SPRING HILL – Marcus Mariota did it all on the Titans Caravan on Tuesday.
The Titans quarterback took countless pictures with fans, and signed everything imaginable – helmets, jerseys, cleats, flags, Sports Illustrated magazines, and even a Heisman Trophy replica. He held babies, and even said hello to at least two fans via FaceTime – one stationed overseas in the military, the other the elderly father of a fan holding up a phone. He took extra time with kids.
And Mariota seemed to enjoy every minute of it.
"It is surreal," Mariota said of the turnout, and the number of fans outfitted in No.8 jerseys. "You're talking about a kid who is from the Middle Pacific and he is out here in Nashville. It is unbelievable. It is a gift, it's a privilege and something I don't take lightly. Every opportunity that we have to be able to spend time with our fans and spend time with some kids, it means a lot to us. I am glad I'm here today – it will be a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to it."
For a moment, Mariota reflected on his own childhood in Hawaii. He got a reminder of home when his aunt an uncle, who live in Spring Hill, stopped by to see him.
"I was once one of those kids, just trying to soak up as much as I could," he said. "We're just an example for these kids to go live their dreams and have aspirations. But it's a good time for all of us."
Mariota, who is headed into his fifth NFL season, also talked some football.
Mariota said he hasn't met second-round pick A.J. Brown, but the two have texted. Brown and the rest of the rookies are scheduled to be in Nashville for a rookie minicamp this weekend.
"Hopefully he's ready to work and we'll see what he's able to do," Mariota said of Brown. "We have a young group (of receivers), so they can kind of grow up together. ... I think he has a good group of guys he can learn from."
Mariota said he's been impressed by veteran receiver Adam Humphries, who spent his first four NFL seasons with the Buccaneers before joining the Titans as a free agent this offseason.
"I think having conversations with him, being around him now, you understand how savvy and smart he is as a football player," Mariota said of Humphries. "I think that presence for that young group of receivers will benefit all of those guys. But I think Adam has done a great job just coming in, learning the offense as much as he can so he can hopefully lead those guys and do his best as well."
Mariota said organized workouts have gone great so far, as the team preps for OTAs later this month, and a minicamp next month. Training camp will kick off in late July.
Physically, Mariota said he feels good.
"Everything is going great," he said. "This is an opportunity for us to work on the fundamentals, work on the operation, getting in and out of the huddle, just cleaning little things like that up so when OTAs do start we are hitting at full swing. I am proud of the way guys have worked. Hopefully it can continue to get better."
In a 10-minute conversation with reporters on hand at Port Royal Park in Spring Hill, Mariota also discussed everything from the NFL Draft in Nashville to new OC Arthur Smith to his excitement as he looks ahead to 2019. Mariota said he considers Nashville his second home.
Earlier, the Titans Caravan -- which also included linebacker Rashaan Evans and tight end Jonnu Smith -- visited Maplewood High School, and the players talked to students.
Mariota got serious when asked how the team can go from good to great -- head coach Mike Vrabel's mantra. He pointed to the success – and failures – of last season.
"Consistency," Mariota said. "We've shown up for games, we've played well. We beat some of the better teams in the league, and then we tend to kind of fall asleep. If we can build that consistency – I think it really starts at this time. Whether it's consistent route running, consistent throwing, consistent tackling – those things can be worked on now. If we are able to do that I think we'll get to a point where our success can be carried out for the entire year."
Marcus Mariota, Jonnu Smith and Rashaan Evans headlined Day 5 of the 2019 Academy Sports + Outdoors Titans Caravan in Nashville and Spring Hill. (Photos: Susanna Nickel, Jim Wyatt)