It was a year ago that Ryan Mouton called home with best wishes for his father. This time, tough, he also had some bad news.
“When I called to tell him happy birthday, I was like ‘Happy Birthday, but I have to let you know I tore my Achilles,’ ” the Tennessee Titans cornerback said.
Thursday is the one-year anniversary of that conversation, which prompted so many others in the weeks and months that followed. Mouton, a 2009 third-round pick, balanced the grueling recovery from a torn right Achilles tendon with regular conversations with his father, the pastor at East Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Houston, Texas.
“Most of the time I leaned on him,” the younger Mouton said. “Of course, he’s an encouraging person. I tried to stay within the Word with him. It definitely helped me out.”
A week into the current training camp, it appears their prayers have been answered.
Mouton is part of a sizable and diverse group of cornerbacks trying to carve out roster spots at roles for themselves.
At 5-foot-9, though, he already has managed to stand out from the crowd. He intercepted two passes during a practice session earlier this week and has shown some of the speed that made him a dangerous return man during his college career, which was split between Blinn Junior College in Texas and the University of Hawaii.
“I didn’t know much about him,” first-year secondary coach Brett Maxie said. “I didn’t know how he was going to respond to that [injury]. Obviously, he took care of business because he came back and he’s healthy. He’s working extremely well. He’s one of the guys that I think could — if he continues on the path he is — he’s going to help us.”
The injury caused the fourth-year cornerback to miss the entire 2011 season and forced him to spend significantly more time with the team’s medical staff than he did with his teammates.
It also continued what had been a negative trend in his pro career. He played 14 games, and started two, as a rookie in 2009. The following year he played nine of the first 11, primarily on special teams, and then missed the last four with a groin injury.
“He is a tough kid,” coach Mike Munchak said. “Last year we didn’t get a chance to see him because of the injury right from the start. He got drafted for a reason. I like his attitude.
“For special teams he is a guy that helps you there too. He is aggressive on the field, he takes chances, and so far so good. This is what you are hoping to see from the kid. You are happy for him because he came back. That is a long rehab.”
It is not as if Houston is close either but with the current state of telecommunications it was almost as if he and his father were side by side throughout it all.
“We’d send Bible verses back and forth to each other in order to just stay positive,” Mouton said. “… No question, the rehab was definitely tough. But you really have to be focused mentally and it’s going to be a while. It’s not just something that you’re going to recover in two or three months. It’s a long rehab.”
This Sunday, Keith Mouton Sr. will celebrate 22 years as pastor at East Bethel Missionary Baptist.
“He just tries to preach the Word,” Ryan Mouton said. “If you’re in the Word then you’re talking truth and there’s nothing else. You know?”
Apparently he knew exactly what his son needed to hear over the past year.