MOBILE, Ala. – Way back in middle school, Ran Carthon did his homework leading up to NFL drafts.
The son of an NFL player, Carthon used to go to the local convenience stores and buy all the magazines – Athlon Sports, Street & Smith, etc. He researched the prospects, and the teams.
And then on draft nights, he'd get out a legal pad and try to predict the NFL landing spots for players.
"I didn't know what I was doing at the time," a smiling Carthon said from the Senior Bowl on Tuesday. "I didn't realize there was a career based on this when I was doing it. Back then, it was just something I liked doing. I think I recorded every draft from '95 or '96 up until the year I came out in '04."
Later, after his own college and NFL playing career, Carthon began taking things even more seriously. When he went back to the University of Florida to get his degree, he got his big break.
He credits former Gators coach Urban Meyer for giving him a chance to help out with the staff, and after one Florida Pro Day, he met with some NFL scouts, and he began to make connections.
All of that helped lead Carthon to where he is today – general manager of the Tennessee Titans.
On Tuesday, Carthon was on hand for his first Senior Bowl as a GM.
The Titans hire Carthon, who spent the previous six seasons with the 49ers and prior to that worked with the Rams and Falcons, two weeks ago.
His world has been a whirlwind since.
Here at the Mobile Convention Center and at Hancock Whitney Stadium on the campus at the University of South Alabama, it's included a lot of handshakes and hugs from those wishing him congratulations.
"I think it goes back to the moment the news broke," Carthon said. "From the moment the news broke to the time I boarded my flight back to San Jose – a matter of maybe an hour-and-a-half – when I got on the plane, I had 600 text messages. It's just a testament to the relationships I've build around the league. Everyone knows my nature is to be low-key, off the grid. One of my buddies from another team told me: Those days are over. But I know it's coming from a good place. People are generally happy for me and happy for me to get this opportunity and it's been coming from guys I look up to in the industry to guys I have mentored.
"It has been great, but you'll hear me say constantly: I just want to keep the main thing the main thing. So being out here on the football field, being around talent, being around the staff, that is getting back to the main thing for me."
Carthon, who spent the previous two seasons as Director of Player Personnel for the 49ers, had traveled to Mobile in the past to scout players.
On Tuesday, Carthon said he feels like he's made great progress in getting more familiar and comfortable, and on the same page, with those he's now working with, from head coach Mike Vrabel and members of the team's scouting staff, who also made the trip here from Nashville.
He's also learning the prospects better as well.
So, what's Carthon looking for in future Titans?
"From a physical attributes standpoint, you want guys that are tough and physical," Carthon said. "But more than anything you want guys that love football. You want guys who are passionate about it, that football is life, and that is what they live for – they live to play this game.
"I'll give you an example: Fred Warner, who is one of the elite players in our league, he is never not in the building. And even after he got paid, he is never not in the (49ers) building. We have guys like that who are currently on our team. We just want to add more guys like that."
Carthon, who has spent time with prospects in interviews, is quick to point out he's just part of the team, despite his big title.
He's made that clear at Saint Thomas Sports Park from the day controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk hired him to replace Jon Robinson.
"One of the young guys in the office said to me: I'm excited to work for you," Carthon said. "And I stopped him and said, "No, work with.' We are in this together. I am in this position, yes, and I embrace it. But this is a collective thing. I don't have all the answers and I am not going to always be right just because of the title I have. It is going to be collaborative – I want to hear what the scouts have to say. They have the most exposure to (the players), so I want these guys to feel very much a part of it. We're going to be a partnership."
After this week's Senior Bowl, the Titans will continue the work leading up to April's NFL Draft. The NFL Combine in Indianapolis is a month away, and Pro Days are on the horizon.
The team has some tough decisions to make regarding current players, and new additions, in free agency.
Carthon wants to do his part to help take the Titans to the next level.
"It has been a good team here, a competitive team, a winning team," Carthon said. "I have been brought in to help elevate that and bring another component to it. So, I am here to partner with Mike and partner with Ms. Amy and work with these scouts and do our part in taking the Tennessee Titans to the next step."