The Titans looked beyond the first and have discovered the latter about Pollard, a safety who plays with intense physicality but also a person who’s not afraid to admit that he’s a “momma’s boy” at heart.
“If you try to get to know Number 31, a lot of people are misunderstood just because of the way I play,” Pollard said. “So, people right off the bat think, ‘Well, he’s a thug or he’s this or he’s that,’ and I’m far from every one of those assumptions.”
Pollard saw the passion his father, a former running back and linebacker, had for football and a similar feeling grew in him the more he played.
His father originally envisioned Pollard as a quarterback, but as Pollard put it, “I like delivering hits, so I think once my dad saw what I had in me, it was just, he kind of ran with it.”
The passion has increased at every level but is balanced by his sense of humor off the field that makes teammates laugh during breaks in the locker room.
“I love the game of football so I go out there and play my tail off,” Pollard said. “I play hard for my team, my family and this city, but as a person, I’m a different guy. I’m a chill dude. I just love having fun, making people laugh, being with my family.”
Pollard isn’t hesitant to be boisterous but never sets aside taking care of business. Casual observers can see he’s fierce on the field, and those who know him better off it have seen how important faith is to him.
“One thing people have to understand is I take my job serious,” Pollard said. “I’m not an offensive player so I have to protect what’s behind me. I have to fight for things at times.”
Titans secondary coach Brett Maxie, who is in his 16th season as a coach and played 13 years in the NFL, said the vocal nature Pollard displays isn’t an act. Players, Maxie said, can see through “false chatter or false bravado,” adding that Pollard “can point it out as easily as anybody because he has such an inner passion for what he does.”
“He’s a great teammate, first and foremost, and a great person,” Maxie said. “If every player played with his mindset, they would get the best out of who they are as players,” Maxie said. “I think that’s why he’s the way he is, because he wants to get the best out of the gift he’s been given.
“There’s been a purpose put in his mind for playing the game of football,” Maxie continued.
Pollard has brought an attitude that’s helped the Titans’ defense be more assertive this season and an attentive approach that he’s developed during his NFL career that began with three years in Kansas City, followed by two seasons in Houston and two in Baltimore before joining the Titans this offseason as a free agent.
Pollard said some have criticized him for this being his fourth team in eight seasons. If the assessment is made in person, he asks the detractor how many times they’ve changed jobs, points out that football is his job and says he’s grateful for another opportunity.
After capping his collegiate career at Purdue, the native of Fort Wayne, Indiana, was drafted in the second round by Kansas City, where former Chiefs coach Herm Edwards told him, “You either love the game of football or you love what the game will get you.”
Loving the game and being able to play it with significant success at the highest level, however, didn’t overlap instantly.
“I was a player who had talent but knowing and understanding that talent, I had a lot of growing up to do,” Pollard said. “I went to Houston and they needed a leader and wanted a certain type of player. I wanted to be there. I wanted to be able to do that and just didn’t know how to lead vocally.”
Pollard then went to Baltimore and learned leadership traits from entrenched veterans Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Cory Redding. He helped the Ravens make it to the AFC Championship after the 2011 season and win Super Bowl XLVII. Pollard, whose strong faith was instilled in him by his mother, said he thanks God for the opportunities he’s received and the chance to pass along what he’s learned.
“Being in the AFC Championship in 2011 was humongous for our team,” Pollard said. “It let us know what we had, and then the next year with going to the Super Bowl, like I tell a lot of the guys here, when you’re playing on that Sunday, when you’re getting ready for that Super Bowl, it’s just a certain excitement. Everybody’s watching your team go out there and perform. I made a promise to the Lord, to my family, to myself that if I continue to play, I’m chasing that thing for the rest of my career because it’s such a special moment, and we have what it takes here. We’ve got a young team but we have a very talented team.”
Maxie said the Titans and particularly the secondary room, which has six players who each have four or fewer years of experience, have benefitted from Pollard’s addition.
“He has a lot to give, and he’s never said this, but I would think the reason he’s doing what he’s doing is because he knows that young players are watching him, so he wants to make himself available to those players,” Maxie said. “ ‘If you want to be a true pro, if you want to be the best player you can possibly be, this is how it should be done.’ He’s brought the blueprint with him on how it should be done.
“They’ve gravitated to him,” Maxie added. “We were looking for that type of person, and I think he was looking for that place where he could go in and be who he is.”
In addition to continuing big hits that previously earned him the nickname of “The Enforcer,” Pollard recorded an interception at Houston and delivered a clutch block of a field goal against San Diego to keep the score tied at 10 at halftime and enable the Titans to prevail 20-17.
Through five games, Pollard is leading the Titans with 45 tackles (33 solo) and has two interceptions and four passes defensed.
“It’s a great drink as far as putting what my body needs back in,” Pollard said. “I go to Kroger and Walgreen’s and I clear the shelves. Everybody just stares at me when I’m dumping the Pedialyte in my cart. That’s something, that as players, we’ve got to understand how to be pros. You’ve got to know what your body can take and what it can’t. For young players coming in the league, put money aside for massages, foods, drinks and whatever else because this game is about, ‘What can you do for me now?’ and not later.”
Pollard said he likes what is developing here and now for the Titans. He said the place where he is in his career and where the Titans’ needs were seemed to be a “great match” when he was considering where he would sign.
“I just look at it that you’ve got a team that’s sitting in Nashville, a very talented team. You have a team that nobody respects and a team that’s able to compete,” Pollard said. “We want to go slap people in the mouth and we want to make you give us respect. You’re going to give it to us at the end of the day whether it’s us walking out of our stadium or us walking out of your stadium, you’re going to say ‘Good job’ and remember you played the Titans.”