Imagine being a lineman in the National Football League.
You get battered, beaten and bruised for very little credit. But yet, you’re one of the most important players on the field.
Good linemen are hard to come by, yet often they’re simply forgotten men out on the battlefield of the gridiron.
Cody Wichmann, however, is hoping to not be forgotten.
The Mariposa native, 26, was drafted by the St. Louis Rams as an offensive guard in the sixth round (215th overall) of the 2015 NFL Draft. He played a key role early on in his career, playing in 12 games with seven starts as a rookie. In 2016, he played in 12 games with 11 starts at guard for the Rams.
Close to a year ago, however, his world came crashing down.
The team that drafted him, that he had invested so much with, cut him from the roster. Suddenly, Wichmann was without a job in the NFL.
“I was very surprised,” Wichmann said. “It was definitely tough. I had obviously made a lot of friendships with my teammates the years I was with the Rams. It’s a crazy thing when a team doesn’t want you anymore. It’s the business being in the NFL. That was my first time being released by a team, and it was tough to say the least.”
A new beginning
Wichmann didn’t give up, however. He quickly shopped himself around the league.
“After being released I had some tryouts that my agent set up,” Wichmann said. “My first one was with the New Orleans Saints. It was week one of the regular season last year. That tryout with the Saints went really well.”
The Saints were attempting to clear a roster space to add Wichmann to the team, but “couldn’t get it all figured out,” Wichmann said.
The next week Wichmann scheduled a workout with the Tennessee Titans, and it also went well. The team ended up signing him to a “futures” contract on Sept. 12.
A futures contract is essentially the same as a regular active-roster contract, but there is a key difference. Futures contracts don’t take effect until the start of the next league year.
Teams can sign players to futures contracts as soon as the previous regular season is over, but the contract won’t count against the salary cap or 53-man roster limit.
Instead, it’ll count against the salary cap and 90-man camp limit of the following season.
In the meantime, the player goes on the reserve/futures list and can’t be signed by any other team.
Often, players signed to futures contracts are ones that were on a practice squad somewhere, sometimes for the team with which they signed. The teams hope to further develop the players, with the chance of either adding them to the back end of the 53-man roster for next season, or placing them on the practice squad again.
With a new team to play on, Wichmann was ready to head east.
Enjoying life in Nashville
So far, Wichmann has loved being in Nashville and with the Titans.
“Nashville is really awesome,” Wichmann said. “I think Nashville is probably the best city I could have ended up in. It’s like a massive Mariposa, I would say. The people are really nice and it’s a bit country out here, too. It’s nice.”
As far as sports in Nashville go, it’s right up Wichmann’s alley, he said. Nashville is home to the Nashville Predators, the hockey team. Vanderbilt is right downtown and the Titans are smack in the middle, Wichmann said.
“It’s a great place; I’m a big fan of music and this is the music capitol of the world,” Wichmann added. “It’s amazing. Downtown and Broadway Street, I’ve never seen anything like it before as far as how much music they’ve got there. It’s a neat scene.”
As for the Titans, Wichmann said he believes the team has “a lot of potential.” The Titans made the playoffs last season and came back from a 21-3 halftime deficit against the Kansas City Chiefs to win 22-2, shocking the Chiefs and winning their first playoff game since 2003. But they were then defeated by the New England Patriots in the Divisional Round by the score of 35-14.
The Titans are led by Marcus Mariota, their thrilling young quarterback.
“There are great players all throughout the roster,” Wichmann said.
In the offseason, the Titans cut ties with head coach Mike Mularkey and hired Mike Vrabel, who has 18 years of NFL experience, four as an NFL coach and 14 as a player.
“With this new coaching staff coming in, they are bringing a good scheme with them,” Wichmann said. “I think it’s going to fit a lot of our players on this team.”
No hard feelings
Although he was cut by the Rams, Wichmann is appreciative of the team that drafted him.
“On the field we had some great coaches,” Wichmann said. “Coach ( Jeff) Fisher gave me a chance and I will always be thankful to him. The coaches taught me how to play faster. Off the field I have some great friendships on that team. We were a tight-knit group.”
Wichmann said he still keeps in touch with former teammates.
Excited to compete
Wichmann is looking forward to the start of the 2018-19 season.
“Right now it’s all about maintaining my body weight,” Wichmann said. “Over the offseason training program I was able to drop down to about 310. Now I’m maintaining that. I’m working on quickness, and in this system we have to run a bit more than I’m used to, which is no problem.”
He acknowledged that “training camp is always going to be difficult,” but is excited for the chance to prove himself to a new coaching staff.
“As you get older and get more years under your belt, it becomes easier and easier,” Wichmann said of training camp, which is coming up in a matter of weeks. “You know what to expect and you know how to prepare. You know how to get your body healthy and in good physical condition.”
“Am I dreading camp this year? No, I’m not,” Wichmann added. “But it’s always going to be difficult. I have a lot to work for at this training camp. Competition is always a thing at this level. This offensive line is a great unit and I would love to stick around be a part of it.”
The 6-foot-6, 315-pound lineman is the son of Mike Wichmann and Tally Allison.