NASHVILLE, Tenn. — When Mike Mularkey took over as head coach of the Tennessee Titans, he had a laundry list of things he wanted to get done, and change.
On the practice field at Saint Thomas Sports Park this week, one of his visions played out in front of him on a day when the Titans opened their doors to high school football coaches across the Middle Tennessee area.
Over 125 coaches registered for the 2016 Tennessee Titans High School Coaches Clinic. On Wednesday, the coaches watched the team practice while also spending time at the facility with coaches, and general manager Jon Robinson.
"You get to listen to guys who have been there, done that, and have had success in the NFL,'' said Independence High School coach Scott Blade, who attended the event. "It is interesting to hear different takes on things, and how to handle certain situations.
"And I think it's a great move to try and embrace the community surrounding the Titans, and include us high school coaches. They are trying to outreach and pull everyone together and I think that is fantastic and really good for us."
Mularkey previously held coaching clinics for high school coaches. In fact, Titans youth and high school football coordinator Josh Corey attended a similar clinic when Mularkey coached the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2012.
Corey was a high school coach himself at Fletcher High (Fla.) back then. Corey taught and coached at Fletcher from 1997-2014 after a playing on the offensive line at the University of Florida from '93-95. Corey worked with Mularkey to organize this year's clinic with the Titans.
The Titans held clinics for high school coaches under Jeff Fisher and Mike Munchak, but not in recent years. Mularkey wanted to bring it back.
"I think the important thing for us is that we provide an opportunity for (coaches) to have several different learning options,'' Corey said. "So when you ask high school coaches, 'What can we do to help you and your program?' overwhelming (the answer) is access. And to be able to have access to come into our facility and sit down with our coaches in break-out sessions, watch an OTA practice, be able to come back and ask questions about the drills they saw in practice and learn new techniques as well. ... We kind of feel like as far as an educational purpose, we are hitting everything you can hit in a one-day clinic.
"We want it to be meaningful experience for those guys. It is a successful venture even if you get just one thing that you take back to your school. We want them to be able to take something back to their school to make their program better. It's really been great working with coach Mularkey and working with Jon Robinson. They want to make a difference, it is important to them. … And I think it makes our relationships even stronger (with the high schools) when we can provide opportunities like this."
Wednesday's clinic started with an introduction from Mularkey, followed by instruction from USA Football's Kevin Brown.
Coaches then watched practice on the sideline. Afterward, Robinson addressed the group, before strength and conditioning coach Steve Watterson spent time with the coaches. Following dinner, Titans defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau held a question and answer session with the coaches before a series of breakout sessions with position coaches.
Mularkey adjusted the team's practice schedule to make the event happen.
"I just see how rewarding it is for these coaches when they come out here, trying to improve their skills and trying to learn as much as they can so they can teach kids how to get better every day. And I see how much they appreciate it,'' Mularkey said. "I just told one of them, this is my 31st year and I can't believe I am out here. I still look at it that way. So I know it is a neat experience for them to come out here and watch a Russ Grimm coach, a Dick LeBeau, a pair of Hall of Famers.
"Josh has done a super job of putting it together. … In reality, we are not much different from (the high school coaches). It is important to us, just like it is important to them, that our players are successful."
Coaches said they watched closely the progression of drills practice, as well as how coaches communicated.
Many said they planned to implement some of the things they learned at the clinic at their own practices.
"We are very thankful they opened an opportunity to do this,'' Father Ryan coach Brian Rector said. "It shows coach Mularkey and his staff are very committed to helping out the community and high school football and that's awesome.
"To me, more of what you get as a head coach are the logistical ideas, maybe a little better way to organize a practice, not so much Xs and Os in terms of plays, but the way you might run a drill or organize. We are always looking for organizational improvements. But I think it's a great thing for the community."
The Titans host 120 area high school football coaches for a coaches clinic at Saint Thomas Sports Park. (Photos: Susanna Nickell)