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Rookie Dane Cruikshank Adjusting to NFL, "Big" Playbook


NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Dane Cruikshank has experienced a number of highs since his final collegiate game at the University of Arizona, and if all goes well, they'll continue for years to come.

Getting drafted by the Titans ranks among the most memorable moments for Cruikshank.

Yet when Cruikshank was fitted for his first NFL helmet, and handed his new uniform for rookie minicamp over the weekend, reality hit for the defensive back.

"I can't even explain that feeling," Cruikshank said. "It was just the greatest feeling in the world. I mean, I dreamed of doing this since I was a little boy, since my parents put the ball in my hands. I am just super blessed and super thankful that they gave me the opportunity to be a Titan.

"It feels like home."

The big and physical Cruikshank (6-1, 209) took part in the team's three-day rookie minicamp, and on Monday he took the field with the veterans in the offseason program.

The Titans drafted Cruikshank in the fifth round of the NFL Draft, in part, because they were attracted to his versatility.

Cruikshank played in 25 games at Arizona in 2016 and 2017, and finished with 108 tackles and five interceptions. He began his college career at Citrus College, where he was considered one of the country's top JUCO players. Cruikshank tallied 75 tackles, 5.5 tackles for a loss, three interceptions and 1.5 sacks last season at Arizona. He made the transition from cornerback to "spur safety" with the Wildcats last season.

"He's a versatile defensive back, played a lot of positions," Titans general manager Jon Robinson said after picking Cruikshank. "We spent a lot of time with him this spring. He has really good size, really good speed. He has played outside corner, he's played inside corner, he's worked some at safety, played some in the kicking game. So we're really excited to add him."

Cruikshank didn't reveal where he lined up over the weekend in the secondary.

"I am playing DB," he said. "I am playing whatever the coaches are telling me to play, so whether it is nickel, safety or corner -- that is where I am playing."

He did shed some light on what's stood out for him early, from the playbook, to being coached by Mike Vrabel and a vocal secondary coach in Kerry Coombs.

"The playbook," said Cruikshank, smiling. "The playbook is very big -- that's not a lie. The playbook is very big, so it has been an adjustment. But I am looking forward to it. I love football. This is what I do, this is my profession. And I am putting everything into it."

As for Vrabel, who played 14 NFL seasons, and Coombs, who coached at Ohio State last year, Cruikshank said he's already learning from them.

"He definitely brings a lot of energy to the table," Cruikshank said of Coombs. "I have been picking his brain a lot, and he is definitely a mentor to learn from. I can learn a lot from him. I definitely have him in my corner and I am looking forward to working with him this year.

"Coach Vrabel, he is a great person, another mentor you can learn from. I mean, he played in the league for a lot of years. So I am definitely picking his brain, too. He knows the defense like the back of his hand. He is a great coach and I am looking forward to him as well. He has been through a lot, and been there, done that."

Cruikshank said he's looking forward to learning from his veteran teammates.

He plans to study his playbook. The Titans hit the field for organized team activities next week, and Cruikshank wants to show his teammates and coaches he's prepared for whatever is thrown his way.

No matter where he lines up.

"It is kind of like being a freshman all over again from the college level," he said. "Transitioning to the NFL level, you just have to get to know everybody. And then of course you have so many different play calls and things you have to adjust to. It is a little bit of a transition. I feel like I am settling in pretty quickly. "You just have to adjust to it. It is about the time you put into it. You put in a lot of time and you work towards that, then you will be able to achieve your goals. But it is football at the end of the day – I have been doing this a long time. The speed of the game is a little bit faster, the playbook is a little bigger. So it is an adjustment period and that is what we are doing right now."

The Titans select Arizona DB Dane Cruikshank in the 5th round (#152nd overall) of 2018 NFL Draft. (AP Photos)

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