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Titans LB Wesley Woodyard Turning Back the Clock

Posted Oct 3, 2017

Playing more than he has in years, the former Kentucky star has already set a team record for tackles through four games. Woodyard is crediting a new plant-based diet with giving him a big energy boost.

NASHVILLE Tenn. — Three quarters into the Titans' recent win over Seattle, linebacker Wesley Woodyard – fresh from stopping a Seahawks runner behind the line of scrimmage – happily wiggled backward out of the pile while still face down on the turf.

He then hopped to his feet, thrilled he'd put the Seahawks in a hole.

“It was just pure excitement,” Woodyard said of his reaction. “I was joking with someone on Twitter about that play, saying, `When you're ballin', you just gotta' crawl backwards sometimes. It's just fun.'”

Despite the Titans' poor overall defensive performance against Houston last Sunday, it's been a renaissance season for the 31 year-old Woodyard, who's increased his playing time and production after two years of declining numbers.

Heading into Sunday's game against Miami, the former University of Kentucky star has already piled up a team-high 50 tackles, marking the first time any Titans player has reached that mark in just four games.

Woodyard isn't leaving the field very often either.

A 10-year veteran, he's played 80 percent of the team's defensive snaps through a quarter of the season. That's a huge jump from his season-ending percentages in 2016 (56 percent) and 2015 (47 percent).

“I think Wesley is similar to me, man, like a good old wine that just gets better as it ages,” Titans tight end Delanie Walker said. “He's been playing phenomenal, making plays left and right. I love seeing that. I'd say he's on a Pro Bowl roll right now.”

So just what's gotten into Woodyard, who also leads the team with five tackles for loss?

The short answer is a lot of greenery.

A couple of months ago, Woodyard, following the lead of fellow linebacker Derrick Morgan, adopted a primarily plant-based diet. Morgan had been on the diet for about six months already, finding it significantly reduced inflammation, helped him recover more quickly after games, and lowered both his blood pressure and cholesterol.

Woodyard discovered an additional set of benefits.

“I can definitely say one thing about that plant-based diet – I do have more energy than I've ever had,” Woodyard said. “I could tell a difference from the first day.

“It used to be I was sleepy toward the later part of the day, like when I was getting ready to leave work. I felt like I needed a nap. Now I feel like I'm freakin' 20 years old again.”

A light 233 pounds to begin with, Woodyard said he probably lost five or six pounds at the start of the diet, which he compared to a body detox.

He has looked quicker this season, which might be part of the reason the Titans have used him more often in passing situations than in the past. Woodyard has been on the field for 31 of opponents' 51 third downs this season (61 percent), a figure that's a notable increase from his season-ending, third-down figures in 2016 (42 percent) and 2015 (24 percent).

“I think that's mostly off-season training, working hard on the little things and knowledge of the game – knowing what routes (opponents) are going to run in certain situations,” Woodyard said. “But I love being in there when a game is on the line. Big-time players have to make big-time plays in big-time games. I live by that. You want to make plays, you got to be in the game.”

A four-year captain with the Titans – and a six-year captain in Denver before that – Woodyard has also done a good job of teaching the team's younger players. Rookie linebacker Jayon Brown, like Woodyard an undersized interior linebacker, has been an eager listener – especially when it comes to the topic of pass coverage.

“I think he's like Yoda – the older he gets, the wiser he gets,” Brown said of Woodyard. “He's playing at a high level right now and I think the whole league sees that. I'm just trying to learn what I can from him, so that when I come in I don't skip a beat.”

Woodyard has always said he wanted to play about 13 years in the NFL, which would make him 34 years old.

But who's to doubt Woodyard at this point -- on pace for 200 tackles after a quarter of the season?

“I've always been a big fan of Woody, and I'm glad he's getting more opportunities to touch the field because he's a play-maker,” Morgan said. “Father Time has been really generous to him. He's definitely not showing any sign of slowing down.”

— Reach John Glennon at glennonsports@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @glennonsports.