NASHVILLE, Tenn. — **Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota hasn't been fazed by much during his rookie season.
Then, during a visit to Saint Thomas Midtown Hospital on Tuesday morning, a proud parent handed Mariota a newborn.
"I was a little nervous at first,'' Mariota said with a smile.
Mariota, outfitted in a Santa Claus hat, pulled it off.
Mariota, alongside teammates Karl Klug and Ropati Pitoitua, along with other members of the organization, on Tuesday visited a half-dozen newborns, and also paid a visit to several patients recovering from joint replacement surgery.
The Titans regularly send players to the hospital on Tuesdays. Ten days before Christmas, Mariota, Klug and Pitoitua made the rounds, decked out in red Santa Claus hats, and accompanied by a pair of singing Santa Clauses.
The players gave away yearbooks, and blankets. They sang Christmas carols, and took pictures. At one point, the players sang "Sweet Caroline" to newborn Caroline Harper and her parents, complete with the "Bom-Bom-Bom." Mariota and Klug looked ready for some household caroling after several renditions of "Jingle Bells." Or maybe not.
"Today was great. Seeing the kids, that was the best part,'' Klug said. "The singing was obviously the worst part. I am not a big fan of singing. But seeing the kids was awesome.
"Since I have two (children) of my own I kind of know what kind of questions to ask. I know (the parents) are not getting sleep, I know they are changing diapers non-stop, I know that it is kind of overwhelming."
While Mariota and Klug spent most their time with the newborns, Pitoitua visited patients in the early stages of recovery from joint replacement surgery.
"It is good to put a smile on somebody's face, especially at this time,'' Pitoitua said. "It is good to reach out to the community… They were excited, very happy."
Hospital staff appreciated the team's effort.
"The Tennessee Titans warmed the hearts of those welcoming a new addition to their family this Christmas," said Saint Thomas Director of Nursing for Maternal Infant Services, Donna Darnell. "Saint Thomas patients and their families were delighted to celebrate and give thanks for the blessings they have received this holiday season."
The feedback from the patients was mostly positive.
Titans players join Santa Claus in celebrating the holiday season at Saint Thomas Midtown Hospital (Photos: Gary Glenn, Lynne McCracken)
"This is the best Christmas present I could have gotten,'' Robert Fletcher, who recently had knee replacement surgery, told the players. "I am a big fan of you guys. The pleasure is all mind. I am at a loss of words, and that is hard because I talk a lot. This is the best."
Horace Smith, who was visiting patient Mike Utterback, cracked a joke at one point, however. He'd watched Sunday's 30-8 loss to the Jets.
"I wanted to go out there and kick a few of you guys in the first half,'' Smith said.
Responded Klug: "We wanted to kick ourselves."
But it was all about generating smiles on Tuesday. Mariota even managed to keep a smile himself when handling a crying baby.
Mariota said his family taught him the importance of giving back while growing up in Hawaii. He spent time with underprivileged youth as a youngster.
He's glad to be out in the community with the Titans.
"It is kind of the culture of the team to help out,'' Mariota said. "It is nice to be able to bring some joy and happiness to others." At the end of the day, it was mission accomplished.
Although Klug said he picked up a flaw in Mariota's game.
"He needs some voice lessons,'' Klug said.
ABOUT SAINT THOMAS HEALTH
Saint Thomas Health is Middle Tennessee's faith-based, not-for-profit health care system united as one healing community. Saint Thomas Health is focused on transforming the health care experience and helping people live healthier lives, with special attention to the poor and vulnerable. The regional health system includes nine hospitals: Saint Thomas Hospital for Spinal Surgery, Saint Thomas Midtown Hospital and Saint Thomas West Hospital in Nashville, Saint Thomas Rutherford Hospital in Murfreesboro, Saint Thomas Hickman Hospital in Centerville, Saint Thomas DeKalb Hospital in Smithville, Saint Thomas Highlands Hospital in Sparta, Saint Thomas River Park Hospital in McMinnville and Saint Thomas Stones River Hospital in Woodbury. A comprehensive network of affiliated joint ventures, medical practices, clinics and rehabilitation facilities complement the hospital services and cover a 68-county area. Saint Thomas Health is a member of Ascension, a Catholic organization that is the largest not-for-profit health system in the United States. For more information, visit www.STHealth.com.
Ascension (www.ascension.org) is a faith-based healthcare organization dedicated to transformation through innovation across the continuum of care. As the largest non-profit health system in the U.S. and the world's largest Catholic health system, Ascension is committed to delivering compassionate, personalized care to all persons with special attention to those who are struggling the most. In FY2015, Ascension provided $2 billion in care of persons living in poverty and other community benefit programs. More than 150,000 associates and 35,000 affiliated providers serve in 1,900 sites of care – including 131 hospitals and more than 30 senior care facilities – in 24 states and the District of Columbia. In addition to healthcare delivery, Ascension subsidiaries provide a variety of services and solutions including physician practice management, venture capital investing, treasury management, biomedical engineering, clinical care management, information services, risk management, and contracting through Ascension's own group purchasing organization.