NASHVILLE – As a youngster, Mitch Rossi’s closet was filled with Titans jerseys.
He grew up a fan of Eddie George, Steve McNair and Jevon Kearse, but the list of his idols went on and on and on as he got older.
“Keith Bulluck, Chris Johnson, LenDale White, Drew Bennett – I loved that guy,” Rossi said. “And then when coach (Mike) Vrabel came here, and the new era of guys, the core of Taylor Lewan and Kevin Byard and Ben Jones and all those guys. I was a huge fan of the identity of toughness they brought back to Tennessee. I still am.”
Because of that, Thursday was extra special for Rossi, who played football at Franklin High School and then at Ohio State.
Rossi was among roughly two dozen players who visited Ascension Saint Thomas Sports Park on a day when the team hosted prospects from local schools, and players from the area, at the team’s local pro day.
Titans General Manager Ran Carthon and members of the team’s personnel staff were on hand, along with Vrabel and members of his coaching staff.
The Titans are doing their homework leading up to the NFL Draft, and Thursday allowed them a chance to see prospects in their own backyard.
“It’s absolutely surreal, for sure,” said Rossi, who played tight end and on special teams at Ohio State after playing football, basketball and rugby in high school. “I dreamed about moments like this, growing up in Franklin. I kind of had to bring myself back to earth and know I had to put on a good show, get some reps in. It’s an awesome experience, a dream come true.”
Former Vanderbilt tight end Gavin Schoenwald was also on hand, but it wasn’t his first time on the premises.
As a prep star at Brentwood Academy, Schoenwald took part in the Titans 7-on-7 Passing Tournament inside the team’s indoor practice facility. He made another trip to the Titans facility when he was named prep player of the week as a quarterback.
“When I walked in the door and everybody was like, “woah,” Schoenwald said, “I kind of knew what to expect.
“It’s great to be back, around these coaches and the other players. I watched the Titans growing up. Seeing (Vrabel) on the sideline and how he manages games, and now being here, working out for him, shaking his hand. It is kind of a full circle moment.”
Linebacker John H. Ford II, who played at John Overton High School at Tennessee-Martin, was also among those who took part in Thursday’s local pro day.
Ford woke up 5:30 a.m. on Thursday, ate an apple and banana, and then made the short trip in the rain from Antioch to the Titans practice facility.
He arrived by 6:45, well before the scheduled start of 7:30. He didn’t want to be late.
After weighing in, the players took part in a group meeting with Vrabel and Carthon before taking part in drills. The group was scheduled to eat lunch after the on-field workout.
“Honestly, it is amazing,” Ford said. “I’ve been talking to my parents about it, praying. It’s a dream come true. As soon as I walked in my heart started racing. The best way I can put it is it’s a blessing. I am extremely excited to show my ability and meet everyone.”
Rossi, Schoenwald and Ford felt like Thursday went well.
All three said they wanted to show their versatility, their willingness to learn, and their love of football.
In their hometown.
“When I open my app and it’s Sunday morning at noon, the first score I am checking is the two-tone blue,” Schoenwald of the Titans. “This was great, and if this works out and they have me back for a rookie minicamp, it would be an unbelievable blessing. I’m going to give it all I’ve got.”