Warmack, Tennessee’s right guard and first-round pick (10th overall) of the 2013 NFL Draft, and Schwenke, a draft classmate as a fourth-rounder a year ago, departed Saint Thomas Sports Park Monday on a bus with Titans mascot T-Rac and several staff members for the first two stops of the 16th annual goodwill trek through Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky.
“You’ve got to start with the guys up front. This is where it starts,” Keith said. “This is what the Caravan is all about: these two guys are going to be important players for the Tennessee Titans for a lot of years, so we’re excited to have both of them out and give them a chance to meet our fans in a different way.
“They’re going to be flag bearers for what we do going forward, and that’s a lot of what we do with the Caravan,” Keith continued. “Every great start the Tennessee Titans has ever had has been on the Caravan, and it’s a chance to make an introduction. I’m excited that these guys are going out to start us off. They’re perfect to lead us off.”
Warmack and Schwenke hopped on a bus from Premiere Transportation that is named “Grant” in honor of the 18th U.S. President that has also wheeled around President Barack Obama, Vice-President Joe Biden, country musician Alan Jackson, Nashville cast members Charles Esten, Jonathan Jackson and Hayden Panettiere, actor Tom Hanks and director Steven Spielberg. Grant has also provided transportation for Katie Couric and politicos such as Mitt Romney, John Glenn, Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani and Mike Huckabee.
Driver Terry Bear, who has steered motor coaches for 17 years, is driving the Titans Caravan for the fourth time.
Warmack and Schwenke’s first scheduled stop was Buffalo Wild Wings in Florence, Ala., followed by Academy Sports + Outdoors in Madison, Ala. Click here for the full schedule.
Many fans greeted Warmack with Titans and Alabama memorabilia, still fond of the way he helped the Crimson Tide win three NCAA titles.
“It was a situation where Alabama and Titans fans were coming together,” Warmack said. “I’m blessed and grateful to be in this area where I can share both of those fans.”
Although fans in this part of the country hadn’t seen Schwenke play as much when he was in college at California, they were glad to see him in person and share laughs with he and Warmack. Schwenke played in the Senior Bowl prior to the 2013 NFL Draft. He said it was great to partner with a “character” like Warmack on the Caravan.
“We’ve gotten pretty close, and I think a big thing is people have expected us to be pretty close because we play right next to each other and were both rookies,” Schwenke said. “I think we’ve kind of taken that and run with it a little bit in our personal relationship. We trained together for the combine so we’ve known each other a little bit. It was real good coming in with him because we both knew each other and were comfortable with each other, so it’s only grown and gotten better.”
Warmack and Schwenke received souvenirs to commemorate their first time on the caravan when 107.3-FM (WQLT, “Q107”), a Titans Radio affiliate in Florence, Ala., presented each with electric guitars. Schwenke knows how to play intros of a few songs, but it’s a hobby Warmack hasn’t taken up yet.
Keith said the stops offer a chance to make magical moments — some happy, some touching and some hilarious — in big cities and small towns.
“We’ve had them everywhere. We’ve had them at unexpected moments with players meeting people that become special and people that meet our staff that become special to us through the years,” Keith said. “We’ve made a lot of friends, and now the difference, like with (2014 fifth-round pick) Avery Williamson, when we started this thing, Avery Williamson was in grade school (in Milan, Tenn.), and now he’s come up and been a Titans all the way through.
“He’s never known Nashville without a pro football team, and we have a lot of kids like that now, so a lot of them have graduated college and gotten jobs, and I’ve met them at different places and they’ve said, ‘You came to my elementary school with Jevon Kearse,’ and that’s always exciting,” Keith said. “That’s the part of this that never gets old, is getting a chance to see the kids have the interaction with players because that’s what this is really all about. We’re trying to make fans for life, and the best way to do that is have a kid meet a pro football player and have a great experience. You’ll never forget that forever.”
ABOUT ACADEMY SPORTS + OUTDOORS: Academy Sports + Outdoors is a premier sports, outdoor and lifestyle retailer with a broad assortment of quality hunting, fishing and camping equipment and gear along with sports and leisure products, footwear, apparel and much more. The Texas-based company operates 175 stores throughout Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. The Academy Sports + Outdoors philosophy is to deliver an unparalleled shopping experience by providing convenience, offering a broad selection of quality products, delivering exceptional customer service and selling the right stuff at everyday low prices. For more information about Academy Sports + Outdoors visit academy.com, facebook.com/academy, twitter.com/academy, instagram.com/academy, pinterest.com/academy and youtube.com/academy.