Rookie WR Tajae Sharpe Looking Like a Real Gem for Titans

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. —** On the first day of training camp, Tajae Sharpe's family showed up three hours early to see him in a Titans uniform for the first time. Like the rest of the team's fans, they waited until security opened the gate.

On Saturday, they once again arrived early – an hour before gates at Nissan Stadium opened, and three hours before the Titans faced the Panthers.

It's almost like they expected Sharpe to do so well, so early.

A fifth-round pick out of Massachusetts, Sharpe has been one of the bright spots for the Titans so far in 2016. He worked his way onto the first-team in practices during the offseason, and now he's worked his way into quarterback Marcus Mariota's comfort zone with his steady play.

"He makes it easy,'' Mariota said of Sharpe. "He is a very versatile athlete, and he's done a lot for us already. He creates separation in and out of his routes and we are going to continue to expect these kinds of things out of him."

Sharpe caught six passes for 68 yards in Saturday's 26-16 loss to the Panthers, and he now leads the Titans with eight catches for 103 yards in the preseason.

Sharpe has catches of 20 and 31 yards in the first two weeks. Keep in mind he didn't play past the first quarter last week against the Chargers, and he was easily out of the game by halftime on Saturday.

"There's a big trust level,'' Titans coach Mike Mularkey said of Mariota, and Sharpe. "What you're seeing is what he basically does in practices. He's made some big catches that we haven't had here in a while.

"… Tajae has been a pleasant pick. … He's consistent."   

Sharpe (6-2, 194) finished his career at Massachusetts as the school's all-time leader in receptions (277) and receiving yards (3,486). He arrived in Tennessee as an underdog, with veterans ahead of him on the depth chart.

But Sharpe has hardly played like a rookie, which was his plan from the get-go.

"I don't want to look like a rookie,'' Sharpe said. "I just want to look like an NFL receiver."

Sharpe said he's worked hard to be where Mariota wants him to be in practices, and in games.

When the ball is in his vicinity, he considers it his football.

"The mindset I have,'' Sharpe said, "is whenever he puts his trust in me, it is my job to come down with it. If I am the intended target for Marcus, I consider that my ball."

In recent weeks, Sharpe admits he's heard his name called more often from fans in the crowd. It's made him smile.

Some of those voices are very familiar. His mom, dad, sister, girlfriend and other family member were all there on Saturday, just like last week. They waited a while to see him.

"My parents, they've played a big part of my success,'' Sharpe said. "They have always been extremely supportive of me, whether it was sports or academics. They always told me whatever I want to do in life, I can do it. I just have to work hard at it. The way I was raised, they helped make me what I am today and I have to thank them for that.

"But I know I have to keep working. It is a good feeling to have the support from my family, and the fans, and to have some success. But there's so much more I have to do. Having the support, I definitely want to perform for myself, my family and my teammates as well. I know I have to keep it up."

The Tennessee Titans battle the Carolina Panthers in Week 2 of the 2016 preseason at Nissan Stadium. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)

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