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Front Page - Friday, October 4, 2019

Goal for UTC’s Mack: Learn from the best

‘What’s up old man? Teach me something’

Titans rookie and former UT-Chattanooga standout Isaiah Mack, No. 97, closes in on Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan as he is being tackled by Jayon Brown and Harold Landy III during Tennessee’s Sunday win in Atlanta. - Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP

When Isaiah Mack survived final cuts a month ago, the Titans rookie from UT-Chattanooga joined a special fraternity of players with roster spots despite no draft pedigree.

“It’s not a dream yet, but I’m having fun,” says Mack, who had a sack in the season opener and has been active each week for the Titans. “I’m enjoying it. I’m just taking it day by day.

That’s a good approach, teammate Wesley Woodyard says.

“Just continue to go hard every play and act like it’s your last day,” he says. “The good thing about being undrafted is that you always know that feeling of being on edge, being ready to go – just like this could be the day, so I’ve got to continue to give it my all.”

He should know. Woodyard himself came into the league as an undrafted free agent 12 years ago with the Denver Broncos.

Mack also is watching the way older players in the Titans locker room handle their daily business.

“They’ve all done a good job of just teaching me the ropes, and I just try to take in as much as I can,” Mack says.

Woodyard has noticed that, as well, and he has even been on the receiving end of some of the rookie’s questions.

“The thing I see about Mack is that he’s got good people around him,” Woodyard says. “I always catch him around DaQuan (Jones), I always catch him around Jurrell (Casey). He’s a follower, and he’s following good company.

“He’ll come up out of nowhere, and he’ll say, ‘What’s up, Wood? What’s up old man? Teach me something. You like to see that out of young guys, especially when they’re undrafted. That’s why he’s respected.”

Mack, who signed with the Titans in May, quickly began working veterans for advice.

“It was just the older guys keeping me uplifted, telling me stuff like just wait your time, do what’s best for the team, and when you get your chance make the most of it,” he explains. “I just did what they said.”

It was enough to catch the attention of Coach Mike Vrabel in camp and preseason.

“Everybody that we bring in here – I always try to tell this, I think, from my standpoint as a player and where I’ve seen it happen as a coach – everybody, the 90 guys that we get, they all get opportunities.

“But then we all realize obviously that some guys are going to get more opportunities than others.

“Were you drafted? Where were you drafted? Were you not drafted? Were you somebody that we signed in the offseason or somebody that just got here?

“The opportunities, you’re going to get. Now, you may not get as many as the guy that was drafted at that position, so I think that when you’re talking about undrafted free agents, they have to be real conscious to take care of every opportunity that they get. Whether it’s not making any mental mistakes, which would then lead to you saying, ‘Hey, there’s some trust here that we have with this guy that he gets lined up. Let’s see what he can do once he gets lined up.’ Then, does he factor? Does he flash? Does he show that he can perform at this level?

Once he’s done that, then you try to find out, ‘Hey, where does this guy fit in for us,’ and they kind of keep climbing up the ladder and checking off certain boxes as it would relate to his individual situation.”

Mack knew that coming in and has taken the message to heart.

“You only get a few opportunities and you’ve got to make the most of it whenever your name is called. That’s all I try to do,” he says.

Now that Mack has made it to the NFL – going the hard route to do so – Woodyard tells him to cherish his special accomplishment and never forget the way he got there.

“It’s definitely a fraternity,” Woodyard says. “Whenever you see a guy who’s undrafted going across from you, there’s that common bond with each other. Sometimes in the game, you speak to guys and say, ‘What’s up undrafted?’ or ‘What’s up, bro?’

“It’s that camaraderie between you because you know what it’s like to be out there on that field with the greatest players in the world, and being on the edge and on the bubble your rookie year and just fighting to live your dream, and that’s what we do,” Woodyard says.