NASHVILLE, Tenn. — With soldiers gathered around him, Col. Alan Boyer thanked members of the Titans organization one by one on Tuesday morning.
Inside the team's indoor practice facility, he handed Titans general manager Jon Robinson a helmet from the 1st Brigade Combat Team "Bastogne" 101st Airborne Division. He expressed his gratitude to Robinson and Titans coach Mike Mularkey for a relationship that continues to grow stronger.
Then he applauded the work of Titans strength and conditioning coach Steve Watterson, who had just put 67 company commanders through a two-hour workout session similar to those he puts his NFL pupils through to get ready for Sundays.
"This is tremendous,'' Boyer said. "We are building upon that relationship that we have with the Tennessee Titans, and it starts with the owner, Amy Adams Strunk, the GM, and the head coach. And just to see how Steve trains his professional athletes, and to see all the things he does and how he gets them ready … it is something we can take back to our soldiers in Fort Campbell.
"We are having fun together, we are building relationships, and it will make us better if we have to deploy for combat."
Watterson, the team's long-time strength coach who lives for days like this, said it was an honor to lead the troops.
"There's an appreciation from all of us,'' Watterson said. "I know I work underneath an umbrella of freedom, and I don't take that for granted. I know what these men and women do on a daily basis that allows me to do what I do on a daily basis, and I've never taken that for granted. I don't think we can do enough to show that appreciation.
"I know the price of freedom is expensive. And it is a price I don't pay. So in the smallest token of appreciation, to be able to reach out and give thanks and render a service that they would like or appreciate, it is absolutely invaluable to me."
Dozens of soldiers from the 1st Brigade Combat Team arrived at Saint Thomas Sports Park before 8 a.m. on Tuesday in six vans. Fort Campbell commanding general, Maj. Gen. Andrew Poppas, was in the group that spent time with Robinson, Mularkey and Watterson.
The visit was part of the Bastogne Brigade's "Leader Agility Training," a two-day program intended to conduct an exchange of leadership discussions with corporate and governmental agencies. The intent is to compare and contrast problem solving at the operational level in both the military and civilian sector.
Robinson and Mularkey talked to the soldiers and expressed appreciation to the Bastogne Brigade Company Commanders.
Watterson put the group through a metabolic training workout that included stations with kettlebells, medicine balls, steps, ropes and more. They had little recovery time in between the series of workouts.
Several Titans observed the workouts, including defensive lineman Jurrell Casey, who made sure the soldiers were using proper technique on the ropes. Karl Klug, Beau Brinkley, Justin Staples, Antwaun Woods and Austin Johnson were among those who encouraged the soldiers.
Watterson, whose brother was in the Marines, said the club's relationship with the military is a strong one. The Titans have routinely hosted soldiers from Fort Campbell at football games and other events at the facility in the past. The Titans have also visited Fort Campbell many times over the years.
"There's only 32 NFL teams, so for my guys to be able to experience this, it is great," Boyer said. "Coach Mularkey and Jon Robinson, and coach Watterson, for them to spend time with my guys, I don't care what kind of fan you are, it is great to see. And it is great to identify with the team -- we are only 45 minutes up the road.
"The entire experience has been great. Not only the workout, but listening to Steve tell us the methodology behind the workout and why he does it and what he is trying to get out of his players on Sunday. It just gives my commanders another tool in their bag for training their solders for combat. And the entire experience just continues the relationship."
Soldiers from the 1st Brigade Combat Team "Bastogne" of the 101st Airborne Division study fitness, leadership with Titans. (Photos: Jim Wyatt)