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VOL. 43 | NO. 16 | Friday, April 19, 2019

Draft hosting overshadows draft talk for Titans fans

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"Selection Square" at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center on Tuesday, readying for the NFL Draft

-- Lyle Graves | Nashville Ledger

As Nashville prepares to host its first NFL Draft, talk of who the Tennessee Titans will take with the 19th pick in that draft has taken a backseat to lost cherry trees, fear of downtown gridlock, how to get up front for the Tim McGraw, CeCe Winans and Dierks Bentley concerts and what celebrities will be spotted around town.

It is certainly understandable that the spotlight and pageantry – and the anticipated impact of a few hundred thousand visitors – that come with hosting the NFL Draft would usurp what Titans fans are usually concerned with at this time of year.

As for the Titans themselves, the reverse is true.

The luster of Music City hosting the draft at the downtown, NFL-created football village, where the party will take place beginning Thursday, has little to do with what’s going on at Baptist Sports Park, where the Titans are crafting their draft strategy.

“I think it will be business as usual for everybody here,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel says, “and for Jon (Robinson) and I, and our coaching staff and our scouts. But, I think that it’s amazing for our town, our city, our fans.

“I know that my family is looking forward to it, friends are coming in. But I’ll be here.”

"Selection Square" at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center on Tuesday, waiting for the NFL Draft

While the Titans front offices gets to do its draft business in comparative anonymity, the fact that Nashville is hosting the draft has taken the fan base by storm.

Chad Withrow, co-host of WGFX 104.5 The Zone’s “Midday 180,” says the logistics of the draft in Nashville have dwarfed pretty much everything else on Nashville’s sports landscape.

“On our show, talk about the NFL Draft usually dominates at this time of year, even more so than talk about the Predators and the Stanley Cup Playoffs. People call in and want to talk about who or what the Titans should take with their picks,” Withrow says.

“But this year, with the draft coming to Nashville, most of the callers are wanting to talk about the draft being here and everything that is happening with that.”

Withrow says the show carries its usual draft talk with guests analyzing what prospects might be good fits for the Titans and other teams.

But when segments go to open lines, the draft being in Nashville is the topic du jour.

“We open it up (to callers), and it’s not only the calls, we also use Twitter to gauge the listeners’ interest, I would say that when we ask for calls that 60 to 70 percent of the time people call in and want to talk about the draft being here in Nashville,” he says.

The whole draft extravaganza even has current Titans players curious enough to venture into the crowded downtown to experience it.

“I don’t know what the traffic will be like, but I’ll be involved in some things – appearance-wise,” Titans cornerback Logan Ryan says. “So, I’m definitely going to take the opportunity. It’s a great thing and a beautiful thing for Nashville to host the draft for the first time ever. I’m definitely going to take my time and try to enjoy it.”

As the Titans move into a supporting role this weekend, fans, media and the organization seem to know that this moment is Nashville’s time to grab the national and, some would argue, global spotlight.

“I think this weekend is going to be spectacular for Nashville. I think it will show that the Titans actually do have fans,” Withrow says. “For instance, when Eddie George is announcing the Titans second-round pick, the roar down on Lower Broadway is going to be unbelievable.”

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