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From the NFL Combine: Brian Callahan Settling In As Head Coach of the Titans, Even If Things Aren't Settling Down


INDIANAPOLIS – Brian Callahan strolled out of his hotel lobby early on Wednesday morning, on the way to visit with some of the prospects in this year's NFL Draft.

Callahan barely made it out the door before Chargers coach Jim Harbaugh approached him, shook his hand, and congratulated him. Callahan, in turn, congratulated Harbaugh, for his championship season at Michigan, and his own new gig in the NFL.

The coaches then headed down the escalator and into the busy hallways at the Indianapolis Convention Center, here at the NFL Combine, en route to Lucas Oil Stadium.

Callahan has had countless interactions this week, his first combine as a head coach.

"Getting a lot of 'Congrats'," Callahan said with a smile, "and I appreciate it. It's been really cool, to see everyone's excitement for me, being happy for me and all that. It makes all of this even more exciting."

It's been just over a month since Callahan was introduced as the next head coach of the Tennessee Titans. His life has been a whirlwind since, as he's worked to hire his first coaching staff while also juggling tasks at the office, from meetings with coaches, scouts, players, other team officials, media, along with a few appearances with season ticket members.

Free agency, and the NFL Draft, of course, are two big events on the horizon.

Callahan keeps a running list in the Notes app on his phone when something pops in his head he could forget.

Along the way, he's received plenty of advice.

One exchange stuck out: It was with Colts General Manager Chris Ballard.

"Just make sure you enjoy it, and have fun," Callahan recalled Ballard telling him. "He told me, 'You are ready for it, you are prepared, so enjoy it.' And I have tried to do that – enjoy the process of it all. I have had fun, and I have enjoyed it. And, he also said: Take your time. Don't be in a rush, and don't feel like you have to get everything done in one day."

A long-time assistant, most recently as offensive coordinator with the Bengals, Callahan said he's learning the flow of his day is different as a head coach.

But he is having fun as he's settling in, and prepares for what's on the horizon.

Two men he worked with in Cincinnati – Bengals head coach Zac Taylor and Bengals Director of Player Personnel Duke Tobin – said here at the combine Callahan was clearly ready for the next step.

"They're getting a good coach and we're losing a good coach," Tobin said of Callahan, and the Titans. "They're getting a guy that is a hundred percent ready for the job. Brian has the exact personality that you want in that position. He's super bright. He's a people person. He relates well to players, to staff, to everyone in the building. He's grown up around football. He's got a tremendous amount of great ideas and thoughts. He's got the right demeanor and personality. So, it's a great hire for them and it's a big loss for us. We really enjoyed our time with Brian. I knew he was ready. I knew he had, it was just a matter of another team identifying that and they did and we're really happy for him."

When Titans General Manager Ran Carthon reached out to Taylor about Callahan, he gave him a strong endorsement as well.

"He sat right by my side for five years, and became one of my best friends," Taylor said of Callahan. "He was ready for the opportunity and was a big part of our success. And I'm confident he'll be a big part of their success in Tennessee."

Callahan's first month on the job has included a lot of work, away from his family. Callahan's wife and two kids remain in Cincinnati, so they try and connect via FaceTime either early in the morning or at night. His days have been so busy, in fact, some days fly by before he realizes he hasn't checked in. The entire Callahan family plans to move to Nashville after the current school year, when they'll find their new home.

For now, Callahan is living in an apartment in the West End area.

He's eaten at places like Kayne Prime Steakhouse and Pelato in Germantown.

"Been to a Predators game," he said, "and looking forward to going back. They're hot right now."

Callahan once took a stroll down Broadway to get a feel for the city. When he's been out, he's occasionally been recognized.

"I've been pretty anonymous, I think, but a few folks have come up, which is kind of new for me," he said. "Everyone has been very kind and welcoming. A lot of hellos, and 'Welcome to Nashville'. It's been a nice welcome."

Most of Callahan's time, however, has been spent at Ascension Saint Thomas Sports Park.

On most days, he's there early, and out the door at 9 p.m., which is closer to a regular season schedule than an offseason one.

But there's been work to do, and people to get to know.

At a recent staff meeting, Callahan put up pictures of four or five people with the team, and called on folks to see if they knew them.

"It's one of those things to remind people: Get to know people who work here," Callahan said. "I do it just as much for me as I do for them."

Callahan is still getting to know players returning from last season.

He's called a good number of them, but not all. Some have gone out of their way to stop by his office. He'll get to know all of them when the offseason program gets under way on April 8, a date he's looking forward to.

Some, he's already getting to know well.

"I joke with Ryan Stonehouse all the time," Callahan said of the team's punter. "I think he's been in the building every single day I've been there – every Saturday, every Sunday. If I am in the building, I am going to see Stoney at some point. So, I've seen the most of him. Obviously, Will (Levis) has been around a little bit. He always stops by when he is in the building."

As Callahan headed toward his meeting with the prospects this morning, he gave a quick detail on what he's looking for in players.

High character, being coachable, consistent, and a passion for football are traits he's looking for. Callahan also wants speed and explosiveness on both sides of the football.

The past month has given Callahan a taste of what's on the horizon.

It's also made him hungry for more.

"As a head coach, there's a lot to do for sure," Callahan said. "But I have not felt overwhelmed by any of it. A lot of it, I felt like I knew was coming. And I feel really prepared for it. I haven't had any moment where it's like 'Oh man, this is a much bigger deal than I thought it would be. I feel really good about it. I'm really, really excited."

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