A season ticket holder since the Tennessee Titans came to Nashville in 1999, Tracy Gibbs never thought about giving up on the 2011 season.
Even as the NFL lockout carried over into its fifth month and the players and owners struggled to meet halfway on a new collective bargaining agreement, Gibbs stayed a fan of the Titans and the NFL.
“Everybody has to fight for what they believe in,” she said. “You understand that and I think it would have been a big disappointment but we are all very excited that it is working out.”
On Wednesday, two days after the 136-day lockout ended, Gibbs' faith was rewarded. She received those season tickets — in person from Titans wide receiver Marc Mariani.
Wearing his No. 83 jersey, Mariani stopped by Gibbs’ cubicle at RJ Young Company to deliver the tickets, an autographed giant ticket stub and a Titans jersey. Mariani trotted around the office building, surprising eight employees of the office product dealer with their season tickets. It was the third and final stop for Mariani, who also dropped by a residence in Oak Hill and at Overton High School to hand assistant football coach Mike Morrison his tickets.
“It is a personal touch that you really don’t expect,” Gibbs, a major accounts sales representative, said. “It makes you love that you are from Nashville, a city that supports something like this and a team that supports the city. It is great.”
Mariani wasn’t the only Titan knocking on doors and interrupting the work day (it is unlikely those lucky season ticket holders cared about being pulled away from their desk). Wide receiver Damian Williams and tight end Jared Cook hit up Music Row; offensive linemen Michael Roos and Eugene Amano went to Green Hills; linebacker Gerald McRath and cornerback Jason McCourty trekked down to Murfreesboro; punter Brett Kern stopped by the FedEx offices at the airport.
“It is important to give back as much as we can,” Mariani said. “Our fans are incredible. They support us through thick and thin. It is our jobs to give back to the community and take care of the people who take care of us.”
Mariani strolled the halls of RJ Young, expressing his gratitude for the fans’ support and promising a better result than the 6-10 finish in 2010. The second-year receiver talked glowingly about rookie quarterback Jake Locker, who he called “my boy.” He also told several fans that he was excited about the “rumors” that former Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck would be joining the Titans.
Wanda Knight was shocked when Mariani peeked in her office, but glad she decided to wait a couple more minutes to go to the bathroom.
“Is this what the meeting was about?” she said. “My husband is going to be so jealous.”
Knight, a service analyst at RJ Young, said she and her husband, Jerry, have owned season tickets since the Titans arrived.
“We enjoy tracking it, watching the team — even in the bad times,” Knight said. “For me, [the lockout] was no big deal. I understood what was going on and everything. We were just patient about it. We thought if this didn’t work out, we would still have college football to watch.”
Mariani was joined by media relations assistant Jared Puffer, along with a member of the marketing staff and a small continget of reporters. Puffer said the marketing department came up with the idea to hand-deliver the tickets during the offseason.
It was a smart public relations move by the Titans. The club hopes the gesture will smooth things over with their fan base as football is right around the corner.
“I think we are all in the same boat,” Mariani, who will report for training camp on Friday, said. “It has been a long offseason and a long summer. There are people who are sticking with us and we want to say thank you. We want to give them something to cheer about on Sundays and let them know we appreciate everything they do. Hopefully we can give it back on and off the field.”