NASHVILLE – Titans tight ends coach Todd Downing spends his time making his players better to help the team.
With their success, he wants to help make the world a better place in the process.
Downing, who joined the Titans in 2019 after 18 years of previous NFL coaching experience, started an initiative to raise money for 'The 100 Black Men of Middle Tennessee, Inc.', a non-profit organization providing resources to further the academic and social development of black male students in Nashville and surrounding Middle Tennessee.
With each touchdown by a Titans tight end this season, his family is donating $1,000 to help with the pursuit of equality.
The campaign is off to a good start.
(Here's how to make a pledge: CLICK HERE)
"That really came out of some of the great conversations that I've been fortunate enough to have with my players in the tight end room, which have been steered by coach (Mike) Vrabel and (OC Arthur) Smith, just creating an environment where we can have an open dialogue and talk with one another," Downing said on Tuesday. "It was important to us to do something together, to show unity, to be able celebrate our on-the-field performance by incorporating a cause that we knew would help with some of the issues that our society has going on today."
Downing credits his wife, Julie, for doing a lot of research to find a non-profit organization that met the criteria on a checklist important to his players.
"The 100" strives to help black males in areas such as literacy, academic achievement, self-esteem and positive lifestyle choices.
Downing's mission is to "nurture and enhance the growth, development and opportunities" for young black males by pledging a donation for every touchdown by a Titans tight end this season.
"Our family wanted to kick it off by saying: 'We stand with you, and we support you'," Downing said. "If those issue are important to you, they are important to us. A bunch of people have jumped behind it and it is off and running at a pretty good clip."
It's running at a pretty good clip, alright.
In two games, Titans tight ends have already score four touchdowns, led by three from tight end Jonnu Smith, with two coming in the team's win over the Jaguars. Tight end MyCole Pruitt also scored a touchdown in the opener at Denver. Tight end Anthony Firkser hasn't scored yet, but he has six catches for 50 yards in two games.
"I think I may have to revisit my son's college fund at this point," Downing said with a smile. "But we are appreciative to have everybody join in… I hope (the tight ends) score 100 touchdowns.
"We are excited to be a part of it, and I think it is a great initiative and we are fortunate to be in a place where we can support what is important to my players."
Titans Online looks back at tight end Jonnu Smith's 2019 season (Photos: Donald Page)