NASHVILLE, Tenn. — **Titans coach Mike Mularkey has been recognized as the team's nominee for the NFL's Salute to Service Award.
The Salute to Service Award annually recognizes NFL players, coaches, personnel and alumni who demonstrate an exemplary commitment to honoring and supporting the military community.
Finalists for the Salute to Service Award presented by USAA will be announced in January, and the recipient will be recognized at NFL Honors, a two-hour primetime awards special to air nationally on Feb. 3, the night before Super Bowl LII, from 7-9 PM CST on NBC.
"I was very honored to even be considered," Mularkey said. "I was completely caught off-guard by being recognized for it."
Mularkey was surprised by officials from Fort Campbell during a team meeting earlier this week.
Major General Andrew P. Poppas, Commanding General of the 101st Airborne Division, spoke to Mularkey in a video that played in front of the entire team.
"I can honestly say that over 32 years in uniform in this Army, I have never seen a more profound effort and commitment than you and the Titans have displayed for our soldiers," Poppas said of Mularkey. "I am absolutely grateful, and I cherish the relationship that we have. Good luck in the future, and Titan Up."
Players gave Mularkey a nice ovation at the meeting.
Mularkey, in his second full season as head coach of the Titans, is part of a military family.
His father, Jack, was in the Army, and served in World War II. A brother, Terry, served 20-plus years in the Army.
Since taking over as the team's head coach last season, Mularkey has made sure there's been a military presence around his football team.
Poppas spoke to the team leading up to the season. John W. Rosa, a retired United States Air Force Lieutenant General, addressed the players as well. Marcus Luttrell, the U.S. Navy SEAL known for being portrayed as "The Lone Survivor," was also among the motivational speakers. Luttrell received the Navy Cross and Purple Heart for his actions in June 2005 against Taliban fighters during Operation Red Wings.
Last year, Mularkey's nephew and others in his Special Forces unit talked to the team before a game. In the hallway leading into the team's meeting room, a photo of Jack Mularkey's unit hangs on a wall, with the soldiers decked out in full gear, in Titans hats.
This past offseason the Titans traveled to Fort Campbell and spent a day on the base. Players went through an obstacle course, and Mularkey and General Manager Jon Robinson spent time with U.S. Army leaders.
Earlier, the Titans welcomed members of the 1st Brigade Combat Team "Bastogne" 101st Airborne Division to Saint Thomas Sports Park, where strength and conditioning coach Steve Watterson put company commanders through a strenuous workout.
Members of the 101st Airborne attended the team's scrimmage at Nissan Stadium earlier this month, and during training camp Major General Poppas spoke to players at a team meeting.
A sign with the words "I Am Bastogne! Stay in the Club." hangs in the team meeting room.
Last year, the Titans also held a walkthrough at the Marines training facility in San Diego. During the preseason, Mularkey donated 500 tickets to the 101st Airborne Division.
Mularkey has made sure his football team is influenced by those in the armed services.
"I think it is real life, and it does correlate with what we do here," Mularkey said of the military. "It is teamwork, and relying on each other. Obviously the results are different – ours are wins and losses, and theirs are life and death. But I feel like our guys need to see as much about real life.
"There's more out there than wins, losses, game plans. We are fortunate to be able to do what we do, and to have a chance to build a relationship with the military, which does what they do on a daily basis, it goes a long way. I think our guys appreciate them a lot more, and understand them a lot more because of what we have done with them. It resonates with these guys."
Titans players and coaches go through Army training exercises, visit with soldiers at Fort Campbell, home to the 101st Airborne Division and the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. (Photos: Gary Glenn)