One is linebacker Reggie Ragland, who was with Titans star running back Derrick Henry at Alabama from 2013 until both departed for the NFL after the 2015 season — Ragland to the Buffalo Bills and Henry to the Titans.
Now thrown together in a conference championship game, Ragland said he might give him a little “Roll Tide!” after tackling him.
”Probably so,” he said. ”That’s my guy. He’s one of my closest friends since leaving Alabama, so yeah, I might do a little something.”
Ragland said the two of them remain in touch — especially through the offseason.
”Every time he posts a picture or something, I’ll comment on it,” he said. “He’ll comment on mine. Offseason — that’s when I try to link up with my guys and see them.”
Knowing Henry as he does, Ragland said he’s let his Chiefs teammates know they can’t take him lightly.
”Any time you’ve got a running back who can run a 4.5 — [one] that’s 6-foot-4 and 240 — you’ve got to ‘kill the engine,’ as the coaches would say. But me? I’m just going to go in there and hit him. I just love to hit. I’ll just try to do the best I can. If I’m the first guy there, I’ll just try to hold him up and let the calvary come.”
He said the advice he had given his current teammates was simple.
”You’ve just got to go over there and try to hit him. He’s a big guy. If you’re playing defense, you’ve got to lay the hit... I think I’m used to hitting him a little bit — from all my years of battling with him — but we’ve got to go out there, get in the way of him, just hit him and wrap him up.”
Ragland said that with Henry, every snap would be important.
”Man, you can’t give them opportunities to get up on you. So for us on the defensive side, we’ve got to do what we do: stop them and let the offense go out there and play ball. We’ve got to get stops. That’s the name of the game. Because once they get up on you, here comes Derrick.”
The other Chief who will be playing against an old teammate is defensive end Frank Clark, who played with Titans offensive tackle Taylor Lewan at Michigan.
”I think he’s one of the best tackles in the league — if not the best,” Clark said of his old teammate on Friday. “I went to college with him, so I spent time with him. I think I had two years — three years, almost.”
Clark’s memory was correct. The two wore maize and blue in Ann Arbor from 2011 through 2013 — before Lewan was taken with the 11th pick of the 2014 NFL draft. Clark would follow Lewan to the league in 2015, when the Seahawks selected him in the second round.
In comparison to Ragland, Clark was all business as reporters questioned him about his relationship with Titans’ the three-time Pro Bowl player. When asked if he had given teammates any insights about Lewan from his “notebook,” Clark was dismissive.
”Come on, man,” he replied. “He’s in my memory. You keep stuff like that in memory. You don’t need a notebook.”
He also brushed aside a suggestion that Lewan might have an advantage from knowing Clark so well.
”He knows a lot about me,” Clark said simply. “I know a lot about him, too.”
So it will be Game on! for two pairs of college teammates on Sunday afternoon. On one side, for a team that’s coming into Arrowhead after two upset postseason victories — and on the other, a team trying to wash away a bitter memory from one year ago.
”Honestly, that’s not something we’re even thinking about,” said Clark. “[Lining up offsides] is a mental mistake. That’s something on yourself. You shoot yourself in the foot when you do things like that. It’s football. Simple. The ball’s there. You put your hand behind the ball, and you’re onsides. That’s kind of how I’ve been playing football. That’s why I haven’t lined up offsides all season — probably all my career. If I jump offsides... that happens. That’s battle wounds. It’s OK to jump offsides from time to time. But lining up offsides? It’s inexcusable.”
On second thought... maybe last year’s loss isn’t such a big deal after all.