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Arnold Isn't Singing Blues Over Football Career Ending

Former Northridge receiver from Monroe High walked out on Tennessee Titans in order to pursue musical opportunities.

August 20, 2000|FERNANDO DOMINGUEZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NORTHRIDGE — From the minute he got to Nashville, Aaron Arnold felt so darn miserable, so much like those guys they twang about in those country songs.

Not because he disliked the city. It was no eyesore and, frankly, all that stuff about Southern hospitality was true.

Not because he would be away from home, pretty much alone, for such a long haul for the first time.

He anticipated missing his family and friends for sure, but was prepared to stick it out.

No sirree, nothing that simple to overcome. His anguish was over something more complicated.

"I was trying to figure out how to play music and play football at the same time," Arnold said. "I was out there plotting my options."

Arnold, career receiving leader at Cal State Northridge, worked all the angles in his head during four days at the Tennessee Titans mini-camp early in June.

He signed with the Titans in April as a free agent, taking the first step into fulfilling a lifelong ambition of playing in the NFL. But then his focus shifted.

"I guess I wanted to sing more than I wanted to play," Arnold said.

Arnold, 22, is part of "Adagio," an up-and-coming vocal quartet that has been trying to strike it big for the last two years.

"We do R & B," Arnold said. "You don't really catch a guy listening to that stuff, but they listen to this because our music is more urban, more edgy. . . . We're like street-type guys. That's what we try to project with our whole package."

The image and the music, some original and some written by others, might bring Arnold more recognition than football. The group, which includes Howard Henry and is managed by his brother, Jerome, former Northridge players, auditioned for a recording company. Arnold said a deal is close.

That's what made Arnold's head spin. He left for Nashville soon after the presentation, thinking more about concerts and promotional tours than post patterns and two-minute drills.

"The guys weren't pressuring me to stay," Arnold said. "No doubt they wanted me out here, but they didn't want to kill [the football] dream for me so I could be here with them."

Arnold probably would not have been caught in such a predicament a few months ago.

An option quarterback at Monroe High, Arnold became a receiver at Northridge, establishing team career receiving records with 195 catches, 2,660 yards and 26 touchdowns. At 6 feet 1 and 190 pounds, with great speed and a penchant for acrobatic plays, Arnold appeared destined for more football after his senior season with the Matadors in 1999.

"You just saw a little bit of magic in Aaron when he first got here," said Coach Jeff Kearin of Northridge. "He had the ability go get the ball, even in traffic."

The Titans wanted to see if Arnold could step up to the next level. They never had much of a chance.

"He felt he took [football] as far as he could," Coach Jeff Fisher said about Arnold. "He said his heart wasn't in it and he left."

Not many people walk out on an NFL team, unless asked to do so. And fewer yet bail when that club is the defending AFC champion. But Arnold did, and later turned down an offer from the Arizona Cardinals to join their camp.

Arnold's decisions didn't sit well with his father, Eddie.

"I told him I thought he was making a mistake," he said. "I'm behind him in whatever he does, but I don't feel he's made the right decisions."

Arnold said he wanted to make football work, but not at the expense of music. He thought about how to arrange recordings if he made the Titans, but didn't think the studios in Nashville were an option. Adagio is Irvine Meadows, not Grand Ole Opry; hip, not hick.

The only way out, he believed, was to choose one. He took music.

"Everything [in Nashville] was real cool, lovely," Arnold said. "But I thought it would be better for me to leave then than go further, to the point of no return.

"Honestly, it's not something I think about too much anymore."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

AARON ARNOLD

* Age: 22

* Height: 6-1

* Weight: 190

* Position: Receiver

* College: CS Northridge

* High School: Monroe

* FYI: Holds CS Northridge career records with 195 catches, 2,660 yards and 26 touchdowns.

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