NASHVILLE – As Titans fans everywhere celebrated running back Derrick Henry's 99-yard touchdown run against the Jaguars back on December 6, 2018, tight end Jonnu Smith had a different perspective on the play.
Smith went to the ground after making a pair of key blocks on the historic run. He had to be helped off the field after suffering a torn ACL.
"It was a great day, and a great moment," Smith said of the play, "but it was a different day for me. I was happy (Derrick scored), but I also knew what was ahead because my knee was messed up."
Smith kept the faith. And after a lengthy rehabilitation process following surgery, he was able to return in time for the start of the 2019 season.
Smith had the best season of his three-year NFL career in 2019, when he caught 35 passes for 439 yards and three touchdowns. Smith made an acrobatic touchdown catch in the team's playoff win at Baltimore.
Smith's road back, and his performance that ensued, led his teammates to vote him as the Titans' Ed Block Courage Award recipient.
The Ed Block Courage Award is given to a player on each of the NFL's 32 teams who represents a commitment to sportsmanship, courage, professionalism, and are considered to be role models in their community.
Named in memory of Ed Block, a humanitarian and athletic trainer for the Baltimore Colts, the award is administered by the Ed Block Courage Award Foundation.
Titans coach Mike Vrabel has raved about Smith many times in the past.
"Jonnu is one of my favorite players on this team," Vrabel said during the 2019 season. "I don't have 'favorites', but he is one of my favorite players on this team. I just love him to death. I love the way he works, I love his attitude."
In an interview last month, Smith said he's excited about what's next.
Smith has been working out in a one-on-one setting with quarterback Ryan Tannehill, and he'll head into the season as the team's No.1 tight end.
"As a professional, you just want to continue to improve, and continue to build off any momentum that you had (from the previous season) just to get better," Smith said. "I am focused on getting better and better and improving and improving. Because if you are not in it to maximize your abilities, then I feel like you are in the wrong business.
"So, I am just trying to improve and get better and work on my craft, and I am having fun doing it. … I am trying to be the best player I can be to help this team win as many games and win championships. For me, I'm tight end 1 now, and I'm just going to take advantage of the opportunity I have in front of me and continue to be a workhorse and do what is expected of me."
Titans Online looks back at tight end Jonnu Smith's 2019 season (Photos: Donald Page)