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DirectSnaps: Phillip Supernaw's Undrafted Attitude Paying Dividends

Posted Oct 1, 2016

DirectSnaps is a story series contributed by Tennessee Titans players sharing their perspectives, both on and off the field, with fans. This week's entry comes from TE Phillip Supernaw.

As told by Titans TE Phillip Supernaw

Two grand.

That was my signing bonus when I entered the NFL in 2012. After taxes, it came out to $1,300. I still have that check. One day I may even get it framed.

Undrafted was more than a label for me coming out of the well-known football powerhouse of Ouachita Baptist. It’s part of my identity, the core of what motivates me.

I grew up in Katy, Texas, about 25 miles from Houston. I played quarterback in high school, but I wasn’t recruited by colleges. I didn’t have a single Division I offer. When signing day came, Ouchita Baptist was the only place that said I could come play, so I did.

Fast forward four years, I didn’t get a Combine invite. I also didn’t get drafted, but the Texans gave me a chance as a college free agent. That’s where the big signing bonus came in. I’ll never forget that. In that moment I was like, “Holy cow, they’re actually going to pay me to give me a chance. This is awesome.” You know, all these guys are signing for millions of dollars, and I never even thought about it. I never asked about any other player's signing bonus. I just couldn’t get over how awesome it was.

Another thing I’ll never forget: getting to know Andre Johnson

It was 2012, and we were both with the Texans. I was an undrafted rookie free agent and Andre was… well, Andre. I mean, he’s like the godfather, right?

The Texans drafted him when I was in junior high, so I grew up watching him play. He had no idea what my name was. But I always had this really awesome jersey from when he played at Miami. The orange one… you know, real authentic. I had that thing in my locker for three weeks, and then one day I finally was like, “OK, I’m doing it.”

I walked over to his locker with his No. 5 University of Miami jersey. I had it in a box, folded perfectly, pen ready to go. I was like, "Andre, do you think you can sign this for me, man?" When he signed it, he said, "Where did you get that jersey? It's sweet." That jersey is framed and has even more meaning now that we’re teammates again in Tennessee.

I don’t have a pride issue telling you that story. You’ll hear guys in NFL locker rooms say things like, “I’m never going to get a jersey signed by another grown man.” To that, I say big deal. When you’ve bounced around the league like I have, I think it’s a cool opportunity. It’s a reminder of where you’ve been and who you’ve played with along the way.

I was on four teams in my first three years. I was with Houston for two years, and I wasn’t even really on a team my second year. I actually got cut before training camp on an injury settlement, and I was out of football until Week 15. I was just floating around, hunting and stuff. I wasn't even in the NFL. Then Week 15, the Texans picked me back up and I played the final two games. Then I went to Baltimore for a year. In that year—2014—I went to Kansas City for three weeks and then back to Baltimore. It was a lot of bouncing around, not really getting settled anywhere. And no, it never gets easier getting cut and starting over again.

From an early stage of being in the NFL, I just kind of took on that challenge of being undrafted. I never really thought about whether I was going to make the team or not because that will drive you crazy. I always had the same outlook. You just control what you can. I think all of it helped me—going to that really small school, being undrafted. It made me take nothing for granted, even the little stuff. It taught me to be a hard worker because nothing is guaranteed and nothing is given. This can all be taken away in an instant. I’ll never take a play off because I can’t ever forget how far I’ve come to get here.

I believe that’s why I’m a Titan now. I found my niche here. With Mike Mularkey taking over and Jon Robinson coming in, it fit perfectly to the kind of player I am—tough, physical, nonstop, finishing, never quitting. This is a weird business and can get political, but here it’s basically if you want to be a tough guy who will never quit and give it your all, you have a chance to play. That’s why I consider this my home now. They really gave me a chance to contribute here, and I had prepared for it. It was the opportunity I was waiting on forever, and I don't ever want to squander that.

That undrafted attitude that got me here is kind of like the attitude this team has. That’s the cool thing. We’re pretty young, with the exception of some of those great vets we need, and we don’t care at all what anybody thinks or is saying. We know how hard we work. We know how well we’re capable of playing. I’ve been on teams that struggled before, but this team is different. We know we have so much in store for the future. The losses hurt, but at the end of the day, we have 13 left, and we’re not even clicking on all cylinders yet. Everyone is just fired up for how good we can be.

It’s sort of like that signing bonus check.

My $2,000 might not have been much to everybody else, but to me, it was an opportunity. I wouldn’t change anything because it all ended up getting me here. Hopefully, there’s a lot more to come.