For Titans fullback, Sept. 11 a reminder of a life changed, a life lost

Memories of the Sept. 11 attacks mean something different to everyone.

To Tennessee Titans fullback Collin Mooney, they probably mean a little bit more.

“It was a life-changing event, not just for me but for the entire country,” he said Wednesday, the 12th anniversary of the event. “I was a freshman in high school and it really determined what I was going to do for the next 10 years – trying to get into West Point, going to West Point, serving in the Army.

“It was a big factor in my decision.”

He enrolled at the U.S. Military Academy in 2005 and graduated in 2008 with a degree in management. He served three years of active duty before he signed with the Titans in 2012.

Mooney never was deployed to the Middle East but understands all too well the realities of war. His childhood friend and West Point roommate Dimitri del Castillo was killed in Afghanistan in Jan. 2011.

“We actually grew up together and went to elementary school and high school together,” Mooney said. “It was crazy. Being in the Army, the war is very real. And it doesn’t really hit home until something like that happens. It’s devastating. I know his family was devastated and all his friends.

“… It’s really sad, but he died doing what he loved to do, serving his country. That’s probably the greatest honor.”

No doubt del Castillo will be on Mooney's mind this weekend when the Titans travel to Houston to face the Texans (noon, CBS). He was an all-state player at Katy, Texas, a Houston suburb where he and del Castillo charted their path into the military. Since retiring from active duty with the Army, he has continued to serve in the U.S. Army Reserves. And as someone who has lived nearly half his life since the Sept. 11 bombings, he certainly has vivid memories of what happened that day.

“I remember seeing it for the first time on TV and thinking, ‘How is this even possible? How is this going on?’” he said. “It’s something that for my generation, my age group … we’ve grown up with it and been at war for 12 years.

“That’s the reality of this day and what happened.”