Taking place in the summer, this luncheon was created to bring supporters together to celebrate and dine with the recipient of the Heart of a Champion Award.
Sylvester Croom is in his fifth season with the Titans as running backs coach and 26th as an NFL coach. He is no stranger to working with elite talent, coaching a who’s who of running backs in his time in the NFL, including Maurice Jones-Drew, Steven Jackson, Ahman Green, Barry Sanders, Eric Dickerson, Chris Johnson, DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry.
Last year saw the Titans rank third in the NFL in rushing yards and Murray led the AFC in rushing (1,287), which was third in the NFL. The team total for the season (2,187) was the fourth highest in the Titans era (1999-present). The running back group also accounted for 14 rushing touchdowns (Murray, 9; Henry, 5). In the previous two seasons (2014-15), the Titans worked with a running back by committee approach. Each player had their own role and as group in 2015 totaled 1,170 rushing yards and 72 receptions. In 2014, as a group, they rushed for 1,149 yards and accounted for 67 receptions.
Croom joined the Titans after spending one season as the running back coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2012. Jones-Drew posted a 4.8-yard average per rush in his first six games, before missing the remainder of the season with a foot injury. Croom spent three seasons (2009-11) with the St. Louis Rams.
Steven Jackson posted the fourth highest rushing total in the NFL over that three-year period, as he gained 3,802 yards and earned two Pro Bowl selections (2009 and 2010). Prior to joining the Rams, Croom was the head coach at Mississippi State from 2004-08. He became the first African-American head football coach in SEC history. The high point of his tenure with the Bulldogs was the 2007 season, as the Bulldogs posted an 8-5 record and a Liberty Bowl victory. He earned SEC Coach of the Year honors by the Associated Press for his work in 2007. His overall record at Mississippi State was 21-38. Before taking over Mississippi State, he was the running backs coach for the Green Bay Packers from 2001-03. Under Croom’s guidance, Ahman Green posted three consecutive 1,200-yard seasons, including a team record and career-best 1,883 yards in 2003, and three Pro Bowl appearances.
Croom spent four seasons (1997-2000) as the offensive coordinator for the Detroit Lions. In his first season, Croom’s offense ranked second in the NFL and running back Barry Sanders became the third player in NFL history to surpass 2,000 yards rushing in a season. Wide receiver Herman Moore and Johnnie Morton each had 1,000-yard receiving seasons and Moore’s 104 receptions led the NFL in 1997. The Lions became the first team in NFL history to have teammates lead the league in rushing and receptions in the same season.
Croom also spent time as running backs coach for the San Diego Chargers (1992-96), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1987-90) and Indianapolis Colts (1991). While with the Chargers, running back Natrone Means posted a then-team record 1,350 rushing yards and earned a Pro Bowl selection.
A native of Tuscaloosa, Ala., Croom was a three-year letterman at Alabama and was the starting center on the 1973 National Championship team. The “Sylvester Croom Commitment to Excellence Award” is given annually to an Alabama player at the end of spring practice. Croom and his wife, Jeri, have one daughter, Jennifer.