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Keith touches down in town

Members of Noon Rotary got an advanced tutorial in Tennessee Titans football Thursday when Voice of the Titans Mike Keith visited as guest speaker.
Keith, best known for his “Music City Miracle” call during the Titans Super Bowl run in the 2000 playoffs, fielded questions about the rebuilding process the Titans are undertaking, past and present players and his favorite moments since taking over in 1998 as the play-by-play announcer for Tennessee’s professional football franchise.
The “Music City Miracle,” where the Titans won on a lateral from Frank Wycheck to Kevin Dyson on the final play of a wildcard game against the Buffalo Bills, stands out as the play Keith is most fond of, but his favorite game came a week later.
“The ‘Music City Miracle’ is the call that stands out because what the play meant for the organization,” said Keith. “We sold 5,000 season tickets in the next month, made a Super Bowl run and people come up to me all the time to tell stories about where they were and what they were doing when they heard the call.
“But my favorite game was a week later in Indianapolis. Nobody gave us a shot. Blaine Bishop played one of the best games I’ve ever seen a defensive player play.”
The upset win over the Colts, led by former Tennessee Volunteer star Peyton Manning, propelled the Titans into the AFC championship game where Tennessee beat the Jacksonville Jaguars to earn a trip to Super Bowl XXXIV.
In one of the most exciting finishes in Super Bowl history, the Titans were stopped one yard short of sending the game against the St. Louis Rams into overtime as the game finished with the Rams winning 23-16.
Keith has experienced the ups and downs with the franchise, noting how the team won 62 games in a five-year stretch while making two AFC championship games, four playoff appearances and leading the NFL with 13 wins in 2000.
Fresh on the minds of the Titan fans in attendance though was last year’s dreadful 6-10 season, the fourth straight year Tennessee failed to make the playoffs.
Keith laid out his keys of how the Titans can return to success, starting with building early momentum, returning to being a dominant defense and sustaining drives on offense.
“There’s usually three or four things that can make or break a season. The first thing is building early momentum and sustaining it,” said Keith. “In 1999, we started with two wins then went to Jacksonville as an underdog. Samari Rolle did something he wasn’t supposed to do on a late pass in the endzone, but he ended up with an interception that sealed the game. That momentum stayed with the team.
“Last year, we started with a home game against the Patriots and a road trip out west to face the Chargers. It was a tough way to begin the year.”
Keith believes building defenses like the Titans had in the early 2000s is impossible with the evolution of offenses, but the Titans new changes on the coaching staff should help turn things around.
“Mike Munchak made moves on the staff, letting go some guys that are great coaches while bringing back people we’ve seen before that made big differences,” said Keith. “I think coach Munchak was looking for guys who are more vocal, more stringent and put the emphasis on the little things.”
Offensively, Keith believes embattled quarterback Jake Locker will be the “Hallmark of the franchise for years,” and the draft could be where the team makes its biggest strides.
“The No. 1 priority to me should be making the offensive line unit into what it was for years,” said Keith. “This year’s draft is strong with guards, a big need for the Titans. I think the team will get a player with the 10th pick at a position they don’t feel they can’t fill with the No. 39 pick. It could be one of the great guards, a pass rusher or a lockdown cornerback.”
Keith is excited for offseason training camps to start in April, as well as getting back to work when the regular season starts in September. Keith is hopeful to unleash his trademark phrases, “Touchdown Titans,” and “Sacked!” a lot more this year with an improved team.

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