NASHVILLE – New Titans general manager Ran Carthon first made a name for himself on a high school football field in Key West, Florida.
It's where Carthon got the attention of college coaches, including Steve Spurrier, who was coaching the Florida Gators at the time.
Spurrier had never recruited a player from Key West before.
"I used to tell people later: I should have always tried to find a player to recruit from down there," Spurrier said with a smile. "It's obviously a fun place to go."
Carthon was worth the trip.
He committed to the Gators and ended up turning into a productive player at the school. Spurrier coached Carthon two years, and when Ron Zook took over after Spurrier left for the NFL (Washington), Carthon blossomed into a player who ended up getting the attention of NFL teams himself.
"Ran was always a great teammate, and he did everything the coaches asked," Spurrier said of Carthon, who rushed for 1,353 career yards on 270 carries (5.0 avg) and 11 touchdowns while playing in 48 games, with 11 starts. "I always remember him being such a wonderful young man, conscientious. You knew he was going to be successful at whatever he chose to do in life."
Many years later, Spurrier and Carthon would in fact meet again, under different circumstances.
Following his playing career at Florida, the Indianapolis Colts signed Carthon as an undrafted free agent in 2004, and he was with the Colts until 2006. Carthon finished his career with the Lions before eventually transitioning to life as a scout.
After spending four years as a scout with the Atlanta Falcons, Carthon went on to work in the personnel departments of the St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams before eventually joining the San Francisco 49ers.
It was in San Francisco where Spurrier, the 1966 Heisman Trophy winner who played from 1967-1975 with the 49ers, crossed paths with Carthon again.
A native of Johnson City, Tennessee, Spurrier returned to the West Coast for a 49ers event. Carthon was director of player personnel for the 49ers at the time.
"This past football season," Spurrier said, "the 49ers had a reunion of their 1972 team, which was the team I played on 50 years ago, and I saw Ran at the 49ers facility at the walk-through practice. He came up and introduced himself and, to be completely honest with you, I didn't know he was out there.
"But we got a chance to talk a little bit, and it was great to catch up. I was really happy for his success. Ran told me then he got a chance to interview for some general manager positions. I could tell he was ready and prepared, and that it was something he was passionate about. I wished him luck."
Last week, Spurrier saw the news that Carthon had been hired by the Titans.
It brought a smile to the face of the "Head Ball Coach."
Spurrier thought back to those days when Carthon played Key West High School, and when he first walked on campus as a freshman at the University of Florida.
"I think all coaches want to see their players do well," Spurrier said, "so to see how Ran has done, I think it is great and I am so happy for him.
"I'll be pulling for the Titans for sure. I pull for Tennessee teams all the time anyway, unless it's against Florida or South Carolina. But I'll definitely be pulling for the Titans even more because of Ran. I hope he does great."