It's a privilege and honor to be invited to be the "12th Titan" at Sunday's game at LP Field.
I have a lot of great memories from playing at the formerly-known Adelphia Coliseum, and it will be special to be introduced and run out of that tunnel one last time in front of our great Titans fans.
I didn't think that would ever happen again, especially after I retired. But it's a nice gesture by the Titans and it shows what I meant to the organization. It's kind of their way of saying, "job well done."
I will always cherish and fondly reflect on my time with the Titans. There was a special group of guys here back in 1999, the year we made our run to the Super Bowl. It's not like the team was already established. All of us were new. We all came in and kind of built this team together, got immersed into this city and grew together as a family. And as the team grew, the fans grew to love us. Those are the times I will always cherish.
It was not only great to be part of that era of Titans football, but great to play an integral part in it. I was a guy they counted on each and every week to be productive and make plays.
I barely did anything my first couple of years -- did a little punt and kick return and played sparingly at wide receiver. Unfortunately some guys got hurt and I was able to take advantage of the opportunity that was presented to me. Over the next six years I was able to grow as a player, a person and in my responsibilities on the team.
It's one thing to be involved, but another to be entrenched and really be one of the focal points of the organization. And for a period of about five or six years, I was able make the most of my opportunities on the field and develop a close relationship with the greater Nashville community.
Being here every day with guys like Steve McNair and Eddie George, seeing the types of leaders they were and being able to practice against a very fierce defense built me into the type of player I became for the rest of my career. Those are the days I'll never forget.
My plan was never to leave the Titans. In my mind, I thought that I was a fixture in this organization and a key part of the offense. I hadn't even reached my prime yet, so I didn't see myself going anywhere for the next 10 years. I never thought I would play in another uniform. But unfortunately I got caught up in a salary cap situation and didn't have a choice. I understood the business side of it and I will never hold anything against what the Titans had to do. Sitting down with Jeff Fisher and talking to him about what was going on really helped me out during that time.
As it turned out, I ended up having two phases of my career -- the first with the Titans and second with the Baltimore Ravens, who gave me my next opportunity. When we beat the Ravens in Baltimore in the AFC Wildcard Game after the 2003 season, I never would have imagined that I would be playing for them one day. But that's how things played out. It was kind of like having two careers in one.
What was strange for me was coming back to play against the Titans for the first time at LP Field. That first time against them I really wanted to pay them back and show them they made a bad decision. I was playing out of anger instead of playing out of true joy. The Ravens lost that game, but the next time I was able to move past what had happened and came back here in a much better state of mind. I remember Steve connected with me on a touchdown pass on the last drive to win that game in 2006 and it was kind of fitting that two of the key guys that helped jumpstart the Titans back in '99 were the two guys that ended up scoring the game-winning touchdown to beat them that day.
All that said, this organization will always mean a lot to me and I still see myself as a Titan. They took a chance by drafting me back in 1997 and I will always be thankful for that. The support I've received from fans here over the years has been tremendous and is still strong to this day. They always tell me I was the greatest wide receiver to ever play here and wish I could have retired here. Some of them want me to come back, but I tell them, 'Listen, I can't come back. Those playing days are gone.' The love that I get from the Nashville community is something that you can only dream of as a player.
So it will be a special moment for me on Sunday when I'm introduced as the "12th Titan" and get to run out of that tunnel one more time. I am thankful to the Titans' organization for letting me have this moment in front of my son and daughter. The Titans gave me an opportunity to live out a dream to play in the National Football League.
For that, I will always be grateful.
A fourth-round draft pick by the Titans in 1997, two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Derrick Mason began his first eight NFL seasons in Tennessee (1997-2004), catching 453 passes (5th in team history) for 6,114 yards (6th in team history) (13.5 avg) and 37 touchdowns. He played the next six years with the Ravens, becoming Baltimore's all-time leading receiver with 471 receptions for 5,777 yards (12.3 avg) and 29 touchdowns from 2005-10. He played his last NFL season in 2011 with the New York Jets and Houston Texans. He is the only player in NFL history with 10,000 receiving yards and 5,000 return yards and set the NFL record for most all-purpose yards in a single season with 2,659 in 2000.