NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tight end MyCole Pruitt had bounced from practice squads to active rosters during his career, and in 2017 he found himself paying his dues with the Houston Texans.
Pruitt did his part to help the Texans during the week, but as a practice squad player, he wasn't dressing out on game days.
It was tough, Pruitt admitted. But encouraging words helped him, including some from then-Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel.
"I was going against his defense every day on the practice squad, and he saw some of the things I was able to do," Pruitt said of Vrabel. "He pulled me aside one day because he knew I was kind of down about not being (on the 53-man roster), and he gave me some encouraging words. And I've always appreciated that."
When Pruitt was signed by the Titans in September – off Houston's practice squad -- he suspected Vrabel, hired in January as head coach of the Titans, had something to do with it.
"I believe that was a big factor in why I'm here," Pruitt said. "We had some conversations back on Houston, and he just told me to keep my head up and keep going. When they needed somebody to fill in (here) I feel like he remembered some of those conversations we had, and what he saw from me in practices, and he was able to bring me over."
Pruitt has been rewarded with playing time since being signed by the Titans on September 10. Injuries to tight ends Delanie Walker and Jonnu Smith paved the way for more opportunities.
And Pruitt, who also spent time with the Vikings, Bears and Bills earlier in his career, has rewarded the Titans with his play. Pruitt scored his first career touchdown in Saturday's win over the Redskins, and it was a big one – a two-yard, go-ahead touchdown pass from quarterback Blaine Gabbert.
Pruitt, who played in 16 games for the Vikings in 2015 but in only five games the next two seasons before this year, has seven catches for 76 yards in 14 games for the Titans this season.
"MyCole has been here and he's done a good job for us," Vrabel said. "He's taken advantage of the opportunities that he's basically earned. By playing better, he's earned more opportunities. We unfortunately lost Jonnu (Smith), so he's played more. He's done a good job. He's trying to help us in the run game, then he had two big catches there for us the other night."
The Titans face the Colts on Sunday at Nissan Stadium.
It's a win-and-in playoff scenario for the Titans.
The opportunity is also what Pruitt's been working for since entering the NFL in 2015.
"It has been fun, and I am grateful that they believed in me and gave me this opportunity. It has been a great time. Everybody here has welcomed me in and I have stepped in and played my role," Pruitt said. "It's been a long time coming, and I just want to keep building off this.
"They flexed the game to a Sunday night game, it's primetime, and it's for a playoff spot. It don't get much better than that. Emotions will be high, and the team that plays the best through those emotions will win."
The Tennessee Titans take on the Washington Redskins in Week 16 of the 2018 season on Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018 at Nissan Stadium. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)