CHICAGO — **Jack Conklin stood in a dark hallway inside Roosevelt University's Auditorium Theatre here on Thursday night, a Titans hat on his head, a lapel pin with a Titans fireball logo on his coat.
The prized possession was in his right hand – a Titans jersey with the No.1 on it.
"I don't want to let this go,'' Conklin said as he clutched the navy blue jersey.
Minutes earlier, Conklin's life had changed forever when the Titans selected the Michigan State tackle eighth overall in the NFL Draft.
A self-described tough guy, he had to fight to keep his emotions in check with family members around him.
"Once I got the call, I didn't know what to say I was so excited," Conklin said. "I think I walked the wrong way to get to the stage. There were just so many things running through my head.
"It was definitely emotional for me. I told myself I wasn't going to cry – I couldn't do that. But even now I am sitting here thinking, 'No.8 pick of the Titans in the NFL Draft, coming from being a walk-on. I couldn't be more excited. I want to be a Titan for life now."
Then came the hug with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. In a span of a few minutes, he'd already talked with his new bosses – Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk, general manager Jon Robinson and coach Mike Mularkey.
Not long after he was drafted, he was on the phone with his former head coach at Michigan State, Mark Dantonio. Conklin's offensive line coach Mark Staten was with him in Chicago.
Now, Conklin is on a mission. He wants to prove the Titans made the right decision by moving up to get him.
"I was nervous, because I didn't want to go anywhere else honestly. I set my heart in Tennessee, and fell in love with the place,'' Conklin said. "I feel like it is a great fit, and a place I can really excel. They play the type of football I love – hard-nosed, physical football. I know that is what they are hoping to build there. When a team plays Tennessee, they should remember it. … I'd say I'm a mauler. I want guys to remember they played against me.
"I am ready to do my part, and I want to show them they made the right choice."
The Titans were initially scheduled to pick 15th overall but traded with Cleveland for the 8th overall pick, and took Conklin. The Titans received the eight pick of the draft from the Browns, along with a sixth-round pick (176) in this year's draft. In return, the Browns received the 15th pick from the Titans, a third-round pick (76) this year and a second-round pick in 2017.
Robinson told reporters in Tennessee there were a couple teams that needed tackles picking before the Titans. He wanted to put the team in the right position to get Conklin.
"We've liked Jack for a while here now and we thought that even spinning back to when I got the job, we talked about tough, accountable, team first guys and we thought he embodied that to the n'th degree,'' Robinson said. "I mean he was a former walk on at Michigan State and earned everything that he was given there. He played for a very tough program.
"If you look at (Michigan State's) program, they are a physical football team offensively and defensively. They are a disciplined football team. They run the ball; they had a good quarterback there this year; they've had good backs there so I just think stylistically from an offensive line standpoint we were able to evaluate all of the skillsets that we are going to ask him to do in our offense, so it made it a really, really good fit for us."
Conklin made a pre-draft visit to the Titans on April 6-7 and met with coaches and Robinson, among others. He had lunch with offensive line coach Russ Grimm and assistant offensive line coach Mike Sullivan, and spent more time with them in the afternoon, when he went through film study.
He also spent extensive time with offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie.
Conklin, a 6-foot-5, 308-pounder, started 35 games at left tackle in three seasons at Michigan State, and three games at right tackle. Robinson said he's capable of playing on either side of the offensive line.
Conklin was a no-star recruit out of high school, and developed at Michigan State.
Now, he wants to blossom in the NFL while displaying toughness along the way.
"I am going to be your old-school, blue-collar type offensive tackle and I am going to put people on the ground,'' Conklin said. "Now it is time to go to work, and time to prove to everyone in Titans Nation that I can be a guy they can count on for a long time."
The Titans select Michigan State OT Jack Conklin in the first round (8th overall) of the 2016 NFL Draft. (AP Photos)