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Tight ends fraternity calls Frank Wycheck a great man, and greatest Tennessee Titans TE

MIAMI — Frank Wycheck is the rare figure who not only set the standard for excellence — he remains the standard.

Wycheck, one of the most beloved players in Tennessee Titans history, died Saturday at the age of 52. The three-time Pro Bowl tight end likely is best known for his role in the Music City Miracle, but it's an injustice to distill his nine years of contributions to the franchise into one moment, no matter how memorable it was.

Ask the tight ends who played with him and came after him. They'll paint a picture of Wycheck as a tone-setter, a teacher, a playmaker and a dominant force.

"The greatest tight end in Titans history is Frank Wycheck," Ben Troupe, a Titans tight end from 2004 to 2007, told The Tennessean. "There is no debate. There is no, ‘Well, in my opinion . . . ' No."

The numbers back up Troupe's assertion. From 1995 to 2003, Wycheck caught 482 passes for 4,958 yards and 27 touchdowns. He is the franchise's all-time leader in catches and receiving yards among tight ends, and is second in touchdown catches, one behind Delanie Walker. And none of this counts his 37 catches, 313 yards and one touchdown in nine playoff games.

Erron Kinney, a Titans tight end from 2000 to 2005, called Wycheck the "consummate example of dependability." Michael Roan, Wycheck's companion in the tight end room from 1995 to 2000, marveled at Wycheck's knack for showing up when the lights were on.

Roan points out how he and Wycheck were the same size (6-foot-3, about 250 pounds) and roughly as fast as one another, but Wycheck had an unmatched feel for the field, knew how to get open and played his best when his team needed him the most.

The legacy started with Frank Wycheck

After Wycheck retired, in part because of a series of concussions, the Titans' tight end room kept producing at a remarkable level. From the day he signed with the Houston Oilers through Sunday, Titans tight ends have combined to catch 2,264 passes. That's the third-most of any franchise, behind the Kansas City Chiefs and Dallas Cowboys, teams that have been able to rely on arguably the three most productive tight ends in history with Tony Gonzalez, Travis Kelce and Jason Witten.

Wycheck, Walker, Bo Scaife, Kinney, Jared Cook, Jonnu Smith and Troupe all have more than 100 receptions in Titans uniforms. Hardly a year has gone by in the past three decades where the franchise couldn't rely on a tight end to do the dirty work and keep the offense chugging.

"It seems like when the Titans are good, when they’re really good, the tight ends always play a significant role," Kinney said. "I feel like there’s a strong, big fraternity there. There’s something special with that organization with the history and the productivity and the things we’ve been able to do as a group."

That tradition doesn't start just with Wycheck's play on the field. It also stemmed directly from his kindness. Kinney, Troupe and Roan all gushed about Wycheck's generosity as a teacher, mentor and sounding board.

Who Frank Wycheck really was

Roan and Wycheck lived together for a year in Houston, sharing just about every meal together. When the Titans started winning big in 1999 and 2000, the two would share celebratory Coors Lights in the parking lot after games. When Roan suffered a career-ending knee injury in 2000, Wycheck was there next to him as he was helped off the field. A few months after that, Wycheck stood up at Roan's wedding. Kinney's kids called Wycheck "Uncle Frank."

He taught Kinney to trust his instincts, to deviate from route paths when necessary in the name of getting to the right spot on the field. Kinney remembers Wycheck breaking free for a long gain against the Jacksonville Jaguars late in his career and excitedly running off the field screaming "The old man's still got it!" to anyone who would listen.

Troupe and Wycheck took a limo ride from Nashville to Memphis early in Troupe's career as part of the Titans Caravan tour of the state. After razzing Troupe for not having a landscaper yet, Wycheck spent the entire ride answering the questions Troupe said he didn't even know he needed answers for.

He called Troupe "Bennie," a nickname Troupe normally hears only from family members. He reminded Troupe that playing professional football isn't normal and no one should ever try to normalize it. Be yourself. Take nothing for granted.

"He was a great guy," Roan said simply and plainly. "He was there for you when you needed him."

Kinney puts it best when he says Wycheck set the bar high. From players like Roan and Kinney who played with Wycheck, to the Titans' young tight ends of today, Chig Okonkwo and Josh Whyle, everyone is still playing in the shadow Wycheck cast.

"We have a tradition of tight ends being really good with the Tennessee Titans," Kinney said. "I like to believe it was established with him, that excellence that’s always been at that position that’s seemed to be a mainstay. I think he was the start of that and setting that bar. I still can’t believe it. It doesn’t seem real."

Nick Suss is the Titans beat writer for The Tennessean. Contact Nick at nsuss@gannett.com. Follow Nick on X, the platform formerly called Twitter, @nicksuss.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Disciples call Frank Wycheck greatest of Tennessee Titans tight ends