As Delanie Walker was out promoting his partnership with the FedEx Air and Ground program to support the USO Pathfinder Program, he took some time to speak with me about this good cause, Arthur Smith, the Titans offense and why the toughest cover man he’s ever faced wasn’t an opponent.
JM: You’re helping with a surprise and delight through the FedEx Football Fellowship Program. What can you tell me about that?
DW: I’m honored to join FedEx and the USO to support our military veterans and their families as they prepare for life after military service. That’s pretty much what I’m out here doing right now. We’re giving them the opportunity to get some working experience under their belts. It’s important for our veterans to be granted the opportunity to make a smooth transition to every day life once they’ve retired from the military.
JM: Two members of the program are actually working with the Titans this year. How proud does that make you to be a Titan? The organization has really done their part to help assist with this program.
DW: It’s huge to me. I’m glad to be a Titan. We always talk about how we support the military so it’s important to me that we do more than just say it. When we’re helping them get jobs and helping them get back to leading a normal life, it shows me that we really do support our veterans.
JM: Switching our focus to the field, how is the ankle feeling right now? I feel like the Titans are just being cautious with you.
DW: The ankle feels great. We’re doing a great job to make sure I get back to 100% so when I’m back out there, I can play fast and hit the ground running. It’s coming along well. We’ve seen a lot of progress and that’s all I can really ask for.
JM: Who’s the toughest cover man you’ve ever gone up against and what made him such a difficult match-up?
DW: You’re asking about someone that covered me? C’mon, you know nobody can cover me, man (laughs). You’re killing me right now.
JM: You’re not wrong (laughs).
DW: You know what, I’m gonna give you something. They may think this is bias but my answer is Kevin Byard. I go against him every day in practice and he’s the reason why I feel I’m so good at running routes and reading coverages. The guy challenges me to be better on every snap. That’s what every training camp has been like for us since he’s gotten here. We love going against each other. Iron sharpens iron. He’s been the best cover man I’ve ever gone up against. He’s the best safety in the game.
JM: He definitely is. I’m curious to get your take on what you think the biggest contributing factor has been to some of the slow starts on offense this season. Are defenses giving you guys looks that you aren’t expecting?
DW: I wouldn’t say that, no. I think our coaches prepare us the best way they can by showing us every look we may possibly see. We’re looking at all the fronts and different coverages. Honestly, I can’t really tell you why we’ve been having so many slow starts. It could be the penalties. If you watch the film, every time we get a big play, it feels like we get a penalty right after that. It kinda slows your momentum down. We just have to make the plays when they come to us. We have the opportunities. We just have to do a better job when the opportunity arises.
JM: It seems like there have been a high number of pre-snap penalties and pre-mature snaps in recent weeks. Are those slips in focus or has something changed with the cadence that’s throwing you guys off?
DW: You know what, I really couldn’t tell you. I think at the end of the day, it comes down to focus. I think we just need to focus more. I don’t think the cadence is gonna change anything. We’ve been told the snap count once we break the huddle. I would probably say it just comes down to focus.
JM: As one of the most important players on this team and leaders in the locker room, how do you stay engaged as a leader when you’re forced to miss time with injury?
DW: I’m in the meetings and I’m asking questions. I’m making sure that everyone sees I’m still involved and that I want to lead by example. I’m in the playbook every day. I’m watching film every day. I’m talking to my teammates and asking them what happened on this play and so on. I’m explaining to them what I see on film even if I wasn’t out there. I’m staying in everyone’s ear. I’m letting them know that I’m gonna be back soon and we need to get some wins in the meantime so that when I do come back, we’re poised to make that playoff push. It just comes down to things like that.
JM: Where do you think Arthur Smith can improve the most right now?
DW: I honestly think he’s doing a great job. He’s always saying that he’s building. That’s the one thing that I think he’s improving on, he’s starting to build something here. We’re building something every day. He’s still growing as our offensive coordinator. At the end of the day, that’s a very difficult job. He calls the plays but as players, we need to make them come alive. I think he’s done a great job so far. At the end of the day, he’d probably tell you different. As a player, getting the plays and how he’s drawn them up for us, I believe they can all be successful if we make them come to life. That’s up to us as players.
JM: I love that answer. In closing, I thought I’d end on a light note. What’s the biggest hit you’ve ever taken? Is there one that you recall like yeah, he got me good.
DW: I’ve been hit hard a few times. I never tell them though (laughs). I’m not trying to give them any credit. I know when it hurts though. I remember a game against Baltimore a couple of years ago. We’re talking four, maybe five years ago. I was knocked out. This was before the rule changes with leading with the helmet and hits to the head. Some dude hit me on the side of my face helmet to helmet. I was running a slant across the middle and the throw was a little behind me. I was trying to reach back for it and he just caught me when I wasn’t looking. I didn’t really feel the hit but he did knock me out. I would have to say that was the hardest hit I’ve ever taken.