NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Derek Barnett grew up a Titans fan, so when he walked into the team's headquarters on Thursday, it was a special feeling.
"It's my first time in the building, so it's been pretty cool,'' said the former Brentwood Academy and University of Tennessee star. "I grew up watching Steve McNair, Keith Bulluck, and 'The Freak,' Jevon Kearse. I grew up a Titans fan, so it would be awesome to stay home and play here."
Barnett was one of roughly 20 players who visited Saint Thomas Sports Park on a day when the team hosted prospects from local schools, and players from the area. He saw McNair's picture on the wall as he made his way through the building, and into the locker room.
"Steve McNair, man, he was tough, a great leader,'' Barnett said. "He just got the job done."
Barnett, of course, has made a name for himself getting to quarterbacks. It's safe to say he got the job done at Tennessee.
The 6-foot-3, 265-pound defensive lineman set Tennessee's all-time career sacks record of 33.0, breaking the previous mark of 32.0 held by the legendary Reggie White. His 52.0 career tackles for loss ranks second in Tennessee history only to Leonard Little's program-record 53.0.
He finished his junior season with a career-high 13.0 sacks, which ranks as the third-highest single-season mark in UT history behind only White's 15.0 in 1983 and Jonathan Brown's 13.5 in 1997.
Barnett is regarded as one of the best pass rushers in this year's NFL Draft. He said he could play in a 4-3 defensive scheme as a lineman, or in a 3-4 scheme as a outside linebacker, or lineman. NFL Network's Mike Mayock has Barnett listed as the No.3 edge rusher in the draft behind Texas A&M's Myles Garrett and Stanford's Solomon Thomas.
"I think anywhere I go would be a good fit because I am very coachable,'' Barnett said. "I am not good at just one thing, I think I am good at multiple things. I am very versatile so I think I can get the job done in a 4-3, 3-4, rushing outside, standing up, rushing inside, anywhere.
"… I may not be the best tester in the world, but when I get on the field I think I have proven to be pretty decent at that. Whatever team picks me is going to get somebody who is very competitive, a great leader. But most importantly they're going to get somebody who knows how to get after the quarterback and impact games."
Barnett has been a busy man since his playing career ended at Tennessee.
He's made or is scheduled for visits to Tampa Bay, Dallas, Cleveland and Washington, and he's been a part of several workouts for NFL teams in Knoxville. Barnett went to the NFL Combine, and he was part of Tennessee's Pro Day earlier this month.
Barnett did not work out on Thursday, but he met with coaches and other members of the organization during his visit. Barnett practiced at Saint Thomas Sports Park previously leading up to the Music City Bowl.
Barnett said he plans on attending the NFL Draft in Philadelphia.
He's anxious to find out where his next home will be. Could it remain in Tennessee?
"I am just ready to get back on the field,'' Barnett said with a smile. "It would be awesome to play here, but I am excited to find out what team I am going to be at, which organization picks me, and ready to get to work honestly.
"I love football, so I am ready to get back to a team and get grinding."