20 NFL players to watch in 2020: Tennessee Titans QB Ryan Tannehill

Through Sept. 13, the first Sunday of the 2020 NFL season,
Sports Spectrum is highlighting one Christ-following player each day for 20 days.

A year ago at this time, Ryan Tannehill was a backup quarterback on a new team, the Tennessee Titans, after having been traded from the Miami Dolphins, the only team he’d ever known.

He replaced starting quarterback Marcus Mariota in Week 6 with the Titans sitting at 2-3. They lost that game, but Tannehill never lost his spot as Tennessee’s offensive leader. With Tannehill starting at quarterback, the team went 7-3 over its last 10 games to earn an AFC wild-card playoff berth.

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After two surprising upsets over the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee jumped out to a 17-7 lead over Kansas City in the AFC Championship Game before succumbing to the eventual Super Bowl champions.

In the midst of the team’s success, Tannehill recorded his best NFL season to date. The 32-year-old finished with a career-best passer rating of 117.5 and a completion percentage of 70.3, all while throwing the fewest interceptions (six) of his career.

The eighth overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft out of Texas A&M, he led the entire NFL in passer rating as he earned his first Pro Bowl selection and was the NFL Comeback Player of the Year.

Tennessee rewarded Tannehill’s efforts with a four-year, $118 million contract in March.

Hopes are high for similar success for Tannehill and the Titans in 2020. Some believe Tennessee is the front-runner for the AFC South crown with emerging superstar running back Derrick Henry, third-year coach Mike Vrabel and a bevy of experienced talent on both sides of the ball.

One of those talented players, second-year receiver A.J. Brown, had high praise for Tannehill.

“He’s a great leader,” Brown told A to Z Sports. “When he’s on the field, he demands what he wants and you have to be in the right spot. He’s going to deliver a good ball.”

And even while Tannehill was enjoying a breakout 2019 campaign in his first year in Nashville, he and his wife, Lauren, endured immense personal pain with the death of Lauren’s father, John, in October. He passed away the week after Tannehill’s first start with the Titans.

Tannehill said on the Sports Spectrum Podcast in February that, although John’s death left lasting pain for him and Lauren, he believed God would work ultimate good through it all.

“Through that, we had to trust that His timing is perfect and His will is perfect,” Tannehill said. “You may not agree with it. You may not like what happened, but someone is changing. There’s going to be growth, and His Kingdom is going to be glorified through that.”

The pain forced Tannehill to trust more than ever in God’s promises, all the while trying to earn the respect of his teammates as their new quarterback.

“Through that process, I really had to trust in God,” Tannehill said, “that the path He had set before me is the perfect one for me and my family at that point. And fully trusting in Him, that He’s in control, and I don’t understand why or what my purpose is in this but He has a plan. He’s in control and He’s written it.”

Tannehill said that after each autograph he writes, he references the Bible verse Colossians 3:23.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” — Colossians 3:23

It’s a reminder for Tannehill that, whatever he is doing, even playing football, he can do it to honor and glorify God.

“I’ve always kind of viewed the locker room as my mission field,” he said on the podcast. “Wherever God calls you, that’s where God calls you to be a missionary for God and impact the lives around you. Everybody has their own way of doing that, and I think first and foremost you gotta live it out.

“Guys are watching, especially in a leadership position, guys are watching and listening to how you walk daily. What are you representing on the daily? Always try to be conscious of that and reflect God’s light and shine into the paths of everyone around me.”

Tannehill and the Titans open their 2020 season on the road on Monday night against the Denver Broncos.

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