How adversity turned Ryan Tannehill into an elite quarterback

“He plays wide receiver. There’s no way he can be a starting quarterback.”
Takes over as starter, throws for 3,744 yards and 29 touchdowns

“He had one good year, he won’t make it in the NFL.”
Gets drafted 8th overall

“He was a bust in Miami, he won’t win with the Titans.”
Leads Titans to AFC Championship game

“He’s going to regress, he just hands it off to Derrick Henry.”
Starts 4-0 with 9 passing touchdowns to 1 interception

If you’re looking for a theme to describe Ryan Tannehill’s football career, you might say perseverance. Although he’s faced doubt at every stage of the game, it’s never phased him. Instead, he finds value in adversity to propel himself to success.

You face distractions, you face adversity in life and you have to be able to handle it, you have to be able to fight through it and become a better man and become a better player because of it.

Ryan Tannehill

This theme was especially magnified over the past two weeks with the COVID-19 outbreak in Titans’ headquarters. Despite the bombardment of hate from around the league, despite the lack of practices and missing key players, Tannehill and the Titans simply dominated the Bills on Tuesday night.

The quarterback accounted for four total touchdowns. But this is really nothing new for Tannehill.

So, let’s start at the beginning….

Ryan Tannehill was born just outside Lubbock, Texas, where he attended Big Spring High School. A multi-sport athlete, Tannehill participated in basketball, football, and track and field. He played defensive back as a sophomore before transitioning to quarterback for his junior and senior years.

The young Tannehill was recruited by Coach Dennis Franchione to play quarterback at Texas A&M. However, after Tannehill redshirted his freshman year, Franchione was fired for Mike Sherman. Doubting his ability to play the game’s most important position, Sherman asked Tannehill to switch to wide receiver due to his size and athleticism.

Despite having never played the position, Tannehill took the challenge in stride, embracing his opportunity to get on the field. In just his fifth appearance, Tannehill broke A&M’s freshman record for single game receiving yards with 210 on 12 receptions. He would eventually set the school’s single-season freshman record for receiving yards and receptions with 844 yards on 55 catches.

It’s definitely a change. A completely different position that I’ve never really played before. So, it’s been a lot of learning and a lot of coaching, but it’s been fun though.

Ryan Tannehill

After the season, Tannehill continued to express to the coaching staff that his ultimate desire was to play quarterback — not receiver. And so, the following offseason (2009), Tannehill battled Jerrod Johnson in a competition for the starting gig. Johnson won the job and went on to a fantastic season; Tannehill retained his wide receiver duties.

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