NASHVILLE – Dillon Radunz, like the rest of his North Dakota State classmates, did his very best to make the most of life at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last year.
During the start of the quarantine, after classes went virtual and when the school went on a spring break, Radunz decided to go on a camping trip.
He wanted to get away, sort of.
"He had his truck," North Dakota State head coach Matt Entz recalled, "but in the back of it he had a bed full of weights, and bars. So, he said, 'Wherever I was camping, I could get a workout in, out in the woods. That just tells you the type of (guy) he is – very resourceful, very intelligent, and an always on the move type of individual."
Radunz, a two-time FCS All-American at North Dakota State, was drafted by the Titans in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
On Wednesday, the two college coaches who know him best provided insight on what kind of player, and person, the Titans will be getting now, and in the years to come.
Entz began recruiting Radunz when he was just in a high school. Back then, he was a mature youngster, having lost his father when he was just a little boy. Radunz developed into a player Entz wanted on his football team, and then at North Dakota State, he really blossomed.
AJ Blazek, Radunz's offensive line coach at North Dakota State, also shared his thoughts on the 6-foot-6, 301-pounder, a player he coached two seasons. Blazek was hired as Vanderbilt's offensive line coach earlier this offseason.
"Dillon has been the man of the house since the sixth grade," Entz said of Radunz, whose father died suddenly at the age of 45. "He is unbelievably mature, and has been since he arrived here. That'll be the easy part for him.
"He's a very intelligent, cerebral individual. He sees things and he's going to think about them. He's going to have an opinion. And that's what makes him fun to be around. … (As a football player), I think Dillon still has a chip on his shoulder a little bit. I think he still wants to prove to people he can do it, and I think that is one of those things that creates that internal fire. The intrinsic motivator for him is the doubters are there, (questioning if) a young man from Becker, Minnesota, can go be successful in the NFL."
Blazek, a former All-Big Ten center who worked with Radunz his junior and senior seasons, thinks his former pupil is destined to succeed in the NFL.
Blazek helped tutor the future No. 2 NFL draft pick, Robert Gallery, as an assistant coach at Iowa in 2003. He also coached six other NFL draft picks at Iowa: Eric Steinbach (Cincinnati/2nd round), Bruce Nelson (Carolina/2nd), Seth Olsen (Denver/4th), Ben Sobieski (Buffalo/5th), Pete McMahon (Oakland/6th) and Mike Elgin (New England/7th).
"Some people were worried about (Dillon's) size, or his weight, but I told a lot of the scouts that his athleticism makes up for everything," Blazek said of Radunz. "He'll be big enough for whatever they need him to do. He's going to love to run the football, and he's going to fit right in with the rest of the guys up front.
"But the thing that is different with him than any kid that I ever recruited, or coached, is post-snap. He is a savant. He sees a lot of movement and things that go on that most o-linemen can't see. Whether it's blitzes or movement, he's understanding when things change on the run."
During his college career, Radunz played in 33 career games with 32 starts, at North Dakota State. He was part of four Missouri Valley Football Conference championship teams and three NCAA Division I football national championships and was a two-time FCS All-American.
A first team FCS All-American, Radunz allowed zero sacks in his last two seasons while protecting quarterback Trey Lance's blindside. Lance was the third overall pick, by the 49ers, in the NFL Draft.
Radunz was named the top overall practice player of the week at the 2021 Senior Bowl in Mobile.
With the Titans, Radunz is expected to compete at right tackle, but Entz said he's capable of playing all over the offensive line. Radunz worked at left tackle at North Dakota State, but Entz and Blazek both noted he worked at center and all over the interior line in practices.
"(The Titans) are getting a really good football player (in Dillon)," Entz said. "I think he was the best offensive lineman the past couple of years at the FCS level. He's highly competitive, extremely intelligent. I think he is going to have a great transition into the NFL. A couple of reasons why: One, because I think we do a lot of things offensively that mimic what goes on in the NFL – we're under center, we're in the gun, we're checking protections at the line of scrimmage, we're getting in and out of plays based on the structure of the defense. So, I think that enables him from the mental side of it, to get on the field quicker. And I think he has the ability to play tackle or one of the interior three positions."
Blazek said he talked to "15 to 18" NFL teams during the NFL Draft process about Radunz. He thinks he's in a perfect spot in Nashville, with the Titans. While at Iowa, Blazek worked with Chic Ejiasi, Director of Player Development with the Titans.
Blazek plans to keep an eye on Radunz in Nashville while continuing to help him any way he's needed since they're back in the same city again, this time in Music City.
"He texted me this morning: 'Coach, when I show up next week (for rookie minicamp), when I get free time, I expect you to show me the good eats, because he knows my priorities," Blazek said with a smile. "Dillon, he's just a great kid. He's not a big rah-rah guy, and he's not going to scream at people, that's not his makeup.
"He is a character, but he is very smart, and he has an intellectual humor. But when it's time for football, he is committed. And I am so jacked that he's here in Nashville, with the Titans. I think it's a great fit for him. Man, I'm fired up about it."