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'Keep being brave.' Titans' A.J. Brown inspires 3-year-old superfan

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Posted at 8:00 AM, Feb 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-08 07:21:26-05

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WTVF) — In an Indianapolis home that's a four and a half-hour drive from Nashville, there's a Titans stronghold in the middle of Colts country.

Keven Leonard grew up in Nashville as a huge Titans fan, but later moved to Indianapolis with his family, where he passed down his love for the team to his wife and three kids. Their youngest, three-year-old Cora, has been a fan of the two-toned blue pretty much ever since she stood on two feet.

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The Leonard family

A few months ago, Cora's parents caught her talking to her "imaginary friends," Ryan Tannehill and Derek Henry. But her absolute favorite is A.J. Brown.

"I like hugging him and playing with him," Cora told us over Zoom.

On a recent trip to get a COVID-19 test, Cora asked the nurses if her "friend" she brought with her, A.J. Brown, could go first. The hospital staff played along.

"God bless these nurses, they said, 'Sure!' and just ran with it -- it was awesome," said Keven.

Keven took a picture of Cora holding her imaginary friend A.J. Brown, while nurses playfully administered him a "test." They even labeled a nasal swab vial with Brown's name.

The real A.J. Brown saw the tweet from Cora's dad, and he retweeted it and replied:

"Stuff like this keeps me humble," he said. "I'm your 3-year-old's imaginary friend just because I play football. It could be Dora, SpongeBob or anybody, but it's me. Stuff like this means a lot to me. fr. Tell her to keep being brave."

"It says a lot about him as a person and I'm so proud of having him part of the Titans organization," Keven said.

With all that COVID has thrown our way in the past year, this is a story Keven hopes lifts people up.

"This is such a difficult time, COVID is, so it's been great seeing the response for that, the comments that people say about how this is such a story that lifted them up in that difficult time," Keven said.

And though it may be correct to call Cora's friend "imaginary," from the Leonard's standpoint, it's hard to imagine anything more real.