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After big NFL moment, ex-Husker Kalu gets a surge of confidence ... and a new phone
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After big NFL moment, ex-Husker Kalu gets a surge of confidence ... and a new phone

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What's Joshua Kalu doing these days?

It was a question to some just before the former Nebraska defensive back gave an emphatic answer two Sundays ago in Nashville, Tennessee. 

Kalu, playing for the the NFL's Tennessee Titans, zipped around the edge and blocked a 52-yard field-goal attempt — which if made, would have tied the game — against the Kansas City Chiefs as time expired.

The Titans fans went nuts. Kalu was running around the field, his head coach Mike Vrabel giving chase.

"Some people didn't even know I still played," Kalu said this week. "But it was cool to see the tweets, and seeing people just keep on sending me videos."

Needless to say, Kalu received a ton of messages following the game. Former Huskers such as Chris Jones, Stanley Morgan, Cethan Carter, Nate Gerry and Dylan Utter reached out. So did current Huskers, including Lamar Jackson, Mohamed Barry, Marquel Dismuke and Dicaprio Bootle.

Kalu even heard from his football coach at the Pop Warner football program. His phone literally didn't have the energy anymore by the end of the day.

"Sunday night, my phone stopped charging," he said. "I don't know if that was a coincidence, just because of the text messages, or just because of a malfunction."

So Kalu got a new phone. More importantly, he's got a surge of confidence going after his big play against Kansas City. For the Houston native, the play was another moment in proving to himself and the NFL that Kalu can play at the elite level.

The 6-foot, 203-pound Kalu has had to work extra hard to maintain an NFL roster spot. He went undrafted, was signed by the Titans and cut a week into training camp of his rookie year in 2018. Tennessee later signed him to the practice squad and he made the active roster in December.

But Kalu hit another bump three games into this year's preseason when he suffered a high ankle sprain. It landed him on the injured reserve list.

That meant extra work in the weight room and extra hours in the treatment room. Yeah, it was tough and Kalu wanted to play, but the fact that he was still on the roster kept his spirits up.

"I'm a real confident athlete," said Kalu, who is well known for his big smile and positive energy. "I feel like I'm talented ... but at the same time, I'm very humble about it. I've been humbled by it last year by this whole business of football and the NFL.

"For (Tennessee) to keep me on the active roster IR to begin with, showed me that, yeah, they liked what I was doing and I can play ball. That in itself kept me going."

Kalu came off the IR list in Week 9 against the Carolina Panthers, one week before the Chiefs game. He's been counted on to help on special teams — duties Kalu relishes.

"I take pride in everything I do," said Kalu, who had 27 pass breakups and seven interceptions at Nebraska. "If I'm going to do something, I'm going to give you 100%. There is no halfway with me."

That's what the Titans got on the final play against the Chiefs on Nov. 10. Kalu said his mentality is to make a play every single time.

"Especially field goals," he added. "A lot of people take those downs and reps off and I'm going extra hard. I have that in my head. ... 'They're not taking it serious, I'm going to take it serious. I'm going to make something happen.'

"And that was the perfect situation to make something happen."

The Titans' bye week followed the victory against the Chiefs, so it gave Kalu some extra time to enjoy his blocked field goal. The week off also gave Kalu a chance to go home to Houston. He said he went bowling, and he went back to his high school, middle school and elementary school to see former teachers and talk to kids.

"As soon as I get home, I live across the street from my old Little League team as far as football, I go home and as soon as I put my bags down, if they're out there practicing, I go out there and see what's up with the coaches and talk to the kids," Kalu said.

"I tell my story because we grew up in the same area. I wasn't the best kid ... and as far as behavior, I wasn't the best. I just told them if I can make it out and go do big things, you can. The world is bigger than our area. You just got to go get it."

As for where the field-goal block ranks among his career football moments, it can't do better than second on Kalu's list.

"Overall, my biggest moment was my mom coming to see my first game in high school," he said.

Reach Clark Grell at 402-473-2639 or cgrell@journalstar.com. On Twitter at @LJSSportsGrell.

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