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Cook, Titans Players Look to Make Impact on Caravan

JACKSON, Tenn. — Jared Cook said headlining Wednesday's segment of the Titans Caravan offered a great opportunity to impact children and meet Titans fans.

Cook attended three schools in West Tennessee with the help of Titans mascot T-Rac and Tennessee State Parks. The tight end then participated in autograph and photo stops in Cordova and Jackson on the third day of the 14th Caravan, sponsored by Grange Insurance, before returning to Nashville.

"It was awesome," Cook said. "We did three schools. The kids were so much fun. They got loud for me when I ran out and they got loud for T-Rac. It was a great day."

Cook began Wednesday by visiting with 800 students at East Side Elementary in Brownsville, then greeted 825 students at Brighton Elementary and wrapped up by talking to 1,300 students of Bon Lin Elementary and Middle Schools in Bartlett. 

Cook, who is entering his fourth season as a professional athlete, said he hopes he had an impact on the children that is similar to the effect that a pro had on him during his youth.

"When I was in school, (former NBA player and Olympian) Mark Price came to talk to us for a basketball camp," Cook recalled. "I never forgot that day. For him to reach me like that, I know I can reach kids, so at least one person in the crowd, I know, won't forget that, and that makes me feel good."

This was Cook's second appearance in the history of the Caravan, a two-week goodwill tour through the Mid-South that started in 1998 and has grown to include 50 stops this year. He also enjoyed his first Caravan experience at Fort Campbell in 2010.

Cook and six full-time Titans employees visited fans at Shoe Carnival in Cordova before the official Caravan bus provided by Grand Avenue rolled into the West Tennessee Healthcare Sportsplex in Jackson. Titans cornerback Alterraun Verner and linebacker Colin McCarthy met up with Cook in Jackson and were greeted by hundreds of Titans fans. This is the first Caravan for Verner, who is entering his third season, and McCarthy, who was a rookie last year.

Charles Mays, of Milan, and Tina Fowler, of Atwood, were some of the first people to arrive at the sports complex. They have followed the Titans since the inaugural Caravan.

Andrea Englert, Kristen Chandler and Lauren Chandler of Medina, who experienced their first Caravan, said they are Titans fans "forever and always."

Brian and Tiffany Forbis, who got married last July and have Titans season tickets, enjoyed meeting Cook, who they already interact with on Twitter.

"He's so personable and seems big in community involvement," Brian Forbis said. "He's down to earth and a real cool guy."

Tramaine Parks, his son Blake Parks, 9, and Sonya Waddell attend several Titans training camp practices each summer, but enjoyed having the Titans come to their home city Wednesday. They said they are excited about the upcoming season.

Cook, Verner and McCarthy share that sentiment.

"The feeling is kind of indescribable because not only are people geared up to see you, but they're geared up for the season," Cook said. "At the same time while they're geared up, you get to send people a message."

Verner and McCarthy continued the Caravan in West and Middle Tennessee Thursday with stops at Pin Oak Elementary in Lexington, Decaturville Elementary, Lewis County Intermediate in Hohenwald, Pamida in Centerville and O'Charley's in Dickson. The defensive tandem enjoyed the Caravan and looking forward to a full offseason program of workouts and sessions with coaches to keep building on last year's results.

"With Coach (Mike) Munchak in his first year last season, a lot of people thought that it was going to be a bigger rebuilding process, but they saw that we still had the capabilities to make the playoffs," Verner said. "This year is going to be relatively the same. The draft has elevated some of those players, some of the younger players want to step up like Colin and (linebacker) Akeem Ayers will have the benefit of the offseason, so they'll see a lot of improvement with them."

The Titans open the 2012 season at LP Field by hosting the 2011 AFC Champion New England Patriots.

"You can't ask for a better game than that for our fans, for us, to see how far we've come and grown from last year," McCarthy said. "We're putting a lot of work in now in the offseason, working out with (strength and conditioning coach Steve) Watterson and the coaching staff, and we're excited about the opportunity.

"I think (team executives are) always trying to rebuild and bring better guys in, fill little voids that we had," McCarthy said. "I think they answered that in free agency and some of that through the draft, and the guys they're relying on to step up this year, we've got to make the most of it. Last year was a good year for us; we finished strong. Just missing the playoffs was tough, but I think everybody is hungry going into this year."

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