NASHVILLE – Joshua Kalu has done some pretty special things in his life, but what happened on Sunday was a game-changer in more ways than one.
Kalu’s blocked field goal on the final play of the game preserved the Titans’ 35-32 victory over the Chiefs, and it caused his phone to blow up, too.
“Everybody is still texting me, calling me,” a smiling Kalu said on Monday. “This is probably the biggest reaction that I have gotten for anything in life – birthdays, graduation, you name it. I guess the game went nationwide so people and friends from New York to California to Miami have reached out. I have some people I know from London who have hit me up, congratulating me. It is an amazing feeling.
“My Instagram followers went up, the Twitter followers and messages are booming,” Kalu said. “I am just glad we got the win and I’m glad I was able to do my part.”
Just another Manic Monday, right?
Kalu, in his second season with the Titans after signing as an undrafted free agent last May, sprinted off the edge from the left side to get his left hand on a 52-yard field goal try by Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker, a play that ended the game, and sparked a wild celebration.
Kalu ran around after blocking the kick, before eventually being swarmed by teammates, and head coach Mike Vrabel.
From the hundreds of people who’ve contacted him since Sunday’s game, Kalu said the one that might’ve meant the most came from his Pop Warner coach back home in Texas. Kalu's relationship with his first football coaches dates back to when he was in fifth grade.
Titans teammates said they’re genuinely happy for Kalu, a defensive back who is popular in the locker room.
“He is happy every day,” teammate Logan Ryan said of Kalu, a colorful dresser with a colorful personality. “He has a good spirit about him. Kalu, he’s the class clown of the group. He keeps it light. I think me and (Kevin Byard) can be pretty serious a lot of times and demanding as leaders in the DB room, but I think you need a Josh Kalu, a class clown to keep it light. That’s who he is every day -- he is always smiling, making jokes. He knows when to work, but he keeps it light all the time.”
Kalu, who played collegiately at Nebraska, played five games for the Titans in 2018, and he’d suited up just once this season before Sunday’s game. Kalu spent the first half of the season on Injured Reserve. He’s played primarily on special teams in the NFL, but he played in the defense on at least one play on Sunday.
Byard agreed Kalu is a jokester, but he also pointed to his work ethic. Kalu is also known for being heavily involved in the community back home in Texas, and also in Lincoln, Nebraska. Kalu was named to the Brook Berringer Citizenship Team and the Tom Osborne Citizenship Team as a sophomore, junior and senior while at Nebraska, where he played in 48 games and tallied 215 tackles, two sacks and seven interceptions in his collegiate career.
When Kalu joined the Titans last May, Byard said it didn’t take him long to make his presence felt with his jokes and light-hearted disposition. In fact, they had to check the young buck.
“It’s funny, when Kalu got here last year he was always making jokes and we kind of had to remind him, ‘Hey, you’re a rookie! You’re a rookie!’,” Byard said with a smile. “He actually tried to break down the group one day in training camp last year and I kind of shot him down, “Hey, you’re a rookie. You don’t get that.’ But he walks around with that confidence, and that attitude that he wants to be great, and wants to do great things.”
Kalu chuckles when he hears the comments from his teammates. It’s not unexpected.
After making the biggest play of his NFL career, Kalu said he’ll continue working while also keeping it light.
When he got home after the game Sunday night he didn’t spend the evening Googling himself or checking his mentions on social media. He still hasn’t seen himself on SportsCenter’s Top 10 list.
“I hopped on Call of Duty for a little bit,” Kalu said. “I did watch that play over and over again, though. The biggest thing for me was watching everybody else’s reaction around me, from coaches to players to fans to everybody. I was happy to make the play and happy it caused so many people to get excited.”
The Tennessee Titans take on the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 10 of the 2019 season at Nissan Stadium. (Photos: Donald Page)