TEMPE, Ariz. – Kyle Vanden Bosch was on pick-up duty for his school-aged children on Thursday, but the former Titans defensive end first stopped by practice at Arizona State University to watch his old team.
The logo on the side of the helmet caused him to go back in time.
"I don't think about it much, but being here brought back a bunch of memories," Vanden Bosch said. "It was fun, my days with the Titans. My favorite time in my 12 years (as a player) was when we had a dominant defensive line and had a good defense. Nobody wanted to play us back then. We just physically intimidated people. There were times we knew the other team was better than us, but we were going to beat them up and that's what we did. I took a lot of pride in that group. We really played hard and set the tone for football games on defense."
Vanden Bosch, who played from 2001-12 in the NFL, with the Cardinals (2001-04), Titans (2005-09) and Lions (2010-12), registered 58 career sacks. He posted 38.5 sacks during his days with the Titans, including a 12.5-sack season in 2005, and a 12-sack season in 2007.
He was an intimidating presence because of his size, and intensity. During his playing days, he wore red contacts that made him look even more menacing on the field.
As he watched the Titans practice on Thursday, Vanden Bosch said he liked the look of the team's defense, which is currently ranked ninth in the NFL. Titans coach Mike Mularkey and general manager Jon Robinson chatted with Vanden Bosch during practice. Former Titans offensive lineman Kevin Mawae also watched practice on Thursday.
"To me, the way they play is how I envision football and the way I remember it," Vanden Bosch said. "It's not flag football, but lining up and physically beating people and running at people, strong aggressive defense. I like the tone of the team, I like the direction, I like the way coach has them going.
"I like Jurrell (Casey) -- I like the way he plays. He seems to be a good tone-setter for the defense. They are aggressive, and I like the way they fly around."
Vanden Bosch, who turned 39 last month, lives in the south Phoenix town of Ahwatukee.
He didn't realize the Titans were practicing in town until Wednesday, when he ran into Titans security coordinator Jeb Johnston at a Walgreens in town. Titans strength and conditioning coach Steve Watterson then contacted Vanden Bosch, and invited him to practice.
Former Titans recognized on field as part of team's 2016 Alumni Weekend festivities. (Donn Jones Photography.com)
Vanden Bosch is lighter these days – 235 pounds compared to his playing weight of 260 – but he looks like he could still play.
He stays in shape by running. He's already logged 1,000 miles on dirt, pavement and mountain terrain this year, but recently backed off because he was getting too skinny, he said. He regularly lifts weights.
"I tell people all the time, the only time my body hurts is when I don't do anything," Vanden Bosch said. "I feel good when I am working out and staying in shape.
"And I enjoy running. The thing you miss when you are done playing is challenging yourself and measuring yourself, and running was one way to do it. It was kind of a steep learning curve. You spend your whole life 'Run as fast as you can for as long as you can and take a break. Run as fast as you can for as long as you can and take a break.' And it became about pacing and it was a hard thing for my body to figure out.
"But I enjoy being outside, and running by the mountains."
Something else keeps Vanden Bosch busy as well – his wife and five kids, ranging from one to 12 years old.
It's what takes up most of his time. In fact, Vanden Bosch didn't go to the Titans-Cardinals game on Sunday because he'd made a commitment way in advance. He took his youngest kids to the North Pole Experience in the Phoenix-area, to meet Santa and see his workshop.
"They thought that was the greatest thing ever," Vanden Bosch said with a smile. "It is fun. It is fun seeing that enjoyment in their eyes.
"Things are good," Vanden Bosch continued. "When I was done (playing football), I looked at some opportunities, but for the time being I am spending time with my family. I gave everything I had to the game of football, and the teams I played on. Now I want to give that back to my kids and my wife and be able to spend time with them."
Titans players take the field for Thursday's practice at Arizona State University. (Photos: Gary Glenn)