ORLANDO – Jurrell Casey thought about his younger self this week at the Pro Bowl.er
Back in 2015, when the Titans defensive lineman made his first Pro Bowl appearance, things were much different compared to this year's trip.
"Oh man," said Casey, smiling. "It's a different life for me now. I have two little boys, I'm married. And I just finished Year 9 and I am going into Year 10 now. Life has changed a whole lot for me, but all for the better. It is definitely a great journey to be on."
Casey is loving life these days. At practices, he's been seen dancing, running pass routes while showing off some spin moves, and slapping hands with his AFC teammates from across the league. After five consecutive trips to the all-star game, he knows many of them pretty well by now.
After practice, Casey gets greeted by his family. Jurrell and his wife, Ryann, have two boys – 15-month old Nolan, and 7-week old Peighton.
Things are more hectic for the Caseys now, but life is good.
"The first year Jurrell went to the Pro Bowl, we just got up and got on a long plane ride to Hawaii and it was nothing," Ryann said. "This time we have to make sure we have everything we need – strollers, car seats, snacks. We definitely have to make sure we have snacks. Goldfish are (Nolan's) go-to, and he likes yogurt-covered raisins. As long as you have something good, the plane ride will be a smooth ride."
And even on vacation, Jurrell doesn't get a break from his daddy duties – not that he wants to.
"His big thing is bath time," Ryann said of Jurrell. "He is Mr. Bathtime. With both of our kids he takes that on. He plays music, he bubbles them up, and they have a little bath concert. It is awesome. And Jurrell loves it."
Yes, life is good.
Casey, named to the Pro Bowl on Monday for the fifth straight season, ended the 2019 season with 61 tackles, 30 quarterback pressures and five sacks. Casey had two sacks in the team's playoff win at Baltimore on January 11.
In 2019, Casey became the seventh player in team annals to reach 50 career sacks (51), and his five sacks during the season made him the organization's first player since Ray Childress (1986-1994) to tally at least five sacks in seven straight seasons.
Following a year when the Titans advanced to the AFC Championship Game, Casey called it his most satisfying season as a pro.
"I can't lie -- it's the most enjoyable season I've had, just from in the locker room, being in the classroom with the guys we have, the environment around the team, the vibe we had," Casey said. "The overall feel was unbelievable this season."
Casey admitted, however, he had to overcome some in-season adversity.
He missed two games in November because of a shoulder injury that scared him temporarily.
"I felt sharp pain shooting down my arm, going dead, numbing out, and every time I hit someone, it happened," Casey said. "When you don't know the cause of it, what the heck is going on, it's concerning. I was concerned. It was definitely an eye-opener for me, and it let me know at any moment you can deal with an injury that can shut you down. I missed two games, and felt I could have helped the team, but the guys did a great job of continuing to build while I was missing."
Casey returned, and said the injury cleared up.
When the Titans made their run at the Super Bowl, he was stoked. Casey endured a 2-14 season in 2014, and a 3-13 team in 2015. During his first six seasons in the NFL, he never played in a playoff game. That changed in 2017, when the Titans won in the Wild Card round at Kansas City before losing in the Divisional Round at New England.
This year's Titans became the talk of the NFL by winning at New England and Baltimore, before losing at Kansas City in the AFC Championship Game.
"I have thought about the (Super Bowl) a couple of times while I've been here – being here is not the goal we had in mind, but it's what the Lord put in place," Casey said. "But we showed we can be a dominant team, and we have to build on the positive season we had next year. We have a lot of good leaders coming back, and we can make another run at it."
Casey, who turned 31 in December, said the Pro Bowl has given him another chance to sit back, and count his blessings.
In addition to his work on the field, he takes great pride in knowing how much his family has impacted the Nashville community over the years. Casey has twice been voted the Titans Walter Payton Man of the Year, which recognizes excellence on and off the field. He's a regular at community events, and also serves as the spokesperson for United Way of Metropolitan Nashville. Casey and his wife established The Casey Fund, a non-profit dedicated to raising money for established re-entry programs, inner-city youth programs, mentoring, and halfway houses.
While his family has grown over the years, Casey has also grown.
He credits his wife for pushing him.
"I've been blessed – I think about that all the time," Casey said. "To have the wife I have, and the way she supports me on and off the field, it's unbelievable. The determination that she instills in me, it's unbelievable. She has been a queen in my household, and the woman in my life."
Titans Online looks back at DT Jurrell Casey's 2019 Pro Bowl season that saw him register 61 tackles, five sacks, a forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and 30 QB pressures, plus two sacks in the AFC Divisional-round victory at Baltimore. (Photos: Donald Page)
Casey, as he starts to look ahead to his 10th NFL season, wants to keep the momentum rolling.
And while there have been changes around him, there's one thing that hasn't changed – his love for the game.
Through his eyes, his finish line isn't in sight.
"I'm going to play until the wheels come off, or until the Tennessee Titans tell me they don't want me no more," Casey said. "As long as my family, my household, is cool with me playing and my body feels good, I will continue to play. Once it starts to impact my household or my mental state, then it will be time for me to reconsider my goals from here on out. But right now, I can only see playing, and playing for a lot longer time. And I still have a lot to play for.
"I want to get that ring – that's what drives me now. I have done a lot in this game, but I want a ring on my finger."