NASHVILLE, Tenn. — In the case of Titans linebacker Brian Orakpo, it's not easy to let his actions speak louder than his words.
Hear his voice, and you'll understand.
"He has a subwoofer, man,'' linebacker Derrick Morgan said of Orakpo. "We were getting something to eat the other day, and he called my name, "Derrick." I stood up. I thought I was in trouble. It was just a natural reaction. His voice, it's crazy. When he talks, people listen."'
Orakpo also gets plenty of attention with his play. And he's made a lot of noise in his first season with the Tennessee Titans.
After playing his first six NFL seasons with the Washington Redskins, Orakpo signed with the Titans in March. He's made an immediate impact.
Orakpo has recorded seven sacks in the team's first ten games, and he now has 47 sacks in his seven-year career. With a sack against the Jaguars, Orakpo tied a career high with his fourth consecutive game with at least one sack. He is the Titans' only player other than Jevon Kearse since the beginning of the 1999 season to record a four-game sack streak.
He's exactly what the Titans were looking for when they targeted pass rushers during the offseason.
"He's one of those guys, when opponents say he's a game-wrecker, he's one of them,'' Titans interim coach Mike Mularkey said of Orakpo. "I think maybe he didn't get the credit early on, but people knew about him and were trying to do things differently to take him out of the game. I think our defense has done a good job of scheming to try to get him some 1-on-1 matchups and move him around. Teams have struggled with that. But he has been like that, he has been coming like that since day one, since he's been here."
A three-time Pro Bowler with the Redskins, Orakpo wanted to land in an NFL city where he could make a difference when he became a free agent during the offseason. He had a bad run of luck with injuries in Washington, D.C., and knew teams would have to trust he could stay healthy, and produce moving forward.
The Titans emerged as one of those teams, and after considering his options, Orakpo landed in Tennessee.
On a new team, with new teammates, Orakpo knew he'd have to prove himself.
It didn't take him long to fit in. In fact, he was named one of the team's captains earlier this season.
"It is always tough, and different, coming to a new team, and new environment," Orakpo said. "You have to get used to different personalities. But the fit has been great, everyone from the coaching staff to the locker room. I knew that we were rebuilding, that we were a team on the rise. I just wanted to be one of the leaders to help get the team over the hump.
"Already I love it here; Nashville has been great to me. And even though the record isn't what we want it to be, we have great camaraderie on this team. We are a team on the rise. As for the city, it has been phenomenal. My wife and kids love it."
Spend enough time around Orakpo, and among the first things you'll notice – after hearing his voice – is he's a no-nonsense guy.
In the locker room, he doesn't joke around. On the field, he doesn't mess around.
"To me, he is a consummate professional,'' Titans assistant head coach/defense Dick LeBeau said of LeBeau. "He goes about his job as a pro. He prepares every week, and plays every down. Really, he's a coach's dream."
Orakpo, 29, said he developed his work ethic by watching his parents, who are immigrants from Nigeria.
His dad, Arthur, and mother, Gloria, raised him in Houston, where he played his high school football. Orakpo went to college at Texas, where he became a star, and put himself in a position to be a first round pick (13th overall) by the Redskins in the 2009 NFL Draft.
Orakpo won the Nagurski Trophy (nation's top defensive lineman), Lombardi Award (nation's top lineman) and Hendricks Award (nation's top defensive end) at Texas. His determination from a young age also set a positive example for his younger siblings when the family dealt with adversity. Arthur Orakpo is currently back in Nigeria.
"I just saw their work ethic, and it molded me into how I am today,'' Orakpo said of his parents. "They didn't have to be strict on me. I was the oldest sibling and I always wanted to set a good example for my brother and sister, and carried it my whole life. My brother and sister would tell you I was dad No.2 in certain situations, just the way I tried to keep them out of trouble."
Orakpo's key to success?
"My drive, man, and just trying to do the right thing, trying to be a man,'' he said. "I learned a lot from my parents, being Nigerian and coming from a third world country and coming here, their work ethic really translated into me and I really take that as motivation."
Titans safety Michael Griffin went to school with Orakpo at Texas.
Griffin said Orakpo has been a perfect fit with the Titans.
"He has come in and brought leadership presence, and older guy, veteran guy,'' Griffin said. "He has done all the things you can possibly do – Pro Bowl, All-Pro, and things of that nature. He is speaking up when need be, but he is definitely letting his actions speak louder than his words."
Ah yes, back to that voice. Even Orakpo can't help but smile when asked about it.
It turns out it's been a topic of conversation from the time he was in elementary school. He was always the kid with the booming voice.
Now he's the NFL star who happens to make a lot of noise when he opens his mouth, or steps on the field.
"I had an easy childhood as far as dealing with people. (My voice) has always stood out, and I think people always thought I was older than I really was. I was kind of the elder statesman among my peers,'' Orakpo said.
"I guess you could say it's one of a kind. I like it."