Numbers look good for Harvard grad turned Titans’ tight end
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Anthony Firkser could be working in banking or finance, maybe even on Wall Street with the applied mathematics degree earned at Harvard.
Luckily for the Titans, the converted wide receiver is playing tight end in Tennessee.
“He just makes it easy for us to throw it to him,” Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota said of Firkser. “Whether that’s creating separation, using his body to make a couple tough catches. I think he’s done a great job in just being friendly for us as quarterbacks.”
Firkser has caught every pass thrown to him, an unexpected but welcomed stat for the Titans (7-6). Tennessee lost three-time Pro Bowl tight end Delanie Walker in the season opener to a broken right ankle and a second starter when a knee injury forced Jonnu Smith to go on injured reserve.
The Titans also have veteran Luke Stocker and MyCole Pruitt while adding tight end Cole Wick earlier this week. Firkser is the tight end in line for more work starting Sunday when they visit the New York Giants (5-8) thanks to his production already.
“They’ve all gotten better and tried to find a little niche in our offense,” coach Mike Vrabel. “With that being said, MyCole is going to get more opportunity. Firkser is going to get more opportunity. What do I like about Firkser? I would say that when you throw the guy the ball, he usually catches it. Hopefully, he gets more opportunities to do that and work him into the run game.
Firkser already ranked second on the Titans for most catches among tight ends this season, but he’s also one of only two tight ends in the NFL this season with at least 15 targets to catch every pass thrown at him. Firkser has 16 catches for 201 yards and a touchdown, and Ravens tight end Maxx Williams has caught all 15 passes thrown to him.
“You can see the confidence building in him, so we’ve just got to continue to find ways to get him the football,” Mariota said. “I think he’s done a good job for us. He’s made a couple big plays in critical situations, and from there I think he’s got what it takes to help us out.”
A native of Manalapan, New Jersey, the 6-foot-2, 246-pound Firkser signed with the Jets as an undrafted free agent in May 2017 only to be released at the end of the preseason. He sat at home for nearly three months until the Chiefs signed him to their practice squad at the end of November, and they signed him to a futures contract in January only to cut him April 30.
Firkser came to Tennessee for a rookie tryout minicamp, and the Titans signed him May 14. He started the season on the active roster for two weeks before being cut, then was signed to the practice squad a day later. The Titans signed him back to the active roster Oct. 9, and all his production has come in the last eight games.
“We know Anthony’s strong suit is as a receiver, and he’s been working all year,” Titans tight ends coach Arthur Smith said. “He’s a very willing blocker. Same thing, we’ve got to make sure we put him in the right spots to play to his strengths.”
He even caught his first career touchdown pass just before halftime to help start the Titans’ rally from a 16-point deficit in beating the New York Jets.
Playing in the NFL may have been a dream when Firkser was a child. Playing in the Ivy League and competing in the Harvard classroom kept Firkser more focused on academics. Then he started hearing from NFL teams, keeping him away from the business world for now.
“I’m thankful and grateful for the opportunity that I’ve gotten here and just doing my best to keep contributing,” Firkser said.
Notes: OT Dennis Kelly, who is expected to replace Jack Conklin at right tackle, practiced Thursday after missing Wednesday for a personal matter. LB Brian Orakpo (elbow) missed a second straight practice, while WR Tajae Sharpe (ankle) did not practice after being limited Wednesday.