How Tennessee Titans invaded ‘Vol country’ Wednesday at Hardin Valley

The Tennessee Titans organized a youth football camp at Hardin Valley Academy on Wednesday, the first in Knoxville since the team began its summer programs in 2017.

The camp attracted more than 100 players between 7 and 14 years old from the area, including Pigeon Forge and Sevierville. On top of being an opportunity for youth players to learn from high school coaches and former Titan linebacker Gerald McRath, the camp was also an attempt to improve the Titans’ fanbase in East Tennessee.

Kids participate in a tackling drill at a Tennessee Titans youth football camp held at Hardin Valley Academy, Wednesday, June 15, 2022.

Hardin Valley assistant coach Matt Bates was instrumental in luring the team to Knoxville through his connections as president of the Tennessee Football Coaches Association. 

He described why East Tennessee is a unique market for the Titans, having to compete with the dominant Tennessee Vols brand and other nearby NFL franchises for fan support.

Former Titans player Gerald McRath coaches kids at a Tennessee Titans youth football camp held at Hardin Valley Academy, Wednesday, June 15, 2022.

“I think the Titans have always really done a great job focusing on Nashville, but they’re wanting to expand their fan base and bring more kids in,” Bates said. “Here in East Tennessee, you can get on I-75 and be in Atlanta, you can go down I-40 and be in Charlotte pretty quick and see the Panthers. It’s a large mix here in east Tennessee and (the Titans) want to fix that.”

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