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June 25, 2013

Mooney from rookie to NFL veteran

A couple signs surfaced over the past few days that Collin Mooney is on the right path toward transcending from NFL rookie to a veteran.

With the Tennessee Titans wrapping up offseason workouts last week, the second-year fullback from West Point was available to accept invitations to charity golf tournaments and football camps. In the NFL, it can be said you haven't arrived until you're invited to take part in the circuit of charity golf tournaments and football camps.

First, Mooney played in the 23rd annual Ping's Athletic Scholarship Fund golf tournament on Friday at Brookside Golf Course near Ann Arbor, Mich. The tournament is hosted by his agent, Doc Ping.

"I'm not really a golfer," Mooney said, "but I think I'm going to have to learn. Guys in the NFL like to play golf."

After a quick trip home to Nashville, Mooney traveled to Fayetteville, N.C., for the 11th annual Jimmy Raye Youth Foundation free football camp on Tuesday at Jack Britt High School. He was invited by Raye, a senior offensive assistant with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Mooney's presence in Raye's camp was unique among the many NFL heavyweights who have appeared over the years. In addition to drilling Fayetteville-area youth, dependents from nearby Fort Bragg were able to mingle with a West Point graduate who plays in the NFL.

"I love working with kids, and it makes it a little more special with some Fort Bragg kids," Mooney said. "My message is to keep working hard and love the game. Army kids move around, but they can keep learning as they move around."

Raye, an icon in his hometown whose NFL coaching career spans five decades, was happy Mooney's schedule fit his camp's date.

"Collin is an example that there are a lot of different avenues to the NFL," Raye said. "He made it from West Point to the NFL. You start where you stand, and he's a classic example of that. He has found a way to play in the NFL after three years active duty in the Army and reserve duty. He is a great story."

The 27-year-old Mooney is far ahead of last year. He arrived for 2012 offseason workouts and training camp as an undrafted free agent three years removed from his senior season at Army when he set an academy season rushing record with 1,339 yards in 2008.

In addition to experience gained in 2012 -- he spent most of the year on the practice squad but was active for two games -- he's healthier now. Last year he injured his hand during the offseason workouts and entered training camp with five pins in his hand following surgery. Then in training camp he tore meniscus in his knee, which he practiced and played through all season. In the Titans' final game, he carried four times for 19 yards in a 38-20 victory over Jacksonville. Then he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery.

"I'm feeling great," said the 5-foot-10, 247-pounder form Katy, Texas. "I finished the offseason workouts healthy, and the whole team came out of the workouts healthy. I don't have injuries to worry about going into camp."

Mooney also is playing for a relatively new offensive coordinator, Dowell Loggains. He was promoted from quarterbacks coach to OC on Nov. 26 to replace Chris Palmer. Loggains had a good look at what Mooney can do in the final game when his yardage contributed to two first downs as the Titans ran out the clock.

Mooney also bondedwith the squad when his teammates warmly congratulated him for the Army Achievement Medal he received during the offseason sessions. He was presented with the medal by Lt. Col Ryan McCabe at the Titans' training facility. Mooney visited 15 high schools in Tennessee and Kentucky while recruiting for the Army.

Mooney also finished offseason workouts listed on the depth chart for all special teams, which is an important asset to a player competing for a roster spot. But the most important sign Mooney is in position to take the next step in his NFL career in 2013 was what didn't happen during the NFL draft and free agency period.

The Titans' didn't draft a fullback or sign a free agent fullback. They did sign Shonn Green, Jalen Parmele and Alvester Alexander, but they're running backs. Mooney and fifth-year veteran Quinn Johnson are the only fullbacks on the roster at the end of last season and the start of training camp.

"You still have to compete -- you always have to compete against somebody -- but it means a lot that they didn't go out and get someone else," Mooney said. "It means a lot that they have confidence in me."

Who knows? He might be around the NFL long enough to improve his golf game.



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