NASHVILLE – Thomas Odukoya wasn't sure what to think when he first arrived in Music City a year ago.
Odukoya, who is from the Netherlands, had just joined the Titans as part of the NFL's International Pathway program.
Suddenly he found himself in a new city, with new surroundings.
"It was an adjustment, but what they say about southern hospitality is definitely true," Odukoya said as he wrapped up his first year in the NFL. "Everyone has been really nice."
Fast-forward to today.
A year later, Odukoya looks, and feels, more comfortable.
"At the beginning, I was like: What is all of this going to be like?," Odukoya said. "But I quickly found out, football is football, just at the highest level. I feel like I am adjusting well, and enjoying every minute of it."
Odukoya, who played college football at Eastern Michigan, is now in his second offseason with the team after spending all of last year on the team's practice squad. Odukoya played in preseason games a year ago, and he attended all of the team's home games.
In practices, he's made strides as a pass catcher, and a blocker.
To hear his coaches tell it, he's one of the team's most improved players.
"He's gotten better because he works at it," Titans tight ends coach Tony Dews said of Odukoya. "He's a very conscientious guy. He's a very smart player. He understands the game. He's one of those guys who does everything you ask, and when he comes out to practice, he applies what we have talked about in the meeting rooms. … On the field he has a great work ethic. He hustles, he plays hard, is a great teammate. I could talk about him all day long as far as what kind of person he is, and his work ethic.
"He's taken full advantage of his opportunity. There's not a day that he doesn't take advantage of the opportunity that he has."
After a recent OTA, Titans head coach Mike Vrabel singled out Odukoya when talking to his staff.
The 6-foot-6, 253-pound Odukoya had used his length to make a play in practice the previous day.
"Physically he's gotten stronger, is moving better," Vrabel said of Odukoya. "He understands the game better. He's just a fantastic addition to our team. He's an unbelievable teammate. Love having him around, love having him in the building. It's been really cool to see him improve and see where he can try and find a role on our football team. He is certainly one of the more improved players on our football team."
Odukoya is among a group of players league-wide who joined an NFL club through the program, which is part of the league's efforts to strengthen the pipeline of international players while aiming to provide elite international athletes the opportunity to compete at the NFL level, improve their skills, and ultimately earn a spot on an NFL roster.
Odukoya, 26, started playing football at age 16 in the Netherlands where he was named the Dutch National MVP. He was a team captain at Eastern Michigan for two seasons and received Academic All-MAC.
Odukoya played in 40 career games at EMU, where he caught 21 passes for 194 yards and four touchdowns. Odukoya played in 13 games in 2021, when he tallied 13 catches for 130 yards and two scores.
With the Titans, Odukoya will compete alongside the team's other tight ends when training camp kicks off in late July.
He plans to give it his all.
"I feel like effort and attitude is something you can control, and I try to bring that every day to the team," he said.
"Being a part of the team has been a dream come true. I don't take a day for granted that I'm here. I am grateful for the opportunity."