NASHVILLE – During his first few years with the Titans, tight end Anthony Firkser watched, and learned.
He picked the brain of veteran Delanie Walker, and then teammate Jonnu Smith.
Along the way, Firkser saw his own role expand. And when he got the chance, he delivered.
Looking back, he gives a lot of credit to those who came before him.
"They were a huge influence in my career and my growth for sure," Firkser said of Walker and Smith. "Just being around those guys, Delanie was a great asset in the pass game and he really excelled in that area. And Jonnu, being that all-around tight end, making big plays and being reliable.
"Using the time that I was around them, it made me a better player."
Heading into the 2021 season, Firkser and fellow veteran Geoff Swaim are the leaders of the tight end group.
Coming off a year when he caught 39 passes for 387 yards and a touchdown in 2020, Firkser is also in line to play a bigger role for the Titans this fall.
Firkser said his mindset hasn't changed, however.
"I am trying to stick to what I have been doing since I first started, and keep growing and learning every day each year," he said. "I just want to keep taking steps to improve, and really grow in areas where I have weaknesses. That's kind of the mentality I've had since I entered the league. I just want to find ways to learn and grow and adapt my game.
"Mainly I just want to find ways to add value and help this team out."
Firkser's body has changed some.
He said he's added roughly 5 to 10 pounds to his 6-foot-2 frame, and is now over 250 pounds. He feels stronger, and he believes the added bulk will help him.
Firkser, who played collegiately at Harvard, said he wants to be a bigger asset in the run game, so the extra size will help with his blocking. But he also wants to stay fast and keep his agility, which will help him as a receiving threat.
"I have been focusing on my whole game, trying to get better in the run game as well as keep improving the pass game stuff," Firkser said. "Just trying to build up more physically, put some more weight and strength on but still be able to move and run well so I can be an asset in the pass game and continue to produce in that area. Just continue to build my game and be as versatile as possible."
In an offense that will include running back Derrick Henry and receivers Julio Jones, A.J. Brown and Josh Reynolds, Firkser could be in line for plenty of opportunities himself this fall.
He's excited about the possibilities.
"We have a ton of weapons out there, and we can spread the ball around and get everyone touches," he said. "We just want to put as much pressure as we can on the defense."
Top Photos of Titans TE Anthony Firkser during the 2020 Season.