NASHVILLE – When linebacker Nick Dzubnar signed with the Titans back in March, he could hardly wait to join his new team, and continue his NFL career.
He ended up waiting a long time, because the coronavirus pandemic wrecked Dzubnar's plans – and everyone else's, for that matter.
"Everything this year has been so interesting," said Dzubnar, a special teams ace with the Chargers who was signed by the Titans in free agency. "I had five good years with the Chargers, but I was so excited to sign with the Titans. Then it's like, all the excitement, and then you're stuck hanging out, meeting guys on Zoom for the offseason.
"The first two weeks being here, finally actually seeing guys' faces, getting to know these guys on a more personal level and just starting to vibe with the team. ... You can already tell it's obviously a great organization and a good group of guys. It's been pretty easy for me to fit in and it's pretty good."
The 6-foot-1, 240-pound Dzubnar, who has played in 65 career games since entering the NFL in 2015, reported to training camp at the end of July and he's been working with his new teammates during the last few weeks.
Dzubnar played in all 16 games during the 2015, 2016 and 2019 seasons. In 2019, Dzubnar recorded 12 special teams tackles for the Chargers. He ranked first or second in special teams tackles in four of his five years with the Chargers. He had a team-best 21 special teams stops in 2017.
In Tennessee, Dzubnar plans to keep playing like a wild man on special teams.
"I feel like that's why the Tennessee Titans brought me here," he said. "I can't tell you if there's a certain trick, all I know is to go 100 miles an hour with my hair on fire -- 100% effort, nonstop, nonstop, nonstop until I get to the ball carrier or whatever it is, whoever is returning. I think it's more of a mindset and attitude that I had, growing up, playing sports.
"That's helped me excel especially in special teams, because special teams to me is a dogfight every single one. Whether it's punt, punt return, kickoff, kickoff return, it's just a straight fight. If it's a one-on-one battle, it's you against the other guy. I don't like to lose. I look forward to good competition with other good special teams guys, and like I said, it's a battle. It's a fight. I like to think that I can come out on top."
Dzubnar played collegiately at Cal Poly – San Luis Obispo, where he earned All-America honors as a linebacker and was the second-leading tackler in school history with 414 stops, four sacks, seven forced fumbles and five interceptions.
With the Titans, he'll add depth at linebacker while playing under veteran inside linebackers coach Jim Haslett.
Dzubnar is also excited about being reunited with Titans special teams coach Craig Aukerman, his special teams coach for two seasons with the Chargers.
"Just from being here you can tell everyone is always excited -- it's a great organization," Dzubnar said. "The tempo is very fast, but there's a lot of excitement. Auk brings a lot of really good energy. It's go, go, go, go go, which obviously fuels everyone else and that's the way we should play. So, energy is really high, but it's great. It's exciting. Everyone's excited to be out here playing football because we've been off for so long. There's really good energy. A lot of guys are working hard. We're trying to make everyone better. So far we're doing really well.
"… Auk is great. I have so much respect for him, and what he does, and the way he does it. I'm really happy to be reunited with Auk and I think it's going to be good pairing for us."
Chances are, on Sundays this fall, you'll see Dzubnar sprinting down the field like a heat-seeking missile on special teams.
He'll be decked out in No.49.
If you say his name, well …
"I've heard it said every single way," he said with a smile. "Announcers used to just call my name like, 'Oh, number 41 or number 48, Nick,' and then they'd stop at the last name. The correct way is (duh-ZOOB-nar). A lot of people think there's a silent 'D' or a silent 'Z.' Anyone that says something with a 'Z' I look back at that, because I don't hold anyone accountable for trying to get it right the first time."
A look back at linebacker Nick Dzubnar's first five NFL seasons with the Los Angeles Chargers. (AP Photos)