By Gentry Estes
The (Nashville) Tennessean
Tennessee Titans linebacker Daren Bates’ locker happens to be located in an area between running back Derrick Henry and linebacker Rashaan Evans, fairly close to each.
This week, that seemed especially important as Bates threw his head back and shouted.
“Warrrrrrrrrrrrr Eagle, hey!”
“They’ve lost three games, hey,” Henry fired back.
Rivalry week in college football has definitely made its way into the Titans locker room in advance of their own game Sunday at the Indianapolis Colts.
There is Saturday’s Iron Bowl between Auburn – Bates’ school – and Alabama, where Evans and Henry played.
And on Thursday night was the Egg Bowl between Ole Miss and Mississippi State, which is of special interest to the Titans’ first two 2019 draft picks and promising rookies.
Defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons went to Mississippi State. Wide receiver A.J. Brown went to Ole Miss, and the two have been talking smack to each other, Simmons said.
No surprise that Simmons expects the Bulldogs to win.
“Oh, for sure. It shouldn’t be close,” Simmons said. “I know those guys have been ready for this game for sure. Everybody in the state has.”
Brown and Simmons, who have known each other since middle school, have “a little wager” on the game, the receiver said.
“Of course, I’ve got love for Ole Miss,” Brown said. “But I’m not fixing to get riled up about it. I just hope Ole Miss wins. … I’m going to say something about it (if that happens), but that’s as far as it’s going to go.”
Bates went a little further before Wednesday’s practice, again blaring the Auburn fight song and circling Evans while he was doing interviews with reporters. Bates did the same thing before last year’s Iron Bowl.
While he’s outnumbered on the Titans team, Bates has no problem prepping Auburn in one of football’s most intense rivalries.
“It comes up a lot,” Bates said. “But this week, it’s different. It’s like two siblings going at it. It’s big.”
There’s a friendly bet in play that Bates lost last year, meaning he had to wear an Alabama shirt for a day and post selfies on all of his social media accounts.
Bates feels confident, but so does Evans.
“I’m going with (Alabama quarterback) Mac Jones to throw for at least four or five touchdowns,” Evans said. “I think he’s going to have a big game this week. I feel like he’s a little bit of an underdog. People are not really expecting him to really play that good. I feel like this is probably going to be his breakout game.”