NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Titans receiver Cameron Batson remembers the phone call, and exactly what time in came in.
“9:26 a.m.,” said Batson, reflecting on Saturday, cut down day in the NFL. “I got the call and I was like, ‘Damn, I’m cut.”
He also remembers the Lyft ride he took to Saint Thomas Sports Park, calling it the longest 15 minutes of his life.
You see, Batson wasn’t necessarily expecting to make the team’s 53-man roster. Even today, he’s fully aware of his underdog status. So when he walked into general manager Jon Robinson’s office on Saturday, he was expecting the worst.
“I was so nervous,” Batson said. “I was actually about to start pulling out my iPad, to give him the iPad.”
But things took a nice turn, and then something happened even the GM had never experienced before. Robinson told Batson he’d made the team’s 53-man roster, and an impromptu prayer broke out.
“I sat there (in his office) and prayed,” Batson said, “and he bowed his head with me. (Robinson) said, “That’s the first time anyone had ever done that.’ … I just wanted to give God the glory, with everything that is going on good or bad, because without Him nothing is possible. … God had a different plan for me.”
Batson, a high school valedictorian who seemingly faced long odds at the start of the offseason, might have been the biggest surprise among the roster survivors.
At least to the outsiders.
Batson, who signed with the team as an undrafted free agent after playing collegiately at Texas Tech, had a productive offseason, training camp, and preseason.
Along the way, the 5-foot-8, 175-pound Batson impressed those around him with his resiliency, and toughness Not to mention his abilities as a receiver, and return man.
“He's tough as nails, provides value as a returner as well, both kick and punt return,” Robinson said. “You get kind of a three-prong player there, if you will, with what he can do in the kicking game.”
Titans receiver coach Rob Moore said once Batson had good grasp of the offense, he was able to play fast and his speed showed up, which moved him ahead of other contenders.
“You could see his toughness on tape, his willingness to go in there and make some of the tough blocks,” Moore said of Batson. “He plays well in traffic. All of those things bode well for him and it’s the reason why he’s here.”
The Titans ended up keeping six receivers – Rishard Matthews, Corey Davis, Tajae Sharpe, Taywan Taylor, Darius Jennings, and Batson, who had seven catches for 74 yards in the preseason, while also returning four punts and seven kickoffs.
“He showed he was willing to do whatever it took to make the team,” Taylor said of Batson. “He was professional about his work. I am excited for him.”
“I am very happy for him,” Matthews added. “Cam deserves where he’s at. He’s a hard worker, and he can contribute anywhere we need him.”
Since his playing days at Millwood (Okla.) High, Batson has always proven willing to put in extra work.
He played in all three phases on his high school team – offense, defense, and on special teams. He was even the school's kicker – he wore a boot, and kicked straight-on, with his toe.
Asked how far he could kick it, he replied: “Not far.”
Batson’s valedictorian speech – he had 52 in his graduating class – focused on his class, along with his past, and his journey.
Over the weekend, with his family in town, he received another life-changing moment.
Batson knows he’s an underdog, and he’s not about to quit fighting now.
“I was a small guy, wasn’t drafted,” Batson said. “I tried to use my strengths and abilities to help me in this game…
“It is a great feeling to be a part of the 53-man roster. But nothing changes. I have to put in more work, extra work, and get ready for Miami.”
The Tennessee Titans take the field for practice on Monday, Sept. 3, 2018 at Saint Thomas Sports Park. (Photos: Gary Glenn)