NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Come Monday, Tennessee Titans fullback Collin Mooney will arrive at the team’s facility for the first day of off-season workouts.
The former Army football standout, West Point graduate and current 1st lieutenant in the Army Reserves will try to make the Titans roster for a second straight season in 2013.
But for the past two weeks, the uniform he has donned is that of the military. He is completing a two-week obligation to the Army Reserves by recruiting high school students at some 90 area schools as potential Army recruits.
Is Mooney a military man playing professional football? Or is he a football player who just happens to have a military gig as a commissioned officer?
“I am a military man playing football,” he said firmly. “That’s what I came out of high school wanting to do. The NFL came out of nowhere, really.
“I had planned on serving my country and going to West Point and being an officer. The opportunity just presented itself to go to the NFL, and I just couldn’t pass that opportunity up.”
That was because Mooney spent the 2008 season for Army football as the one of the top running backs in the country. He set the school’s single-season rushing record with 1,339 yards and finished 14th in the country at 111.6 yards rushing per game.
But after a three-year mandatory military stint after graduating from West Point, Mooney found himself in the Titans’ training camp last year as a free agent and eventually made the team. He first landed on the development squad after not making the initial roster out of training camp, but was later promoted to the 53-man roster and activated for two games, eventually playing in the season finale with five carries for 19 yards.
Heading into this season, Mooney understands his rank among Titans running backs is closer to the bottom of the totem pole than his commissioned rank of 1st lieutenant, which is one step above the rank of 2nd lieutenant that he earned as a West Point graduate with a bachelor’s degree in management.
He said he was a “private” last year with the Titans. “Maybe this year, I can be promoted to corporal.”
All the while, Mooney is grounded in his military roots and upbringing. It apparently came honestly as the grandson of a prominent colonel and 24-year Army veteran who was stationed at the Pentagon after serving in both Korea and Vietnam.
“I think it’s great,” Titans coach Mike Munchak said of Mooney being able to play in the NFL and serve his country as an officer in the Army Reserve at the same time. “When you meet him, you see what kind of a special guy he is and the way he handles himself.”
There are no restrictions in Mooney’s contract that limit him from any of his military duties. Good thing, too, because he is commissioned to operate field artillery.
“We just blow stuff up, man,” Mooney said with a sly grin. “It is indirect fire, but it can be very accurate.”
That’s just one of the many exploits Mooney can relate to potential Army recruits. Certainly, the fact that Mooney can be a full-time running back in the NFL and also serve his country in the Army Reserve is a natural recruiting tool.
“The boys who aspire to be professional athletes, obviously, they are attracted to the Titans’ jersey that he is wearing as he is walking around,” said Capt. William Carrion, recruiting coordinator for Nashville Company of the Army Reserve. “What I have mostly is the young ladies who want to get their photos taken with Collin.
“With him being an NFL player and an Army Reservist, it has proven our point that you can do both.”
That’s a notion Mooney, a product of Katy (Texas) Taylor High School, not only understands, but also willingly embraces. He wants to show young men and women what entering the Army on a full-time basis can provide, but also exhibit that you can live a normal life and still serve in the Reserve, too.
“I think they are interested in both,” Mooney said of being both a Titans running back while serving in the Army Reserve. “It’s exciting for me to see they really want to serve their country. It restores your faith in the next generation and the future leaders of this country.”
Just where this football thing takes Mooney is all set against the backdrop of his ultimate goal to continue as an officer in the military with aspirations to rise through the ranks.
“I like to show [recruits] you can pursue your dreams and you can do what you can and you can serve your country at the same time,” he said.
“[He does it] because I love my country. That is really what it comes down to. I believe that being able to serve your country is the highest honor.”