NASHVILLE – Titans Vice President of Broadcasting Mike Keith will be honored for his induction into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame's 2021 class over the weekend during a television special.
The "Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2021 Special presented by the Tennessee Titans" will debut as a two-hour televised special event Saturday, June 26 at 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT at www.tshf.net and through the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame's Twitter, YouTube and Facebook pages.
Keith, a 2021 inductee and voice of the Tennessee Titans, will host the event celebrating sports in the Volunteer State.
This week, Keith shared some memories and more during a Q and A…
Who were the biggest influences on your career?
I have to start with my mom (Janet Keith). She not only taught English, but also wrote for the local paper in Franklin, The Review Appeal. She gave me "the journalism gene". My dad (Bill Keith) got me heavily into sports, taking me to my first Tennessee football and basketball games when I was seven. That in turn introduced me to John Ward and the Vol Radio Network. Listening to John Ward call a game brought it all to life for me and made me want to be a broadcaster. Eventually, John hired me to be part of the Vol Network where I learned from not only him, but also from the likes of Bob Kesling, Randy Smith, Mike Moore, Barry Rice, Mark Dyer, Steve Early and Edwin Huster, Jr. All were massive influences on my career. Bobby Denton hired me at WIVK/WNOX Radio and gave me more encouragement than anyone could or should have. Bobby mentored me through my youth, which wasn't easy. The biggest influence when it comes to Titans Radio is Larry Stone. He built Titans Radio's incredible list of radio stations, put together an amazing amount of organization and technology, hired and developed fantastic talent and came up with the "Titans Radio Sound", which is very unique. Larry is the best broadcaster that I have ever met, hands down. I hope to be like him some day!
Top 3 moments/memories over the years?
Number one will probably always be "Music City Miracle". No shock there. I still talk to someone about the play and where they were at that moment AT LEAST once a week and I love that! When I hear the Titans Radio call played back, I am amazed how quickly (Titans Radio color analyst at the time) Pat Ryan saw that Kevin Dyson had room to run. Terrific analysis that makes the call what it has become. It is an honor to be associated, even in a very minor way, with an NFL play so memorable that it has its own name.
Number two is the 2019 playoff win at New England. Being the team that ended the Brady/Belichick Era in Foxboro is special, but the better part is that I have never been so happy for so many people after a win. Our ownership. Jon Robinson. Mike Vrabel. Our players. The people on staff who were there when we lost 59-0 in 2009. But mostly for our fans. Titans fans had waited for "a massive moment" for years and they got it that night. They deserved it so much. The win the next week at Baltimore was technically more significant because it put us in the AFC Championship game, but that win at New England hit at a moment in time that none of us will ever forget.
Number three will probably surprise you, but our 1999 playoff win at Indianapolis. We had just beaten the Buffalo Bills in the Music City Miracle game and were supposed to be done. After all, we couldn't be expected to bounce back after using all that emotion? Plus, it was our first game against Peyton Manning. I covered Manning for all four years at Tennessee and really enjoyed working with him. He was a total pro when he was 17 years old, just like he is today in 2021. That week, I gave an interview to a national writer who realized that I had been at Tennessee with Manning. I said nice things about him (as I was taught to do by my mother!), but when the article came out, the writer claimed that I was probably be rooting for Peyton Manning over the Tennessee Titans! I was mortified, especially because everyone around the Titans office started teasing me incessantly about it, including Jeff Fisher. It was brutal and I was just sick. Coming off the Music City Miracle call, I was cut down to size within hours from all of the ribbing that I took leading up to January 16, 2000. So when we beat the Colts in Indianapolis, I was fired up…and relieved! It was a great game by Eddie George and Blaine Bishop, two of the best individual performances that I have ever witnessed by Titans. I learned the lesson that in the NFL, even if you really value and like someone on another NFL team, don't talk about him!
When we flew back into Nashville, I was probably the most fired-up that I had ever been as a broadcaster. Then, the pilot came on the speaker and told us that thousands of people were waiting to greet us at the airport. This was prior to September 11, 2001, so people who were not flying could still come to the gates. And when we arrived, it was true: an estimated 10,000 people (a figure mentioned to me; I didn't count them) were waiting. It was wild! I was so pumped that I tried to high-five everyone at BNA!
