) Community College before landing at Florida International, where he played two seasons.
After going undrafted, the Titans signed Tart as an undrafted free agent in 2020.
In his first three NFL seasons, Tart has played in 22 games, with 15 starts. He's been credited with 28 tackles, four tackles for a loss, 10 quarterback pressures and now the interception.
Tart has started all four games for the Titans this season on the defensive line and he's been credited with seven tackles, five quarterback pressures and the interception.
He's regained a big spot on the team's defensive line.
"The biggest thing for me this offseason was not taking anything for granted," Tart said. "At one point you can feel like you're at the top of the world, the next minute everything can be gone. Coming into this season I just wanted to improve on every little detail that I could to be a student of the game.
"(Coaches) tell me never to get satisfied, and never to get comfortable. After every game I talk to the coaches, and they tell me what I need to work on. You can never be satisfied or be content."