NASHVILLE – Two Tennessee Titans straits will seek further education at Vanderbilt University later this month. They hope to benefit a local charity in the process.
Veteran Austin Hooper and rookie Chig Okonkwo are expected to attend George Kittle’s Tight End University, which will be held in Vanderbilt June 22-24.
This is the second consecutive offseason that Kittle – an All-Pro tight end with the San Francisco 49ers – has hosted a Tight End University in the city. The inaugural event attracted around 50 NFL players last season and the number is expected to rise to at least 75 this year.
“Basically the whole concept is to just get as many people under one roof as possible and talk to the ball, be on the pitch, watch each other run courses, just ask questions, learn from each other, and then just go out and get to know each other, ”Kittle said on the AP Pro Football podcast.
In addition to most of the current NFL top tight ends like Kittle, Travis Kelce of Kansas City and Darren Waller of Las Vegas, this year’s event is expected to include previous names like Tony Gonzalez and Dallas Clark.
Hooper entered the first edition last offseason before his senior year in Cleveland, when Hooper received 38 passes for 345 yards and three touchdowns. The first two numbers were the lowest for Hooper since his rookie year of 2016. Hooper earned Pro Bowl Honors only in 2019 in Atlanta, when he received 75 passes for 787 yards and six touchdowns.
“We’ll be looking for ways to bring out (Hooper’s) skill set and bring it up to date with the way we do things around here, and we’re very lucky to have it around here,” said Titans offensive coordinator Todd Downing. . “You know, I like some tight spots.”
Okonkwo, a fourth-round pick two months ago, received 52 passes for 447 yards and five touchdowns in his final season at Maryland. The 6-foot-3, 238-pound Okonkwo should bring the necessary speed and pass-catching ability to the tight body, but it will also need to establish itself as a useful blocker.
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“I think he’s doing everything we’re asking him to do,” Downing said. “It’s hard to get some reps you’ll need against another body (during the off season) without the bearings.
“But we’re also going to have to do a good job and be creative in how it blocks and where we put it. It won’t withstand a 280-pound defensive end. It wouldn’t be fair. So we hope we can continue to find ways to have him there and help us when we manage football and do some of the things that his natural skills would have lent him to be able to do when we throw the ball. “
Hooper and Okonkwo are officially listed among the tight ends participating in the fundraising contest that accompanies Tight End University. Bridgestone collaborated with Tight End University for a two-week fundraising contest – June 6-20 – to see which Tight End can raise more funds for their hometown Boys & Girls Club. The player’s club with most of the money raised will receive an additional $ 50,000.
However, Hooper and Okonkwo aren’t the only Titans looking to their peers for further study this off-season.
Defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons recently posted a photo on social media illustrating his attendance at Von Miller’s Pass Rush Summit in Las Vegas earlier this month. Simmons is coming out of a Pro Bowl season that saw him career total records of 54 tackles, 8.5 layoffs, 58 quarterback pressures, and 12 tackles per loss, but has not taken part in any voluntary training that has been open to the media. and allegedly stayed away for much, if not all, of the off-season schedule to date.
Coach Mike Vrabel was asked last week if he enjoyed seeing his players participate in off-season courses such as those frequented by Hooper, Okonkwo and Simmons.
“I don’t know,” Vrabel said. “I haven’t been to them, so I don’t know what they could earn or what they do.”
Added defensive line manager Terrell Williams: “I trust Jeff and it’s good that he’s working with Von. We had Von when I was at Texas A&M coaching there (in 2010), and it’s a good place for (Simmons) to continue honing his skills. There are other guys we know too. So it’s a good deal for him. “