NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Former Titans quarterback Rusty Smith has a different profession these days – he's head coach at Grace Christian Academy.
On Thursday, he returned to his old stomping grounds with his high school football team.
Smith, a sixth-round draft pick of the Titans in 2010 who spent four seasons with the team, had an open day during the team's first full week of padded practices. After two-a-day practices on Monday and Wednesday, he had a chance to reward his players on Thursday.
"What a great way to throw them a bone by giving them a morning or afternoon off," Smith said. "We thought maybe we'd go bowling, go to The Escape Game or something like that.
"Our o-line coach said he heard the Titans open training camp practice today, and it was open to the public. So we said, "Let's Go."
Smith, members of his coaching staff and 30 of his players loaded into a van in Leiper's Fork and headed toward Saint Thomas Sports Park.
"We didn't tell them we were coming when we got in the van to come this way," Smith said. "So when we rolled up, they started chirping and they got so excited. And to see them walk around and watch the drills, and see the enjoyment they are getting from it, it is awesome."
Smith, in his fourth season as head coach, said it was great to show his players how things are done in the NFL. And he said it was great to show players the two teams – one in high school, the other in the NFL -- warm-up and practice in a similar fashion.
Smith, wearing a bucket hat with sunglasses, said it was a special feeling to be back at the facility. He stood atop the stands, looking over the practice fields he used to thrown passes on. At the beginning of practice, Titans linebacker Derrick Morgan spotted Smith and came over to the fence line to chat with him
"It is fun to get out here and watch these guys compete, and it does bring back memories," Smith said. "And there are still some guys I know from when I played here, guys I was teammates with. It's been a great experience for sure. And I love that our guys love it."
The Titans take the field for the opening day of training camp on Thursday, July 26, 2018 at Saint Thomas Sports Park. (Photos: Donn Jones, Gary Glenn, AP)