He was a rookie in his first NFL action, a preseason game that Drue Tranquill called “a once-in-a-lifetime moment.”
The Chargers linebacker then showed a veteran’s savvy when he took to social media to dedicate his interception Thursday night against Arizona to Pat Tillman.
“He’s just a guy I really look up to,” Tranquill explained Saturday, “and a guy who motivates me and moves me internally to be the best version of myself.”
Tillman was a safety for the Cardinals before leaving football to join the Army after the 9/11 attacks. He was killed by friendly fire in April 2004. Arizona retired his No. 40 and enshrined him in the franchise’s ring of honor.
Tranquill said he learned of Tillman’s story from a friend while playing at Notre Dame. He said he watched a video about Tillman on the bus ride to State Farm Stadium on Thursday.
“His story was just really moving to me,” Tranquill said. “A guy who was willing to sacrifice millions of dollars to go serve his country. The commitment and service to duty, I think, is just very admirable and something I want to model in my life and my game.”
A fourth-round pick, Tranquill is expected to contribute on special teams. He also will provide depth at linebacker, a position that is plenty deep for the Chargers.
Last year, however, the team suffered several significant injuries at that spot and ended the season starting seven defensive backs.
“When you come in as a younger guy, that’s what older guys are looking for: ‘Is this guy going to contribute on [special] teams?’” Tranquill said. “Coaches want to see it. It’s something you got to do as a young guy. It’s something you got to love to do. I’m happy to contribute. It’s definitely a place to make the team.”
Tranquill’s first experience Thursday came on kickoff coverage. Late in the third quarter, using the instincts that Chargers coaches have praised, he dropped in coverage and intercepted a pass by Cardinals quarterback Drew Anderson.
“I just backpedaled and baited the quarterback,” Tranquill explained. “He was looking at [tight end Darrell Daniels] the whole time and threw it right to me.”
A safety early in his time at Notre Dame, Tranquill projects as a capable defender in pass coverage.
“He had the only takeaway on defense,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said. “So that was nice. ... He’s been practicing well. He was in position. ... His coverage skills did show up. That was a good thing to see.”
Praise for O-line
Having had the opportunity to closely review the Chargers’ 17-13 loss, Lynn was complimentary of his offensive line.
He cited right tackle Sam Tevi’s physicality in the run game and said Dan Feeney did “an outstanding job” in place of starting center Mike Pouncey. Lynn also said left tackle Trent Scott and guard Forrest Lamp are “getting better.”
“They got some quality reps,” Lynn said, “and they’ll probably get a few more this week.”
The Chargers will have joint practices with New Orleans in Costa Mesa on Thursday and Friday. The teams play a preseason game Aug. 18 in Carson.
Scott is filling in for Russell Okung, who suffered a pulmonary embolism in June. Feeney was the starting left guard last season and has been playing some center in practice.
“His size, his quickness, his ability to get to the second level,” Lynn said when asked what qualities allow Feeney to play center. “He’s an athlete at the position. He’s a good backup [to Pouncey].”
Calling it “just a poor decision,” rookie quarterback Easton Stick was left lamenting his third-quarter interception against Arizona. He was picked off by safety Tyler Sigler at the Cardinals’ 20-yard line.
“It hit him right in the chest, so obviously not good, especially in that situation going down to score and an opportunity to put points on the board,” he said. “We’ll learn from it.”
Lynn said he was impressed with the way the fifth-round selection responded. On the Chargers’ next possession, Stick moved the team 87 yards in 10 plays for a touchdown. He scored on a 31-yard scramble.
“He blew it off, came right back, and it didn’t faze him,” Lynn said. “He wasn’t afraid to pull the trigger. That says a lot about a quarterback. “
Wide receiver Keenan Allen returned to practice after missing the preseason opener because of fluid in his knee. ... Cornerback Trevor Williams sat out with an undisclosed injury. Lynn said the problem isn’t related to his knee injury last season. ... The Chargers are being cautious with rookie safety Nasir Adderley, who remains out with a hamstring injury. “We know he can play when he’s healthy,” Lynn said. “So we’ve got to make sure he’s right.”... Reserve tight end Andrew Vollert is done for the season after suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury against Arizona. ... Among the players who stood out to Lynn in Thursday’s game was safety Roderic Teamer, an undrafted rookie out of Tulane. ... Lynn said he never considered challenging a pass interference call in the game: “There was no debate from me. No. I’m not in any rush to slow the game down.”