Countdown to Kickoff: 42 Days

David Boclair

The countdown to kickoff continues.

The Tennessee Titans will open the 2020 regular season Sept. 14 at Denver. That is 42 days away. So, today we look at one way the number 42 figures into the team’s recent history.

Donnie Nickey did not have a typical NFL career.

A fifth-round pick by the Tennessee Titans in the 2003 NFL Draft, he officially was listed as a safety. However, in eight seasons, he made just 42 tackles for the defense. He never intercepted a pass. He never forced or recovered a fumble. And he was credited with one sack.

His greatest value to the Titans was on special teams, and it was there that he developed his staying power.

Nickey played 124 games for Tennessee, which is tied for 11th during the Titans era (1999-present) and more than such notable players as tackle David Stewart (116 games), running back Chris Johnson (95), defensive end Jevon Kearse (88) and tight end Delanie Walker (84). He capped his career with 111 consecutive appearances.

In all that time, he made just seven starts on defense (Tennessee was 2-5 in those contests).

Nickey led or shared the team lead in special teams tackles just once, when he notched a career-high 17 in 2009. Four times, though, he made 15 or more and for his career was credited with 92 special teams tackles, more than twice the number he made on defense. His teammates voted him special teams captain in his final two seasons (2009, 2010).

It is not unique for teams to have a special teams stalwart on the roster. Typically, though, they do not last that long. For example, the Titans had linebacker Daren Bates in that role for the past three seasons but opted not to re-sign him for 2020.

When it came to Nickey, there was a long time that they felt they just could not do without him.

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