NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Marcus Mariota would rather ride the breakers on a boogie board than a surf board, but he's always willing to change things up for the fun of it.
During a recent trip back home to Hawaii, in fact, Mariota hit the waves standing up.
He was surprised things went as well as they did.
"Not bad, actually,'' Mariota said on Thursday. "I had tried (surfing) before, and I wasn't too good at it. So I kind of brushed it off. This time around I was able to stand up, and catch a few waves. So it was fun."
On the eve of his first training camp practice with the Titans, the rookie quarterback is ready to dive in, and make a splash.
Mariota met with reporters at Saint Thomas Sports Park for the first time since signing his new contract earlier this month. The second overall pick of the NFL Draft said he enjoyed the six-week break after last month's minicamp concluded, but he's now ready to get started.
His focus is on football. To heck with the high expectations, or pressure.
"I am ready to go,'' Mariota said. "Everything that I have done in my lifetime, in my career as a football player, has built up for this moment, to get ready to make the most of it. I am excited and I can't wait to get going. I am excited for tomorrow."
The Titans will hit the practice field on Friday morning at Saint Thomas Sports Park for the start of training camp.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt made it clear again on Thursday Mariota is the man for the Titans. Asked about the pecking order at the quarterback position, Whisenhunt replied: "You mean after Marcus?'"
Mariota, last year's Heisman Trophy winner out of Oregon, did his part to quash any early controversy by turning in a solid offseason for the Titans. He handled things well on the field and in the classroom, and made a favorable impression on his teammates, from rookies to veterans.
During the break, Mariota also organized workouts with the team's receivers at Father Ryan High School in Nashville.
To a man, players expect him to hit the ground running at the start of camp.
"His hunger is unbelievable,'' receiver Harry Douglas said. "Marcus, I am not worried about him. He is going to work, and I know what kind of player he is. I saw the strides he made in OTAs and minicamp. The rest is just sitting out there for him, and I have 100 percent faith he is going to grab it."
Center Brian Schwenke, who hung out with Mariota at the swimming pool and at a BBQ during the break, said he's been impressed with the quarterback's maturity.
"I am not worried about him at all,'' Schwenke said. "He is a professional, and everything he works for is what he's about to do. I am not the least bit worried about him. He'll be ready."
During camp, the Titans plan to do everything possible to get Mariota ready for the start of the regular season.
But they'll also be careful not to overload him.
"Just like any other team, we've got millions of great plays you think are going to work," Whisenhunt said. "But it doesn't do you any good if you've got too many. You've got to find that balance of giving him enough, yet being diverse enough that it keeps teams off balance a little bit."
The Titans believe Mariota is ahead of schedule in his development. Now, they don't want to hinder his ability to keep progressing.
"I think the element of him being able to extend the play and move adds a lot, so that's what we have to work through," Whisenhunt said. "You just don't want to get to a point where you're not allowing him to play fast because that's certainly one of his best attributes."
The Titans will practice in pads for the first time on Sunday, when they'll find out even more about him.
"It's more about seeing what he can do in the live situations – with the pads on in the pocket," Whisenhunt said. "When you're out there in shorts and helmets, you don't really get a sense of a real pocket.
"He did a lot of nice things, moving in the pocket, stepping up (during OTAs). But now when you have bodies around you, it's a little different. This is where we get a chance to see that. But we feel really good about it. I think he is progressing well."
Mariota knows all eyes will be on him when fans show up for practices during camp.
He'll also be under the microscope during preseason games.
During an offseason when he was the face of the team's marketing plan, Mariota knows the fans have high expectations.
That's OK with him.
"I have always had high expectations for myself and that won't change,'' he said. "And I am going to do my best to achieve it."
Titans QB Marcus Mariota takes part on the first day of rookie minicamp at Saint Thomas Sports Park. (Donn Jones Photography.com)