Most outside-the-box event you've covered in your career?
That's easy: the 1995 National Indoor Paintball Championships. At that time, ESPN2 was just starting and they aired a lot of non-traditional sports. The production company was going to pitch the 1995 National Indoor Paintball Championships as a series that could be shot all at once, broken up in 13 episodes and aired as a series for "The Deuce" (what ESPN2 was originally nicknamed). When I got the call, I explained to the producer that I knew nothing about Paintball. He said that it didn't matter; all I had to do is be "announcer guy", setting up the matches and then prompting the color commentator, who was billed as "The Greatest Female Paintball Player in the World". Cool, I thought, I can do that. But when I showed up for taping, "The Greatest Female Paintball Player in the World" had laryngitis, so they asked me to do my part AND her part, with the idea that once she re-gained her voice that her audio would be edited into final product. We taped for 12 hours and I did the set-ups, which I knew how to do and then I just made up all kinds of stuff to fill her part, knowing that it wouldn't be in the show. It was hilarious and very tiring. Needless to say, ESPN2 didn't pick it up, but I do have a VHS copy that was for sale. My colleagues with the Titans didn't believe the whole story, until we found a VCR and I made them watch. For a moment in time, I was "THE VOICE OF PAINTBALL"!
What would you be doing if not for broadcasting?
I sold shoes for Genesco in college. I really liked it and was pretty fair at it. Of course, Johnston & Murphy shoes almost sell themselves. I think that I'd probably be selling shoes.
Favorite players you've covered with Titans?
Steve McNair is number one because he was Steve McNair---tough, courageous, always up for the big moment. When I came to the Oilers, he was "our guy" and he lived up to that billing 100% during his entire tenure. The last drive of Super Bowl XXXIV was Steve McNair in a single snapshot.
Kevin Dyson, Jevon Kearse, Eddie George, Keith Bulluck, Kevin Carter, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Albert Haynesworth, Chris Johnson, Jurrell Casey, Brian Orakpo, Jason McCourty, Kevin Byard, Jeffery Simmons, Ryan Tannehill, A.J. Brown…I could go on and on with the guys that I have really enjoyed covering.
And most announcers would pay the team to be Derrick Henry's announcer!
Best advice for an aspiring journalist/broadcaster?
First, get involved as quickly as possible at your university's student radio station, student television station or student newspaper. Those are best places to learn and to get "live reps".
Second, find a way to cover high school sports. If you are interested in journalism, the best place to learn the basics is by covering high school football, basketball, volleyball, wresting, etc. If want to be a play-by-play announcer or a beat writer, or everything else in-between, high school sports are the training ground. The sooner you start working in high school sports, the faster that you develop the skills you need to cover anything in the sports world.
Most rewarding part of the job?
The connection with Titans fans. Whether they are submitting questions for The OTP, are calling into the Mike Vrabel show, are relating a story about listening to Titans Radio or are "talking ball" with me in the checkout line at Kroger, I just really enjoy and appreciate it. In everything that we do, we ask the question, "Is this something that Titans fans will enjoy?" We started that way in 1998 when we were still the Tennessee Oilers and had very few fans. 23 years later, we are still doing the same thing. We know how this thing looked when we started, so we are really appreciative of what we have now and never taken the fan base for granted. That sounds corny and like canned answer, I get it---but it is not. When we started off in trailers in what is now Lot M as Nissan Stadium was being built, we dreamed of having a fan base that was so passionate that they followed our every move. Now we do. It is fantastic.
How special to be inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame?
I have known for over three months now and I still don't know what to say. I remain surprised that this happened. I don't feel worthy to be in the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame, let alone being inducted with this class. Being a native Tennessean who has worked with the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame since 2000, I understand the importance of the honor. I am very appreciative and I'm not giving it back! But to say that I am a bit sheepish about being part of this amazing group of men and women would be an understatement.