Can Titans OL Adam Coon be the next Stephen Neal?

Julio Jones has been the talk of the Tennessee Titans as of late.

However, the reigning AFC South champions have brought in another addition recently with a decorated past in Adam Coon.

Tennessee recently signed the former University of Michigan All-American and Team U.S.A. champion wrestler with Titans head coach Mike Vrabel seeing a project ahead that could pay off in the same fashion that one of Vrabel's former teammates did.

"Just wanted to try to take a look at Adam," Vrabel explained of the signing of Coon when the coach spoke with the media on Thursday. "I followed his wrestling career for a while. Something we looked at and, again, I was a part of as a player taking a former wrestler and they developed into an offensive lineman with Stephen Neal."

Vrabel played with the New England Patriots from 2001 to 2008 and Neal played for them from 2002 to 2010. Just like Coon, Neal played high school football but never in college, concentrating and flourishing in wrestling.

"Wrestlers, especially at that elite level, have unbelievable balance, core strength, things that I think would translate well to an offensive lineman," Vrabel said.

Coon, having claimed Greco-Roman and freestyle championships and medals throughout a decorated college and Team U.S.A. tenure, notably was a two-time NCAA finalist (2015, 2018), a 2018 Senior world silver medalist, two-time Senior World Team member and a 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials runner-up.

Neal, meanwhile, was a four-time All-American at Cal State Bakersfield and a two-time NCAA champion who, as a senior, memorably defeated Brock Lesnar in 1999 for the heavyweight national championship. Lesnar would come back to win the crown in 2000 before going on to become a superstar in the WWE and UFC, holding titles in the predetermined and legitimate fighting arenas and perhaps more importantly becoming a top draw in both and a very underrated businessman.

Perhaps if the world of mixed martial arts wasn't in its dark ages when Neal moved on from Bakersfield he would've found his way to the UFC and fighting notoriety thanks to his wrestling pedigree. Instead, he found his way to Foxborough and was a staple for the better part of a decade at right guard for the burgeoning dynasty.

That's perhaps the ceiling Vrabel's hoping Coon, his 26-year-old prospect/project, will reach.

However, another mention of Lesnar is warranted. Following his first run in the WWE, Lesnar, having no college football experience either, gave the NFL a shot. The Vikings didn't like him enough to give him a regular-season roster spot, but he was offered a shot to play in NFL Europe as a Vikings representative. He declined.

It was a project that didn't come to fruition, but Lesnar's sheer athleticism and wrestling base made it happen.

One would surmise it's much the same with Coon.

While plenty of NFL players have wrestling on their high school resumes, there are a few such as Lorenzo Neal and the late Carlton Haselrig who starred on the college mat, as well.

Coon could be the next. His athleticism and ability to compete at a high level are positives. However, he is aiming to play a sport he hasn't played in roughly eight years, the 6-foot-5, 260-pound-plus Coon projecting to be an interior offensive lineman.

"Having not played the game, there's a lot development that has to go on pretty quickly for him to compete," Vrabel said. "But he's got a great attitude. He shows up, he competes, he goes hard and he just might not know what to do all the time. I think we just have to continue to coach him and develop him and see what we can get out of him and how he develops."

The odds are long and the road ahead is an arduous one, but it just might be that Adam Coon develops into the next Stephen Neal.

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