Respect for Military Runs Deep for Coach Mike Mularkey

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. –** Mike Mularkey doesn't need anyone to remind him it's Veterans Day weekend.

Yet it's hardly the only time the Titans head coach thinks about the soldiers who've served in the military, and the sacrifices they've made for the country.

Mularkey is part of a military family.

His father, Jack, was in the Army, and served in World War II. A brother, Terry, served 20-plus years in the Army. Mularkey's nephew is also in the Army.

It's why Mularkey has made sure his football team is influenced by those in the armed services.

"I've been around it my whole life," Mularkey said. "I know the training the soldiers go through. And what we do is minute, playing football. It is minuscule to what they do for us.

"I have so much appreciation for what they do for us and our country, and the sacrifices they make every day."

This week marks the Titans' Salute to Service game when the Cincinnati Bengals visit Nissan Stadium. Each year, the NFL and the NFL Players Association come together in honor of Veterans Day to celebrate and recognize members of the military as part of the league's Salute to Service.

The league's military appreciation efforts culminate in November with Salute to Service games honoring veterans, active-duty members and their families.

Earlier this month, Mularkey was recognized as the team's nominee for the NFL's Salute to Service Award.

The Salute to Service Award annually recognizes NFL players, coaches, personnel and alumni who demonstrate an exemplary commitment to honoring and supporting the military community.

Finalists for the Salute to Service Award presented by USAA will be announced in January, and the recipient will be recognized at NFL Honors, a two-hour primetime awards special to air nationally on Feb. 3, the night before Super Bowl LII, from 7-9 PM CST on NBC.

"I was very honored to even be considered," Mularkey said. "I was completely caught off-guard by being recognized for it."

Mularkey was surprised by officials from Fort Campbell during a team meeting.

Major General Andrew P. Poppas, Commanding General of the 101st Airborne Division, spoke to Mularkey in a video that played in front of the entire team.

Titans players and coaches go through Army training exercises, visit with soldiers at Fort Campbell, home to the 101st Airborne Division and the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. (Photos: Gary Glenn)

"I can honestly say that over 32 years in uniform in this Army, I have never seen a more profound effort and commitment than you and the Titans have displayed for our soldiers," Poppas said of Mularkey. "I am absolutely grateful, and I cherish the relationship that we have. Good luck in the future, and Titan Up."

Players gave Mularkey a nice ovation at the meeting.

Since taking over as the team's head coach last season, Mularkey has made sure there's been a military presence around his football team.

Poppas spoke to the team leading up to the season. John W. Rosa, a retired United States Air Force Lieutenant General, addressed the players as well. Marcus Luttrell, the U.S. Navy SEAL known for being portrayed as "The Lone Survivor," was also among the motivational speakers. Luttrell received the Navy Cross and Purple Heart for his actions in June 2005 against Taliban fighters during Operation Red Wings.

Last year, Mularkey's nephew talked to the team before a game. In the hallway leading into the team's meeting room, a photo of Mularkey's nephew and his unit hangs on a wall, with the soldiers decked out in full gear, in Titans hats.

This past offseason, the Titans traveled to Fort Campbell and spent a day on the base. Players went through an obstacle course, and Mularkey and General Manager Jon Robinson spent time with U.S. Army leaders.

Earlier, the Titans welcomed members of the 1st Brigade Combat Team "Bastogne" 101st Airborne Division to Saint Thomas Sports Park, where strength and conditioning coach Steve Watterson put company commanders through a strenuous workout.

Titans QB Marcus Mariota, LB Derrick Morgan, head coach Mike Mularkey and GM Jon Robinson headline Day 3 of Titans Caravan in Fort Campbell and Clarksville. (Photos: Gary Glenn)