All these years later, after a playing career under Steve Spurrier at the University of Florida and a blossoming career as a young prep coach and administrator in his native Florida, Josh Corey still has yet to hear one word from his current employer, the Tennessee Titans: No.
“There's a responsibility there, and we recognize that and also it's something that our ownership wants to be a part of, something important to them,” Corey said of the Titans' community-first approach. “Really, it makes my job a lot easier because these programs are something of value and important from the top down.
“You don't have to twist many arms to try to get things done [for the community]. I don't think I've ever been told no in the seven years I've been here.”
Corey, the Titans' football outreach coordinator, is a pillar in the organization's efforts throughout the Volunteer State, and he's the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association's September recipient of the Distinguished Service Award.
Most recently, the Titans hosted last week's high school football game featuring Waverly Central High School and White House. Waverly, the community ravaged by last month's deadly flash-floods just west of Music City, also received equipment donations from the organization.
For Corey, his role with the Titans is a synergistic match of passions: football and an overarching desire to help young people.
“I just had this sense of needing a new challenge, there's more that I can do,” said Corey, who served as head football coach and athletics director at Fletcher High School in Neptune Beach, Florida. “I thought about getting into the community relations aspect of the NFL. This opportunity came open in community relations, and it checked all of my boxes of everything I needed as far as challenges and a chance to do something in the community.”
For the Titans, Tennessee is the community. And no program is more intrinsic than the InSideOut Initiative, a sportsmanship program in partnership with the NFL and growing in national scope. Years ago, as the program was pitched at NFL meetings, Corey immediately brought it back to Tennessee.
“This fills a huge need in our interscholastic athletic communities,” Corey said. “There's too much emphasis placed on winning, and winning is important, but the most important job we are tasked with in those roles is to develop people.
“When I was athletic director and interviewing potential coaches, I would ask what's the most important thing to you in building a program. If there wasn't something in the answer about developing young people first, we would go in another direction. Because I feel like that is your No. 1 job, winning and that stuff is really important, too, but it's always second place to developing kids.”
All of which is why Corey, the Titans and the TSSAA are forging ahead to expand the InSideOut Initiative into the state's middle schools.
“It started off with about 60 or 70 schools the first year who came to listen to the idea,” Corey said. “It grew into a hundred and we got maybe another 100 the second cohort, and we just had our kickoff meeting for the third cohort.”
“Being able to continue to bring people on board has been huge, and then also with us talking about expanding into middle schools as well, I think we are the only state in the country that's part of the initiative and bringing middle schools on board. That I attribute to the TSSAA and Bernard Childress and Mark Reeves. That was important to them. It's not something I brought to them. The state association brought it to us. How could you say no to that? InSideOut talked to us about it, and we were all for it.”
TSSAA is proud to recognize Josh Corey for his numerous contributions to student-athletes and communities throughout Tennessee.