INDIANAPOLIS – Long-time Titans strength and conditioning coach Steve Watterson was presented the NFL Strength and Conditioning Coaches Lifetime Achievement Award here on Tuesday night.
Watterson, who retired last April, received the award at the NFL Strength and Conditioning Coaches banquet at the Westin Hotel.
Watterson retired last April after serving 32 years as the Titans' strength and conditioning coach. He was the longest tenured NFL assistant coach with consecutive years working for the same team.
"I am very humbled by it," Watterson said. "To be recognized by my peers, it means so much to me. … It's a little bit of a closing of the door. One comedic comment I made, was there was one guy who was retired (when he received the award), and after six years he came back. I guaranteed them they would never have to worry about that with me. All the juice was out of this grape."
At the banquet, Watterson was recognized on a night when former players and coaches spoke in a video tribute to Watterson. Current Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota and tight end Delanie Walker appeared in the video, along with former coaches Jeff Fisher, Mike Munchak, and Gregg Williams, along with Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews. Other NFL strength coaches also spoke about Watterson and his impact on the game, and profession.
TitansOnline.com looks back at the career of former Titans Strength and Conditioning coach Steve Watterson. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP, Gary Glenn)
Watterson praised Todd Toriscelli, current Director of Sports Medicine for the Titans, at the banquet. The NFL Combine is taking place here in Indianapolis this week.
"He's one of the finest men you could ever possibly work with," Watterson said of Toriscelli. "He loves people, he loves his family, he loves God and he loves his players. There's nothing he wouldn't do. I wouldn't have lasted my last few years without Todd, in terms of physically taking care of me, but he's also one of my best friends."
Watterson was popular because of his tireless and enthusiastic approach during the week, and on the sideline on Sundays. He was the guy in short sleeves and shorts on below-freezing temperature days. He was also known for being a prankster. Over the years, Watterson brought unique ideas to Titans teams as he prepared them for games.
During his career, Watterson was instrumental in helping to develop and implement various strength and conditioning programs with the Titans while directing the club's offseason conditioning program. Watterson joined the Houston Oilers in 1986 as strength and conditioning coordinator before becoming an assistant coach in those areas prior to the 1988 season.
"Going back to the crazy days – I've seen all of it," Watterson said with a smile. "It started with Jerry Glanville, and then I got to work for a fine human being in Jack Pardee. Jeff Fisher was phenomenal, and then getting to see one of my closest friends – Mike Munchak – get elevated was one of the greatest days of my profession career. I really enjoyed working for Whiz (Ken Whisenhunt). And Mike Mularkey, who is one of the finest men I've ever met."
On Tuesday night, Watterson expressed regret he couldn't continue to work under head coach Mike Vrabel. But he said he knew it was time to retire. Tom Kanavy replaced Watterson for the 2018 season, but he wasn't retained this offseason. Frank Piraino was hired as the team's head strength and conditioning coach earlier this year.
"When the very best players deserve more than the very best I could give them, it was time to go," Watterson said. "Physically, with 16 surgeries, two knee replacements pending – I've had two elbow replacements. It was time.
"I am disappointed because I feel like I failed the team, failed (GM) Jon (Robinson), failed Vrabel, in not being able to come back. I couldn't answer the bell. But I (retired) because I felt it was the best thing for the team. I gave it everything I could before just the start of the offseason (program) … and I just didn't feel like I could do my part.
"But looking back, I have so many great memories."