The Titans have confirmed the signing of 14 un-drafted free agents, and former Arizona State linebacker Khaylan Kearse-Thomas is among them. Kearse-Thomas was one of two Sun Devils to sign with the Titans at the conclusion of the draft, as he joined tight end Tommy Hudson (who we interviewed back in May). Kearse-Thomas measures in at 6-foot-1, 224 pounds and totaled 65 tackles and 4.5 sacks as a senior in 2019.
Kearse-Thomas recently spoke exclusively with MCM about his time at Arizona State, how he formed a relationship with the Titans throughout the pre-draft process, and why the Titans style of play is a perfect match for him.
JM: You had a really nice career at Arizona State. How do you look back on your time there?
KKT: I’m very thankful for the relationships that I forged there. I played for some great coaches. Every single one of them played a role in helping shape the person and player I am today. I learned a lot throughout my time there. I look back on it as a blessing. I accumulated a lot of knowledge. When I look at things on the field, I had a good time. I feel like I could have done more though. When my number got called, I made the most of it.
JM: What was draft weekend like for you?
KKT: I was pretty calm throughout the weekend. I wasn’t watching the draft with much anxiety. I was excited for my teammates. I celebrated when their number got called. When I got my call, it was all work from there. It’s a huge blessing.
JM: How did this opportunity with the Titans come about?
KKT: I started talking to them about a week or two before the draft. We stayed in touch. I really like the coaching staff and what they stand for. They’re building something special in Tennessee.
JM: Which members of the organization were you in contact with?
KKT: I spoke with coach [Jim] Haslett, he’s the inside linebackers coach. I also spoke with [special teams] coach [Craig] Aukerman.
JM: That’s great. I imagine you spoke with a few teams throughout the process. Why did you choose Tennessee?
KKT: They’re building something special. I like their characteristics. Everybody I spoke with is very knowledgeable. Coach [Mike] Vrabel is such a smart guy. I really like the way he coaches. It all played a factor in my decision.
JM: What’s your favorite part of playing the linebacker position?
KKT: I enjoy the communication that goes into it. You have to talk to pretty much everybody on the field. We have our hand in everything. You have to communicate with the entire defense. That’s definitely my favorite part.
This was a great hit Khaylan Kearse-Thomas put out pic.twitter.com/cfkFM1ED2w— JediASU (@JediASU) August 18, 2019
JM: Do you prefer playing in coverage or in the run game?
KKT: I honestly like both. Playing in coverage is a lot of fun. It allows you to play in space. That gives you a chance to make a big play for your team. Coming downhill and stopping the run is fun because of the physicality involved. They’re both fun in different ways.
JM: That’s a great point. Playing at Arizona State afforded you the opportunity to play against some of the best competition college ball has to offer. Who were some of the best players you went up against?
KKT: Honestly, I had the best competition on my own team. Practicing against [running back] Eno Benjamin every day was the toughest test. He was one of the better backs in the Pac-12. That was the biggest competition for me. He made me a better player throughout the season.
JM: He’s a lot of fun. The Titans recently ended their virtual off-season program. This is obviously the first time you’ve ever gone through something like that. What was that experience like for you?
KKT: It was eye-opening. Coming from college, you don’t always realize how much changes at the next level until you actually get there. I’m learning the ins and outs of the organization right now. That was the biggest shock to me.
JM: I’m assuming you’re quite excited to meet all of your teammates in person. Is there one in particular that you’re looking forward to meeting in person?
KKT: I’m really excited to meet everybody. Those are the guys I’m going to war with on Sunday. I’m excited to get up there and develop some bonds. I wanna watch how they go through their days. I’m gonna pay close attention to their routines. That’s what I’m excited for.
JM: You leave Arizona State as a five-year senior. You were one of the more respected and experienced players on that team. You’re now an un-drafted rookie trying to earn his stripes and make a roster. How can you successfully make that transition?
KKT: I just have to approach it with the right mindset. It’s time for me to go to work. I can’t take anything for granted. Just like my time at Arizona State, I have to capitalize on my opportunities. When my number gets called, I have to show up.
LB Khaylan Kearse-Thomas, Arizona State— PFF TEN Titans (@PFF_Titans) April 26, 2020
Allowed 0 TDs into his coverage on 387 coverage snaps played in his career
Played all over the Sun Devils’ defense, 211 snaps on the D-line, 386 in the box, 76 in the slot #Titanup
JM: I’ve really appreciated your time today, Khaylan. In closing, what are your goals and aspirations like over these next few months?
KKT: I’m working hard to get in the best shape of my life. I’m getting ready for training camp. God willingly, I’ll make the final roster. We’ll take things from there.