After what had been a rocky rookie campaign so far, Tennessee Titans 2021 second-round pick and offensive tackle Dillon Radunz stepped when his team needed him in the Week 16 win over the San Francisco 49ers.
Radunz was called into action after left tackle Taylor Lewan was ruled out on Wednesday, and his backup, Kendall Lamm, was scratched on Thursday after contracting COVID-19.
The rookie wasn’t perfect by any stretch but was impressive throughout the contest, even when matched up against an elite pass-rusher in Nick Bosa. Radunz met the challenge and helped hold Bosa to zero sacks.
After the game, Radunz said he found out he’d be starting on Thursday morning.
“It was this (Thursday) morning, I think it was around 10 o’clock or something like that when we entered meetings this morning,” Radunz revealed. “Found out and got the opportunity and couldn’t have been happier.”
“I just trained my mind mentally,” Radunz continued. “We had a lot of time off to rest up today before the game, and once I heard the news, I was just preparing myself mentally to go out there and play the brand of ball they drafted me to play. Play Titans football and stuff like that, and just prepared myself mentally, and I think it showed today.”
Getting the start for a game on national television is a daunting task for any rookie. Radunz admitted there were some nerves, but said he felt “pretty calm” overall — and it showed.
“Obviously, like I’ve said before, I had a lot of mental preparation for this game, so I was pretty calm,” Radunz said. “Anybody that goes out there, just imagine Thursday night game, primetime, it’s your first start, you’re starting at left tackle. There’s going to be nerves there. But overall, it was just exciting.”
As far as his performance overall is concerned, Radunz believes he was “decent.” In actuality, the rookie was far better than anyone could have possibly imagined.
“I feel like I did decent,” Radunz said. “There’s obviously stuff that I can continue to improve on. I don’t feel like I did terrible. Obviously, the most important part is the team got out with a win and I was able to fill that role.”
Chances are Radunz will be back to bench duty upon Lewan’s return, but the rookie’s performance in Week 16 provided plenty of hope that the future is bright for him moving forward.