NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Jack Conklin has played the starring role in one heck of a success story.
After not receiving a single Division I scholarship offer out of high school, Conklin became a preferred walk-on at Michigan State. He earned himself a scholarship, and turned himself into a first-round pick in the NFL.
Then, in his first season with the Tennessee Titans, he was named an All-Pro performer right out of the gate.
Now, headed into his second NFL season, he's not about to kick his feet back and watch.
"At one point I was the guy trying to fight and crawl and fight everybody to work my way up," Conklin said on Tuesday. "I know what it is like to be at the bottom and I don't want to go back. That's what I think about every day and that is what motivates me."
Conklin, selected eighth overall by the Titans in last year's draft, was named First Team All-Pro by the Associated Press in 2016 for his performance at right tackle. Conklin became the first Titan to be named first-team All-Pro by the Associated Press since running back Chris Johnson in 2009. He became the first Titans rookie since defensive end Jevon Kearse in 1999 to be named to the team.
He was one of three rookies on the All-Pro team, joining Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott and Chiefs wide receiver and punter returner Tyreek Hill.
TitansOnline.com looks back at offensive tackle Jack Conklin's All-Pro rookie season. (AP Photos)
This offseason, he worked hard to get better, and stronger.
His approach was hardly a surprise to those around him. No one expected Conklin to relax.
"That is not Jack Conklin, I promise you," coach Mike Mularkey said of Conklin. "He's going to do everything he can to be better than he was, and every day he comes in here that's the way he works. (The All-Pro honor was) just something that was a reward and a nice compliment to the way he played, but that will not affect him.
"He can get better, he can. He saw a lot of things. I think people now know Jack a little bit better. They'll be studying him, they'll be studying how guys attacked him. Jack's constantly working his trade, but I think Jack has some room to get even better than he was."
Veteran center Ben Jones worked alongside Conklin on the offensive line in 2016. He also worked with Conklin in Nashville this offseason, training with strength and conditioning coach Steve Watterson.
Conklin (6-6, 308) said he's about the same as last year from a weight standpoint, but he feels stronger.
Jones said Conklin "is what you want in a right tackle."
"He is smart, and he is one of the most competitive guys on the team," Jones said. "Whether he is playing video games, shooting basketball, if he's playing cards he wants to win. And he just gets the done. It might not look pretty, but he is going to get it done no matter what and he takes pride in that. And that's what we want over there, somebody who is going to get it done."
Conklin, who started all 16 games for the Titans during his rookie season, has been working alongside the other returning offensive line starters in training camp.
After last season, Pro Football Focus named Conklin the best right tackle in pro football following a season when he allowed only two sacks and received just two penalties this season. The Titans allowed just 28 sacks as a team in 2016, during a year when they finished with the NFL's third ranked-rushing attack. In addition to Conklin and Jones, guards Quinton Spain and Josh Kline return, along with Pro Bowl left tackle Taylor Lewan.
Conklin's mindset: Don't be the weak link.
"I was a rookie (last year), and it's the NFL," Conklin said. "There's a whole lot to learn, a whole lot of technique I have to work on. Luckily I have a bunch of older guys (around me) who are very good players who can help bring me along.
"As far as the veterans in the NFL goes, I am still technically a rookie. So I have to be quiet, and know my place on the team. That's how I go about my thing. I stay quiet and try and do my thing."
Titans players take the field for Day 4 of the team's 2017 training camp at Saint Thomas Sports Park. (Photos: Donn Jones Photography, Gary Glenn)