NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Marcus Mariota put down the football for a day, and picked up a few babies.
The Titans quarterback was among six players who visited Saint Thomas Midtown Hospital, part of Ascension, on Tuesday to spread Christmas cheer by spending time with newborns and joint replacement patients, and their families.
"I think taking care of the football on Sundays is a little easier for me,'' Mariota said with a smile. "But it is a fun time of the year to be able to do this. To be able to meet some of the families, it is a lot of fun for us and we get a lot of joy out of it.
"In a moment in time for us, it takes us away from football and it makes us realize how important family and our lives are, and to enjoy time with family and others. This is a great opportunity to reach out to the community and spread some Christmas cheer, and have a little fun."
Mariota, defensive lineman Karl Klug and quarterback Alex Tanney visited newborns during the hospital visit. Defensive linemen DaQuan Jones, Al Woods and Angelo Blackson visited patients who recently had joint replacement surgeries.
Sporting Santa hats, and accompanied by singing Santas, the players made their way through the hallways at the hospital handing out yearbooks, and blankets, while visiting rooms. The new parents, and patients, were fired up to see them.
Several of them congratulated the Titans on their recent success as the players posed for pictures in the hallways, and in the rooms.
"There's a lot of excitement," Mariota said. "We are very fortunate to be a part of a great community, the fans are great. The passion for Titans football is incredible.
"A lot of the fans in the community, it doesn't matter how bad or good the season is going they are sticking behind us. It says a lot about the community we have and we are very fortunate."
Mariota, who is single and doesn't have children, admitted he was nervous about holding babies during a hospital visit last year. He handled several babies on Tuesday morning.
So did Klug, who has two children and has a third on the way.
"It is good to give back," Klug said. "The community shows us support on Sundays, and it is only right for us to show support back. It is a good opportunity to visit people, and to give back."
Mariota said his family taught him the importance of giving back while growing up in Hawaii. As a youngster, he spent time with underprivileged youth.
Mariota said he enjoys being out in the community with the Titans.
On Wednesday, he'll be back on the football field. After a 13-10 win over the Denver Broncos on Sunday, the Titans (7-6) travel to Kansas City on Sunday to face the Chiefs.
"It was nice to get a big win at home (against Denver)," Mariota said, "but we have to flush it out and get ready for Kansas City."
Marcus Mariota leads a group of Titans players on a Christmas visit to Saint Thomas Midtown Hospital. (Photos: Lynne McCracken, Jared Puffer)