NASHVILLE, Tenn. — After coaching for nearly a quarter-century in the NFL, Bobby April made the decision to retire early this offseason.
He had big, albeit relaxed, plans back in his hometown of New Orleans.
“I said, ‘This is the perfect opportunity to be back home,’’ April recalled. “I can still go cut my mom’s grass. I can be with my grandkids. I can spend more time finding myself spiritually. And that’s I wanted to do.”
Then April got a phone call from Titans coach Mike Mularkey.
His retirement lasted two weeks.
“It wasn’t really a hard decision,’’ April said. “When I coached for Mike before, I really had a great rapport with him. I really sensed when I was with him he was doing everything right to create synergy and solidarity among the staff. He did things in a real professional way, and treated people well. I just really respected him.
“After I talked to Mike and (General Manager) Jon Robinson, I thought, ‘You know, it’s a good time to retire. But it’s not the best time.’”
Mularkey hired April to coach special teams back in January. These days he can be found – and heard — on the practice field using a megaphone, shouting instructions to players he believes will make a difference on the Titans this fall, as a unit.
April is in his 25th season in the NFL, having previously coached with the Falcons, Steelers, Saints, Rams, Bills, Eagles, Raiders and Jets, where he spent last season. In his previous 24 years, April’s special teams units have scored 21 touchdowns on kickoff returns (12) and punt returns (9).
April coached with Mularkey when he was the head coach in Buffalo. During April’s six seasons in Buffalo (2004-09), he guided the Bills to the No.1 spot in the annual Dallas Morning News rankings on three occasions.
Mularkey said he’s happy to be reunited with April, who spent 13 years as a college assistant and prior to that was an assistant coach at Chalmette (LA) High School back in 1976-77.
“He brings a lot of energy,’’ Mularkey said of April. “He’s a passionate coach. It’s great to have him.”
April, 63, is easy to spot on the practice field because of his enthusiasm. When he took the job earlier this offseason, he said he planned to work hard to make the Titans a dependable and cohesive unit on special teams. A year ago, the Titans finished 30th in the NFL in kickoff return average allowed, and 31st on punt returns. The team was 18th and 28th, respectively, in the return game.
“I still have the energy,’’ April said. “In my own mind, I’ll go toe-to-toe with anybody in the league on energy. I am not talking about everybody over 55 either. I am talking about anybody.”
April is happy with his specialists with the Titans, where kicker Ryan Succop, punter Brett Kern and long snapper Beau Brinkley all return.
This week, the Titans signedMarc Mariani to handle the return game.
Not long after he was hired by the Titans, the former high school history teacher told stories about General Robert Neyland, explorer Christopher Columbus and his days in Chalmette, Louisiana, site of the Battle of New Orleans.
But his passion remains on the football field, where he wants to give the Titans results.
“Our mission (on special teams) is to provide the greatest probability of offensive and defensive success,’’ April said. “And when you do that you are linking all three phases into an efficient unit that wins the game.
“My obligation to Mike Mularkey and the organization, to the Adams family and the players, is every day I do everything within my ability. I try to max out every day for everybody that is in this building and all of our fans. … General Neyland used to shout about five or six things before a game, and one of them was, ‘We must win special teams, that’s where the breaks are made.’ We need to win on special teams and we’re going to work to do that.”