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Titans Spend Tuesday Night Feeding Nashville's Homeless


NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Titans made a road trip on Tuesday night.

The destination was the Jefferson Street Bridge, home to the largest homeless population in Nashville.

It's where Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota, surrounded by teammates and other members of the organization, handed out meals and gifts to those in need.

For the fourth year in a row, the Titans teamed up with The Bridge Ministries to feed the homeless a Thanksgiving meal. Roughly 125 members of the organization– from players to coaches to members of the front office – took part in the event. So did other staff members, along with the Titans cheerleaders. Family members joined the group as well.

Titans team with the Bridge Ministry to feed Nashville's homeless a Thanksgiving meal on Tuesday night. (Photos: Gary Glenn, Lilly Kate Hollis)

"To put a smile on their faces, and see the joy in their hearts, that's what it is all about,'' defensive lineman Jurrell Casey said. "It puts the warmth in your hearts, and it touches your heart to know it means so much. You can see happiness in their faces."

An estimated 500 men, women and children from the homeless community turned out on a chilly night. In addition to the meal, blankets, gloves, scarfs, and non-perishable items were also distributed.

"We're just very blessed to be able to do this with Bridge Ministries, and be able to help out this time of year," said Titans coach Mike Mularkey, his wife Betsy by his side. "It is a part of the world we rarely get to see. And to be able to help people, it is important. They are very appreciative."

Titans general manager Jon Robinson received handshakes and hugs as he made his way through the crowd. His family, including his wife, Jaimie, helped with food distribution.

"I think for my family to see families that are less fortunate, and for our team to come out here and put others before themselves, it is special," Robinson said. "All the players out here -- those are the types of players we talk about wanting, guys that have that selfless mindset that want to help those that are not quite as fortunate as we are. It is more rewarding for us to put smiles on the faces of others for a night."

Robinson also recognized members of the team's community relations staff for their work in building relationships around the city.

"Our community relations staff does an excellent job of plugging our team, our organization into various groups in this great city," Robinson said. "Tina Tuggle, Josh Corey, Susanna Nickell and Natalie Johnson – they are all trying to make our community better and bridging those roads with our players and staff, and entire organization. I'm really proud of the hard work they put in to make Nashville a better place."

Every Tuesday, the homeless gather under the bridge, located not far from where the Titans play on Sundays, and just a few miles from the team's practice facility in Metro Center.

Titans players and cheerleaders help cook turkeys and serve Thanksgiving meals at the Nashville Rescue Mission. (Photos: Gary Glenn, Jackie Pfeiffer, Nashville Rescue Mission)

Last night, the Titans loaded into three buses, and got to work. While some members of the Titans organization served food, others worked to deliver items to the homeless. Mariota and linebacker Avery Williamson bounced from one area to the next, spending some time with adults, and children under the bridge.

Dozens of players were on hand. Running back DeMarco Murray served food, and gave out hugs.

"This is one of my favorite events we do as an organization every year," kicker Ryan Succop said. "All the guys on the team, all the coaches, we are very grateful for the blessings we have. At Thanksgiving you take note of that, and it is really cool to kind of give back to the community that supports us, and give back to those not as fortunate.

"And it is great to hear the gratitude in their voices. It is very rewarding to us."

Early in the evening, Robinson, Mularkey and Tuggle, the Titans Community Relations Director, stood in front of the crowd and presented a check for $25,000 to the Bridge Ministries. In return, the Bridge Ministries presented the Bridge Award to the Titans for their generosity.

Candy Christmas, CEO/Founder of The Bridge Ministry, thanked the team for its support.

"We are so thankful and grateful," Christmas said. "For the Titans organization, they go all over the country, they are nationally known. And for them to care about their community, I feel like this is outstanding. We won't forget it."

Several years ago, Tuggle said the organization wanted to find a signature holiday event it could be involved in each year.

"The appreciation the people have that we are serving, it means a lot," Tuggle said. "But the fact our players and our staff get so excited to come out and serve, it is special. The reward is equally as good on both sides. It warms your heart to do something that may be so small but means so much."

Donnie Bradley was among those who received a free meal from the Titans. He shook hands with several players.

"It's good for them to help out," Bradley said. "I appreciate it, from the bottom of my heart. It means a lot."

Bubba Hayes was decked out in a Philadelphia Eagles hat. But he said he's a fan of the Titans. He stopped eating his meal to take a picture with Titans linebacker Wesley Woodyard.

"They don't have to do this," Hayes said. "But I'm glad they did. I like it. I appreciate the Titans."

It was a special night for everyone involved.

"(I heard) one story that was the cutest, about a (homeless) man who said he watches all of our games (on the Jumbotron)," Tuggle said. "He gets to see it and hear it. Seeing them tell coach Mularkey and Jon, 'We're rooting for you,' it is amazing. With everything they are dealing with, this gives them joy. So for us to give them that small bit of joy and excitement by being here, it makes us happy."

Titans team with the Bridge Ministry to feed Nashville's homeless a Thanksgiving meal on Tuesday night. (Photos: Gary Glenn, Lilly Kate Hollis)