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Home » Inside Tight End University: George Kittle & Co. are out to ‘learn from the best in the country’

Inside Tight End University: George Kittle & Co. are out to ‘learn from the best in the country’

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle‘s voice echoed across the turf on a steamy 90-degree day at Lipscomb Academy field in Nashville as a crowd of 49 tight ends began to gather at the 50-yard line. Kittle’s instructions were accented by a passionate “Wooo!” from Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.

The passion was clearly on display for the start of on-field workouts for what Kittle, former NFL tight end Greg Olsen and Kelce dubbed Tight End University (TEU). The three-day event offered a chance for some of the best tight ends in the NFL to come together to share trade secrets both on and off the field.

“If you have the opportunity to be around the best you always take it,” said Jordan Matthews, who’s attempting to change positions from wide receiver to tight end. “Just that energy. These are guys that are all gunning for that top spot. You can feel that.”

The TEU idea came together after Kittle noticed how Denver Broncos OLB Von Miller and the pass-rushers do a summit and how Lane Johnson and the offensive linemen have their own summit as well.

“There’s a holiday [National Tight Ends Day on the last Sunday of October], so why don’t we have a tight end summit? Why not have a little time where we can come together and learn from the best in the country,” Kittle told ESPN.

Added Olsen, “There are QB camps and other positions that steal the attention. But the tight end role has become a prominent role throughout the league, too.”

Kittle started training in Nashville at AthElite Performance with speed and agility coach Jeremy Holt during the offseason a few years ago. His group recently expanded to include Green Bay Packers TE Robert Tonyan and T.J. Hockenson of the Detroit Lions.

The group decided to ask Olsen to come to Nashville after he retired in January. Olsen suggested reaching out to a larger group of tight ends so they could all work out together. They initially invited around 20 guys, but it soon expanded to 49 — including Las Vegas’ Darren Waller, Denver’s Noah Fant, Cleveland’s Austin Hooper and Atlanta’s Kyle Pitts, the No. 4 overall pick in this year’s draft.

Making arrangements for 49 NFL players to gather is a tall order, but there were sponsors that provided food, lodging and more for the guys in attendance. The summit isn’t a for-profit event, so any extra proceeds leftover from sponsors will be donated to various charities in Nashville.

The summit included a classroom segment where some of the veteran players gave the younger guys a glimpse into how they attack film sessions to develop a better understanding of reading and reacting to coverages. It presented an opportunity to talk through a lot of the things they’ll face during the season and get hands-on training.

“It’s been awesome on and off the field with guys like Marcedes Lewis and Greg Olsen who have been around it for a long time,” New York Giants TE Levine Toilolo said. “To get together and hang out, pick each other’s brains, see what they see, and break things down is great. This is the first of its kind for tight ends. I got the invitation and it was pure excitement. It’s something special.”

Once the film sessions were complete, it was time to “take it from the class to the grass.” That’s where Holt’s expertise was incorporated.

“We talk about this stuff, watch it on film, then bring it to life on the field,” Holt explained. “Greg [Olsen] talked about how to create separation at the top of the route. So on the next drill, when you get to the cone, I want you to sink your hips, get inside your framework. Put that foot in the ground and create separation.

“George [Kittle] did a whole segment on how to get yards after the catch. So when we got on the field, I wanted to focus on catching it, putting your foot in the ground, and getting upfield as soon as possible. All of the stuff that we talked about in the classroom, I just give them a drill to bring it to life.”

Being in a players-only environment can have its advantages.

“There are dumb questions that you can’t ask coaches because they can take inventory and think you may not know what we thought,” Matthews said. “But you can ask other players dumb questions.”

The range of sizes and styles of play that were on display presented a vast array of experience to pull from. Everyone was willing to share their individual tips and secrets that work for them. The goal was to make each other better.

“We’re sharing our strategy, our mindset with guys,” Kittle said. “How do you flip the switch? All it’s doing is giving the opportunity for the tight end position to take a step forward.

“You have all of these guys that are so different but they play the same position. We wanted to bring all of the guys together who are the best in the world at their position and learn from each other. It allows these guys to learn about every aspect of their game. If you can do all of the things that a tight end can do, there’s not much a defense can do to stop you.”

Given how successful the event was this year, it’s safe to say that Tight End University will be offering instruction in 2022 as well.


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