NASHVILLE, Tenn. —** When Mike Vrabel stepped onto the field at Nissan Stadium for the first time as the team's head coach on Saturday, he left quite an impression on the Nashville community.
Flanked by members of his coaching staff, Vrabel led Special Olympics athletes through football warmups and drills, and even managed to take down the team mascot, T-Rac, in a designed trick play.
It was all part of a memorable outing, as the Titans partnered with Special Olympics Tennessee for the second annual Music City Blitz. The adult 5v5 flag football tournament featured over 30 teams, including two with Special Olympics, from across the state competing in live action.
All participants enjoyed a simulated game day experience, running through the home team tunnel for team introductions and watching themselves on the video boards throughout the day. An NFL Films crew was present for instant replay review, along with Titans cheerleaders, T-Rac, and standout alumni players Chris Hope, Chris Sanders and Brad Hopkins.
Ultimately, the event raised over $45,000 for Special Olympics Tennessee.
"This event allows Special Olympics athletes the opportunity to go compete on both the state level and the national level and the Titans are proud to be a part of it," said Josh Corey, Tennessee Titans football outreach coordinator. "When you have such a good cause that we're all here for today, I think that kind of resonates with everyone involved."
It is the reason Marcus Mariota jumped on the opportunity to participate, too.
Mariota surprised event participants, posing for pictures and signing autographs all morning. He also threw passes to every Special Olympics athlete in attendance, and did not leave the field until everyone caught a pass.
"I just like seeing [the athletes'] faces light up. I enjoy being around them," Mariota said. "I think they've got such a great perspective on life, and they're always so happy."
Adam Germek, President of Special Olympics Tennessee, echoed that sentiment.
"I heard one of our athletes say this is the best day of his life, so if that gives you any indication of the excitement that Coach and Marcus and the coaching staff and the entire Tennessee Titans staff has brought to this, that says it all."
The Titans partnered with Special Olympics Tennessee for the second annual Music City Blitz, an adult 5v5 flag football tournament, at Nissan Stadium. (Photos: Kristen Sheft, Special Olympics Tennessee)