NASHVILLE – Jurrell Casey was just 21 years old when the Titans selected him in the 2011 NFL Draft. He was full of energy and excitement, but just a young man headed into the real world.
In an instant, Casey moved cross country from California to Nashville, where he'd embark on his career.
"I'll never forget it," Casey said on Wednesday night. "As a single, young rook, you are just trying to find your way. But as soon as you get drafted, it's kind of like, 'OK, go get it. You are an adult now.' It wasn't always easy, I'll admit. Sometimes, it was hard. But in time, you learn, and you develop, and you become a pro. I just always tried to be the best I could be, do the best I could do."
Casey, who played 10 NFL seasons, including nine with the Titans, did pretty darn well.
Now, Casey is ready to call it a career. Casey will officially announce his retirement at a 1 p.m. press conference on Thursday at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, where it all began.
Casey had a blast while growing into a man, and becoming a husband, and a father.
"My career, it was amazing, just to have the opportunity to play this game. It was beautiful," Casey said with a smile. "I always tried to play to the best of my ability, and always considered it an honor.
"To be able to get drafted by Tennessee, and to be able to live out a lifetime dream is everything a young man from Long Beach, California could dream of. All the relationships that I made along the way, we had a brotherhood. And Tennessee, it was a great place to call home for me and my family."
During his distinguished career with the Titans, while playing from 2011 to 2019, Casey was a five-time Pro Bowl selection, a six-time defensive captain and a two-time Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year nominee. He ranks seventh in franchise history with 51 sacks — second only to Jevon Kearse (52) in the organization's "Titans era" (1999 to present).
Casey, who played his final NFL season with the Broncos in 2020, started 140 of his 142 career NFL games, totaling 686 tackles, 51 sacks, 59 tackles for loss, 19 passes defensed, eight forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries.
Selected with the 77th overall pick in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft, Casey missed only five contests during his time with the Titans. Casey earned a Pro Bowl berth each season from 2015 to 2019, joining Aaron Donald, Geno Atkins and Fletcher Cox as the NFL's only defensive linemen to do so. He became the seventh player in franchise history and the first player in the organization's "Titans era" (1999 to present) to be named to five consecutive Pro Bowls.
Casey's proud of the work he did on the field, and in the community. Casey and his wife, Ryann, established The Casey Fund, a non-profit dedicated to raising money for establish re-entry programs, inner-city youth programs, mentoring and halfway houses. During his playing days in Tennessee, Casey was a regular at community events and he served as a spokesperson for United Way of Metropolitan Nashville.
Casey was twice recognized as the Titans Community Man of the Year and with that honor nominated for the league's Walter Payton Award in 2016 and 2018.
"I am blessed by that," Casey said. "The Lord put me in a great position, and he blessed me with a beautiful wife to be able to push me to do it. The work on the field, being a captain, going to the Pro Bowl, it was a blessing. And to be able to make an impact off the field, it's a beautiful thing."
Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk said Casey leaves behind quite a legacy.
"This is a proud day for Jurrell, his family and the Titans family," Strunk said. "There is no greater model for what a player can achieve both on the field and in the community than Jurrell. His five Pro Bowls and two Community Man of the Year awards are part of a tremendous legacy for others to follow. He has a passion for improving the lives of others that shines through in big ways with his work with multiple organizations in our community but also in the quieter, day-to-day interactions on a personal level. On the field, he was a force and helped establish a standard as we rebuilt a culture of success during his tenure, ultimately serving as a captain on the 2019 team that advanced to the AFC Championship Game. On behalf of our entire organization, I congratulate him on a fantastic career, and we will always consider him part of the Titans family. I look forward to seeing what is next for him because I know that no matter what is in store he will continue to make those around him better."
A look back at defensive tackle Jurrell Casey's nine seasons in Tennessee. (Donald Page, AP Photos, Donn Jones)
Casey, who is now 31, is looking forward to spending even more time with his wife, and his two boys.
On Wednesday night he was on daddy duty, picking up his kids from school.
Casey said he made a promise to his wife he'd go back to school and get his degree. Casey's plan, he said, is to go back to Southern Cal after leaving school following his junior year to play in the NFL.
"Dad and husband, that's always going to be at the top," Casey said. "But I made a promise to my wife that I would go back to school. I left as a junior and I want to finish school and be a college graduate, and then go from there. It's something else that we can celebrate together. And after that, I know there is a lot ahead of us, and I want the Lord control our destiny from there."
Casey said he knew it was time to hang it up.
His body told him.
"It became evident when you are getting around, trying to work out, walking up stairs and your body is not clicking the same," said Casey, who was placed on Injured Reserve after just three games in Denver last season because of a biceps injury. "Last season didn't go as I planned, I got hurt, and my season was cut short. You have to understand your body, and when your body isn't responding, it is time to step away. I am not a person that wants to go out there and put bad film on the field. I can't do that to myself. I always told myself once I started collecting injuries, I couldn't allow myself to leave this game crippled."
On the day Casey official walks away, he wanted to make one thing clear: He's a Titan for life.
Yes, Casey admits he was stung when the team traded him away last March. He doesn't deny using some harsh words at an emotional time.
But as he looks back at his career, he's proud of what he accomplished.
And he's thankful.
"I love the Titans organization – that was never a doubt in my mind," Casey said. "They drafted me, and they gave me an opportunity in life. You sometimes have bad feelings about things, but like I told (GM) Jon Robinson when I told him I wanted to retire a Titan, I told him I apologize for the comments I made, those were my feelings at the time, but not every feeling needs to be said to the public. I should have held on to it, knowing this is a business. It wasn't personal, and they did me a favor at the end of the day by trading me and giving me a chance to keep playing and making money for my family.
"But the Titans, they gave me the blessing to be here. … I was upset at the time (when I was traded), but that doesn't change the fact I love the Tennessee Titans and I will always love them. I will be a Titan forever."