NASHVILLE – As the private plane he was a passenger on descended on the city of Nashville, Jack Conklin looked out the window to view what would be his new home.
It was the morning of April 29, 2016, the day after the NFL Draft. The Michigan State offensive lineman had been picked eighth overall by the Tennessee Titans roughly 14 hours earlier while at the draft in Chicago.
Fast-forward four years and Conklin's girlfriend at the time, Caitlyn, is now his wife. The couple has a daughter, and Conklin has four years of NFL experience under his belt.
He's also a free agent.
As Conklin cleaned out his locker at the end of the season, he could hardly believe how much things have changed. And how quickly time has passed.
"And it is definitely weird having the uncertainty now, but it is this game – it's a lot of highs, a lot of lows, a lot of uncertainties, a lot of not knowing what is going to go on," Conklin said. "You just have to take every step with positivity, and some excitement. It's an awesome opportunity."
Since being drafted by the Titans, Conklin has played in 57 regular season games, and five playoff games. The right tackle was named an All-Pro after his rookie season in 2016, and he started the first 34 games of his NFL career before suffering a knee injury in a playoff game against the Patriots in January 2018.
Conklin was slowed by the injury during the 2018 season, and he ended the year on Injured Reserve.
But Conklin bounced back in 2019, when he started all 19 games (including playoffs) during a year when running back Derrick Henry led the NFL in rushing.
"To be able to come back, to be healthy, to be back confident, I felt like I definitely got back to my old ways," Conklin said of his 2019 season. "I definitely felt good and felt like I got better this year and became an even better player than in years past. I think I got more comfortable as the year went on, and I definitely grew a lot this year. And I am very happy with how this team performed and to be a part of a team that had the leading rusher in the NFL while making the AFC Championship. I couldn't really have thought of a better year."
Free agency officially begins next week.
As Conklin walked out of the locker room at season's end, he indicated he'd love to return. He also talked about the bond created on the team's offensive line.
In roughly 10 days, some things will come into better focus.
"Definitely, in a perfect world, I would love to be back here and be with this team and be with my guys, that's for sure," Conklin said. "The bond we've created over this year is one of the closest I've ever been (at part of), the closest o-line I've been a part of. So it would be awesome to still be a part of it next year."