CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. — Three Titans from the West Coast —
Locker, who is from Washington, and California natives Levitre and Ayers said they enjoyed the trek through the region to meet Titans fans during the 16th annual goodwill tour. The trip started with a visit to Shoe Carnival in Paducah, Ky., continued with a stop at Kroger in Hopkinsville, Ky., and concluded at an Academy Sports + Outdoors location that opened this spring.
It became the third year in a row for Locker to hop on the Caravan and the second straight for Ayers and Levitre.
“You get to learn a little bit about the geography of the area. I’m from the West Coast and had never been over here until I got drafted,” Locker said. “Having the opportunity to learn a little bit about the area and the people is awesome.”
Levitre and Ayers said the trip brought back memories from their youth when they met athletes. Now that their roles are reversed, they said they enjoy introducing fans to the people inside the helmets.
“It’s a great way, especially for people that are farther away from the Nashville area to come out and interact with players and for us to interact with the fans,” Levitre said.
Added Ayers: “It’s a fun deal, getting out and seeing fans outside of Nashville and just seeing the type of support going around. I never had nothing like this because we didn’t have too many football teams but I met a couple of basketball players growing up when I was younger and that was pretty cool, especially for the younger kids out here.”
Ayers won a water bottle after spinning the prize wheel at Shoe Carnival, but spins by Locker and Ayers were just shy of landing on the right spot. Memorabilia that fans in Hopkinsville brought included collegiate photos of Locker (University of Washington) and Ayers (UCLA), and a fan in Clarksville sported a Levitre jersey he was able to get signed by the player he shares a birthday with today. Fans in Clarksville presented Locker with photos, one from a training camp practice, and one in a frame from the 2012 season-opener (his first NFL regular-season start), and one lady celebrated her 5th birthday by meeting the Titans and T-Rac.
It was also a welcome experience for Locker, Levitre and Ayers, who have all been on the mend this offseason. Their days have been filled with hours of rehab, studying of the playbook that Tennessee is installing under new head coach Ken Whisenhunt, offensive coordinator Jason Michael and defensive coordinator Ray Horton, and the desire to be 100 percent and fully participate as soon as possible. Whisenhunt is headlining the Caravan Thursday with stops in Bowling Green, Ky., and White House and Madison.
Locker said he’s “able to do some things that maybe we originally thought would still be a few weeks out.” Ayers said he was able to run for the first time this week, and Levitre said he’s a “lot further along” than he was this time last year.
Locker and Ayers were Tennessee’s first two draft picks in 2011, and Ayers said they’ve increased their bond through the hard work they’re putting toward recovery.
“Me and Jake are always in (the training room) together, so we always see each other working,” Ayers said. “That’s a lot of encouragement right there, just having some of your teammates, especially a guy that came in in the same draft class as you, and we’re both coming off injury and trying to get better as quick as we can.”
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