Khari Blasingame has learned that full speed ahead means something different based on whether or not you have the ball.
A power runner in college, he transitioned to fullback in the NFL and has been Derrick Henry’s lead blocker for the Tennessee Titans since midway through the 2019 season.
He will continue in that role for at least one more year. The Titans signed Blasingame, who was set to become a restricted free agent later this month, to a one-year contract Friday.
“The hardest part of the transition is really just understanding the need at which you need to play, being in front of the runner,” Blasingame said late in the 2020 season. “… It’s different from running and being physical with the ball in your hands. Then being physical at the point of attack – that’s different.”
Blasingame has appeared in 21 games since Tennessee signed him off Minnesota’s practice squad on Nov. 13, 2019. He has yet to carry the ball in the NFL, although he has caught eight passes for 93 yards.
The 24-year-old played 165 snaps on offense last season, which amounted to 15 percent of the offense’s total. The vast majority of those plays were handoffs to Henry, who led the NFL with 2,027 rushing yards (the fifth-highest total in history) on a league-leading 378 carries.
“That’s why we do it – get Derrick going,” Blasingame said. “He’s a great back and just let him do what he can. I take a lot of pride in being a part of that, and I’m glad I could be a part of that this year.
“Really, [I] just look to improve on my physicality, you know, my technique of the blocks.”
Blasingame entered the NFL in 2019 as an undrafted free agent out of Vanderbilt, where he started as a linebacker. Beginning with his sophomore season he switched to running back and ultimately ran for 997 yards and 15 touchdowns on 238 attempts.
He is the fourth restricted free agent to re-sign with Tennessee since the end of last season. That means he can look forward to another year of being out in front of Henry.
“The whole offense – watching the finish, the joy that we play with – guys are out there having fun,” he said. “And when you’re having fun, that’s when football is at its best.”