NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Titans drafted Jalston Fowler to make an impact last season, and the bruising fullback planned to do just that during his rookie year.
Then he collided with former Titans safety Michael Griffin during an early August scrimmage, and what happened as a result had a big impact on his season.
"Griff got the best of me on my shoulder,'' Fowler said, "and it messed it up pretty good. Sometimes (running backs) coach Sylvester Croom would see me out there hitting people and he'd tell me: 'You fought through it. You're a tough guy.' If I was out there I was going to do the best I could do, but my shoulder wasn't right."
A fourth-round pick out of Alabama, Fowler played in all 16 games for the Titans last season. At the end of the year, he had surgery on the shoulder. Fowler called it a labrum injury. He also dealt with a broken toe at the end of the season.
"He is healthy now,'' coach Mike Mularkey said of Fowler. "I think he's as healthy as he has been in years. His weight is down, and he is running better, too. He understands the offense better. There's a lot of good things about Jalston."
Mularkey expects Fowler to make a bigger impact in 2016. He's looked good during the preseason.
Fowler played in 16 snaps vs the Raiders, and he picked up a first down when he plowed through the middle of the Oakland defense on a 4th-and-1. Fowler played in eight snaps vs the Panthers, and four snaps on offense against the Chargers, in addition to playing on special teams in all three games.
Mularkey said the Titans will have a role for the fullback in the offense.
"Absolutely,'' Mularkey said. "When we did not have a true fullback on the roster two years we were trying to make Jackie Battle a fullback, and that wasn't fair to him because he was not a fullback. Jalston is, and it is important in this offense. It is really important when you get down to the goal line. When you say, 'What are the percentages a fullback is playing?' Well, start putting all the critical situations into a game plan – short yardage, goal-line, four-minute. When you are trying to win the game, you have to win the game, that guy better be a stud back there.
"He is in the game plan more. … When he's been in there, he's been what we've hoped for."
The 5-foot-11, 254-pounder Fowler said he's ready to deliver.
A year ago, Fowler ran the ball seven times for 13 yards, and scored a one-yard touchdown. He also caught five passes for 44 yards, with another score. Here's an impact stat: Eight of Fowler's 12 touches last year resulted in a first down.
Fowler displayed his versatility at Alabama, where he played fullback, running back, H-back and tight end in addition to his work on special teams. He was teammates with Titans running back Derrick Henry.
"That's my little brother right there,'' Fowler said of Henry.
Fowler, a member of two national championship teams at Alabama, is ready to clear a path for Henry, DeMarco Murray and the other running backs this fall.
"I feel a lot better this year,'' Fowler said. "My plan is always to give it my all when I'm out there. Now, nothing is hurting, and when you don't have to worry about your shoulder you feel like you are full-go and ready for anything.
"As a fullback, my job is to be on the right guy, and when you are on the right guy you have to blow them up."
Titans Online looks at the collegiate career of Alabama FB Jalston Fowler. (AP Photos)