The Tennessee Titans signed several undrafted free agents at the conclusion of the 2022 NFL Draft. Former Sacred Heart running back Julius Chestnut is reportedly one of those players. Chestnut enjoyed an excellent season in 2019, having rushed for more than 1,500 yards and 11 touchdowns while serving as the focal point of the Pioneers’ offense.
Chestnut recently spoke exclusively with Broadway Sports about how he formed a relationship with Tennessee throughout the pre-draft process, how he plans to earn a roster spot, reflecting on his final two campaigns at Sacred Heart, what his goals and aspirations are ahead of rookie mini-camp and training camp, and which Titans teammate he can’t wait to learn from throughout the summer.
JM: What was draft weekend like for you?
JC: It was a great time. It was a great experience that not everybody is blessed enough to enjoy. It was certainly a very anxious weekend for me (laughs). I still had a great time at the end of the day. I spent a lot of time with my family while enjoying the process.
JM: You’ve now signed with the Titans as an undrafted free agent. How did the opportunity with the Titans come about?
JC: I spoke with the Titans prior to draft weekend. To be honest with you, they weren’t initially a team I had expected to end up with. I heard from running backs coach Tony Dews sometime during the fifth-or-sixth round. He gave me a call and told me that he would love an opportunity to coach me if I didn’t get drafted. I enjoyed a good conversation with him and I took him at his word. I look forward to working with him. My agent helped me weigh my options and he felt Tennessee was the best landing spot for me. That’s how it came together.
JM: It sounds like you were in touch with running backs coach Tony Dews throughout the draft, but what was your communication with the Titans like prior to the draft?
JC: I also spoke with coach Dews quite a bit before the draft. I had a Zoom meeting with him at one point. That gave me an opportunity to introduce myself and talk football with coach Dews. That was my main experience with the Titans during the pre-draft process.
JM: That’s terrific. How would you describe your skill set as a running back? What kind of ball-carrier are the Titans getting?
JC: I consider myself to be a Swiss-army-knife at the running back position. I feel like I can do a lot of things coming out of the backfield. I can run downhill, I can catch the ball. I can pick up those tough yards in short-yardage situations. If you watch my film, you’ll see that I had a bunch of 60-70 yard runs. I can make those big plays. I feel like I can do a lot of things for an NFL offense. I try to serve as a weapon on offense. I bring a lot to the table as a versatile back. A Swiss-army-knife is the best way I can describe myself.
JM: Sacred Heart didn’t really feature their running backs in the passing game. How can you specifically impact that area of the game?
JC: I feel like that’s an underrated aspect of my game. You said it, I wasn’t more of a pass-catcher in college due to the nature of how we ran our offense. We wanted to be run-heavy. I’m really proud of how I’ve developed my pass-catching and route-running abilities throughout this process. I’ve taken major strides in that area. It’s helped me take my game to the next level. I’ve been working on my craft for a long time. I feel great about the progress I’ve made. I believe I have some untapped potential in that area. It’s going to end up being a big strength of my game.
JM: We’re certainly excited to witness the progress you’ve made in that area. You had an incredible season in 2019. You broke out for more than 1,500 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. The 2020 season was cut short due to the pandemic, and you didn’t appear in as many games in 2021. You must be eager to get back to proving your productivity.
JC: I absolutely am. That’s something I’ve been looking forward to doing. The 2020 season was cut short due to the pandemic as you said. We only played five games that year. I ended up doing well during those five games. I ended up rushing for like 850 yards and nine touchdowns in those five appearances. I ended up missing a few games in 2021, but I was able to prove that I was capable of coming back strong. I believe I did that. I wanted all the scouts to realize that I was at full strength and I’m the same player that ran for 1,500 yards in 2019. I received great feedback from NFL decision-makers throughout the process. I’m excited to run with the opportunity the Titans have given me. I’m even better than I was before. I’ve improved mentally, as a runner, and as a pass catcher as well. It’s really helped me throughout this process.
JM: You were electric in 2019. I’m sure some people have referred to you as a “small school prospect” given that Sacred Heart is an FCS program. How do you typically respond?
JC: It is what it is. I’m well aware that Sacred Heart is considered a small school. It’s the hand I was dealt at the end of the day. I made the most of it. I really don’t mind it. A running back that can make defenders miss in the open field is a high-level talent at the end of the day. It doesn’t matter where you played if you could elude defenders in the open field. That’s what I did. If I can run past somebody, I can do it at any level. My skills will translate. I’ve heard it a lot, but I’m a running back that does these things at a high level. I don’t let it bother me. I do what I do well. I’m here for a reason. I can compete at this level. I’m here to prove that it doesn’t matter where you come from. There’s talent everywhere. I hope I get to serve as an inspiring story for small school prospects all across the nation. My work ethic will speak for itself.
JM: That’s the best way to handle that question. I don’t know how well you know the Titans roster, but is there one teammate you’re excited to learn from?
JC: Most definitely Derrick Henry (laughs). Not many people are blessed enough to say they’ve played alongside King Henry. He’s a former Heisman winner, and he should have won the MVP award when he ran for 2,000 yards. Being at the same position as him puts me in an even better spot. I’ll be practicing with him and spending time with him in the position room. I’m definitely going to enjoy this experience. He’s going to make me a better player. I know his work ethic is outstanding. Hopefully some of his qualities rub off on me (laughs). I’m gonna enjoy this experience.
JM: I’ve really appreciated your time today. In closing, what are your goals and aspirations like over these next few months as you attempt to make Tennessee’s final roster?
JC: I’m excited to prove that I’m here to stay and that I can compete at this level. I’m going to make my family proud.
Editor’s note: This conversation occurred in early May, more than two weeks before the scheduled rookie mini-camp.