When Elijah Nkansah signed his second professional contract with the Tennessee Titans, he couldn’t help but feel that things had come full circle. Nkansah originally broke into the league with the Titans as an undrafted free agent back in 2018. Since then, he’s also spent time with the Colts, Texans and Seahawks.
It’s been a bit of a whirlwind. Don’t feel sorry for him, though. He doesn’t feel sorry for himself. He’s thankful for the opportunity to play the game he loves. Nkansah has rarely had the chance to get too comfortable in one NFL city, but as he embarks on his second journey with the Titans, he knows exactly what he’s in store for. He’s had to fight, crawl and scratch for everything during his NFL career, and 2021 will be more of the same.
Nkansah recently spoke exclusively with Broadway Sports about his NFL career up until this point, why he loves offensive line coach Keith Carter, and the connection between the Titans and The University of Toledo.
JM: You got your start in the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the Titans back in 2018. You obviously left a good impression on the staff because here you are playing for the Titans once again in 2021. You must feel like things have come full circle for you.
EN: It’s funny you say that. Whenever my friends and family check in with me and they hear that I’m back in Nashville with the Titans, they all say the same thing (laughs). There’s definitely a sense of deja vu. It’s great to be back in Nashville. I’m back now and I’m better than I was in 2018. The circumstances are better. I’m a better player now than I was then. I have a better understanding of the league. I’ve gained experience elsewhere and I’ve advanced my skill set. I’ve become more versatile and diverse. I’ve added some tools and sharpened my abilities. I’m thrilled to be back in Tennessee.
JM: Between your first and second stint here, you spent time with the Colts, Texans and Seahawks. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned during your NFL career so far?
EN: I’ve learned how to better adapt to my surroundings. It’s important that you get to know your coaches in this league. I love getting to know my teammates and building those relationships. I’ve done that everywhere I’ve been. I’m busy learning this playbook until I know it like the back of my hand. I’ve learned how important those things are. You can’t get content with being in the position that you’re in. It can change in an hour. You can be in a different city tomorrow. You could be at home tomorrow. That’s how fast it happens. You have to continue to work at your craft. You can’t get complacent in this league.
JM: How do you feel the Titans compare to some of the other teams you’ve been with in terms of the locker room and coaching style?
EN: Everywhere I’ve been has been different. Even from the first time I was with the Titans to now, I’ve noticed some changes. Some of the coaches are different. Most of my teammates are new. That’s how quickly life changes in this league. After being in the league for a few years now, I tell everybody the same thing. The players and the coaches make it fun. We’re all here to work but we all know what life is like in the NFL. This coaching staff knows how to make it feel like less of a job and more fun. At the end of the day, we work hard, but we all realize how blessed we are to play this great game. We try to go out there and have fun. The coaching staff keeps your head on straight. We try not to think about the negatives. Am I doing good enough? Do I belong here? Those questions never cross my mind. Tennessee has always welcomed me with open arms. Every team is different but that’s probably the main thing I’ve taken away from each organization.
JM: That’s terrific. Speaking of coaches, how do you enjoy working with offensive line coach Keith Carter?
EN: Coach Carter is a great person and leader. He knows what he’s doing. He knows how to connect with his players. He has every trait that you love to see in a coach. He’s not somebody that just goes through the motions, that’s for sure. He knows what he wants and he knows how to coach it and coach it right. I don’t have a single bad thing to say about coach Carter. If you’re going to Tennessee to play for him, you’re going to learn something. I guarantee that. You’re going to become a better player. I’ve been blessed to play for a lot of excellent offensive line coaches and he’s definitely on that list. I know that we also get under each other’s skin at times but I wouldn’t change it (laughs). That’s life. That’s what we signed up for. It can’t always be perfect, but we strive for that. Learning is the fun part. Striving for that perfection is what it comes down to. I’ve learned from coach Carter and I think he’s learned from me in some ways as well. We have a great thing going here.
JM: We love hearing that. What’s your favorite aspect of playing the offensive tackle position?
EN: It may sound weird to you but we play a position that doesn’t get any stats or anything like that. Every other position gets more recognition than we do. I like being in the shadows. We don’t receive all the glory. It is what it is. We know that we contributed to that big touchdown run. We provided the protection in order to make that touchdown pass possible. That’s good enough for me personally. Us offensive lineman have a different perception towards things. We know that we’re the only position without official stats. We know how to have fun with that. It’s also a position where you get to hit somebody on every play. We love that part of it as well (laughs).
JM: Absolutely (laughs). A lot of Titans fans probably don’t realize this, but you were teammates with Titans quarterback Logan Woodside at Toledo. You blocked for him in college and now you’re teammates once again in the NFL. There are a couple of other Toledo guys on the Titans roster.
EN: Logan always left an impression on me during summer workouts. Nobody wants to be there but Logan would show up at 6am with all the energy in the world (laughs). He would walk in hooting and hollering. He had more energy than the strength coaches did (laughs). He always got everybody going. He’s a very positive person. He always lifted us up. If you were struggling during a run or whatever, he would pop up next to you and run with you. He’s a great quarterback, teammate and friend.
You said it. We also have Ola Adeniyi and Tuzar Skipper here. We all played together at Toledo. It’s pretty crazy. We’re all with the Titans now. I can’t forget about Toledo legend Brett Kern. We didn’t play with him but he’s still a Toledo guy. He graduated before we got to Toledo. It’s great knowing that we can get together and talk about our college experience with one another. We have more in common than just NFL football. Adeniyi and Skipper make it fun as well. We’re always exchanging stories and reliving that past. It makes it fun.
JM: That’s so great. Is there an offensive lineman on this team that you’re looking forward to learning from over these next few months? What about a defensive lineman you look forward to practicing against?
EN: I love all of my linemen (laughs). I can learn something from all of them. I was here with Taylor Lewan and Ben Jones in 2018. I’m looking forward to picking Rodger Saffold’s brain. That will be something new for me. David Quessenberry is a veteran player that’s been through a lot. We have a great group of guys here. To answer your question about the defensive line, I wouldn’t single out anybody really. They’re all talented in their own ways. I’ll go up against whoever’s in front of me. Every player will challenge me in different ways. I’m ready to perform to the best of my ability.
JM: That’s a great way to approach it. I’ve really appreciated your time today. In closing, what do your goals look like for these next few weeks?
EN: My goal is to become a better player and person. I’m going to do my best to put some great things on film during training camp and preseason. I’m hoping to make the 53-man roster here. If that’s not in the cards, hopefully somebody else will see value in my tape and pick me up. I’m looking forward to adding value to an organization this coming season. I hope it’s in Nashville.