He is far from an old man, but at 29, Justin Gage is — by far — the senior member of the Tennessee Titans’ wide receiver corps.
None of the other 10 on the roster is older than 26, and seven of them are 23 or younger.
That means Gage has a prominent voice in the meeting room — when he chooses to use it, that is. More often, his actions speak the loudest.
“You watch film, that’s our leader,” Nate Washington, who is 26, said. “He does a great job of not saying too much but just coming out and working hard. When you have a guy like that, who’s the oldest guy in the room … coming out every day and working consistently hard, you’re going to have your young guys fall into that [mindset].”
His age and his clout guarantee nothing in the way of opportunity, though.
He was a starter for the first half of 2009, before a back injury caused him to miss four games. Kenny Britt, the team’s top draft choice last season, started in place of Gage for six games and led the team in receiving yards.
“I don’t care about [starting],” Gage said. “I’m just thinking more so to get on the field and make plays when the chance is provided. Being a starter just means you’re going to get more chances, more opportunities.
“My main focus is just going out there and making plays for my quarterback and for my teammates.”
Recent history suggests that his age makes him capable of doing exactly that. In the past 20 years, the franchise has had seven 1,000-yard receiving seasons. All of them were by players who were 26 or older at the time.
So whether he’s the leader on the depth chart or not, Gage is the first one his teammates look — and listen — to when they need the benefit of experience.
“It’s a great leadership role for us,” Washington said. “… We need somebody to guide us and work hard. He’s that guy for us right now.”