NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Teamwork, and trust.
Discipline, and hard work.
Titans coach Mike Mularkey talks regularly to his team about the traits he's looking for in a Titan. Leading up to the season, he recruited some inspirational speakers -- including some decorated members of the military -- to hammer the message home, and create even more of a "do-it-together" mindset.
Then came the words from former Titans linebacker Tim Shaw, who stressed the importance of living every day to the fullest as he courageously fights his daily battle with ALS.
"I just wanted them all to tell their story," Mularkey said. "A lot of them, the world they came from, is correlated with what we are doing here. With the military, it's all about depending on your buddy, having each other's back. And football is about being a team.
"It is not life and death here, but you learn about having your buddy's back, your teammate's back, loving him, and wanting the same goal. That's the message I hope (the speakers) got across."
From the beginning of organized team activities in May until the end of training camp, seven different speakers addressed the Titans during team meetings at night in the Saint Thomas Sports Park auditorium.
Marcus Luttrell, the U.S. Navy SEAL known for being portrayed as "The Lone Survivor," was among them. Luttrell received the Navy Cross and Purple Heart for his actions in June 2005 against Taliban fighters during Operation Red Wings.
"He spoke for two hours," Titans linebacker Avery Williamson said, "and that guy was just incredible, really inspirational. His mindset was amazing, just to see what he went through. The mental strength he has is really inspiring."
On another night, Major General Andrew P. Poppas, Commanding General of the 101st Airborne Division, spoke to the team. John W. Rosa, a retired United States Air Force Lieutenant General, addressed the players as well.
The team also heard from Inky Johnson, the former University of Tennessee football player who suffered a career-ending and life-threatening injury, and now serves as a motivational speaker. Trevor Moawad, a mental conditioning coach, and Jon Gordon, an American author and speaker on the topics of leadership, culture, sales, and teamwork addressed the team as well. Gordon is the author of The Energy Bus, which talks about the all-in approach a team needs to be successful.
"I think Jon Gordon was the most productive for me personally, coming in and talking about the Energy Bus," defensive lineman Jurrell Casey said. "It was a reminder that a lot of times you can think about the small things going on in your life and let that control you, but you have to remember there's a ton of good things going on and as long as you can control those small things, life goes smoother and you have to remind yourself of that every day."
Across the board, players said they especially loved hearing from Shaw, who was named a team captain earlier this week. Shaw was diagnosed with ALS following his playing career, and players have seen his physical condition deteriorate over the years.
They've also witnessed the emotional impact Shaw's positive approach has had on those around him. Shaw has been a regular at STSP, and he's attended road games since being named a "Titan for Life" prior to last season. Mularkey said on Wednesday Shaw plans to be at all 16 games this season.
"I think Tim's speech was very motivational, and very applicable,'' linebacker Derrick Morgan said. "His main talking point was being in the moment, and living for today. And I think especially in our society today it is very easy to look forward, to get distracted, and to not be present. That really hit home for me because it is something I try and put to practice in my life."
Williamson said the room was quiet for all the speakers, but Shaw's words hit home.
"It was really touching," Williamson said. "Tim doesn't know where his life is headed and what's going to happen. He was in good health, and was just like all of us when he was playing, and then to have his health declining. He talked about taking advantage of every day of life and that hit home with me.
"I think overall the message we received from all the speakers was big on not just showing how close a team should be, but also being prepared for the moment, whether it's military or Tim Shaw."
Mularkey, who also invited speakers to training camp in 2016, his first full season as the team's head coach, thinks it's good for players to hear from others, not just the coaches.
Players agreed the messages made a lasting impression, and could serve as sources of motivation during the 2017 season.
"I love me some Tim Shaw, so whenever he speaks I am definitely 100 percent locked in," receiver Harry Douglas said. "His message is not to worry about the next day, or the day before, but now. Live in the moment and cherish the moment you are living in.
"And that is important to think about. But just to hear all the messages, it is very important in that aspect. We are around each other all the time, players and coach. It's like when you are growing up, your parents tell you something a million times, but when you hear it from somebody else and when you hear it from other people, you can receive that information and have a different perspective and outlook and view on things.
"I think the speakers we heard made an impact on everyone. I loved every one of them."
Former Titans LB Tim Shaw unveils his new book, then is recognized as the "Honorary 12th Titan" at Nissan Stadium. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)