20 Feet from Dyson

For more than a decade, Cody Allison was a sideline reporter for the Tennessee Titans

Published in 2023 Mid-South Super Lawyers magazine

By Josh Karp on November 27, 2023

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If 1999 was a memorable year for Cody Allison—it’s when he graduated law school—the first few weeks of 2000 weren’t bad, either. That’s when his side gig as an on-the-field reporter for Tennessee Titans radio broadcasts put him near the action for the two most memorable plays in Titans history: one exhilarating, one excruciating.

The first occurred on January 8th when the Titans played the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Wild Card game. With 16 seconds left, the Bills kicked a field goal to go ahead 16-15, and it looked like the Titans’ season was over. But on the ensuing kickoff, Lorenzo Neal pitched the ball to tight end Frank Wycheck, who threw an overhand lateral across the field to a wide-open Kevin Dyson, who ran 75 yards for the touchdown that became known as “The Music City Miracle.” That was the exhilaration.

A few weeks later, the Titans squared off against the St. Louis Rams in the Super Bowl and found themselves down 23-16 with six seconds left and the ball on the Rams 11-yard line. On their final play, quarterback Steve McNair passed the ball to Dyson, who was tackled at the 1-yard line and stretched the ball toward the end zone. He came up inches short.

Of that latter moment, Allison recalls: “There were only four official sideline reporters, including Lesley Visser and Lynn Swann. And there I was, a nobody … probably 20 feet from Dyson.”

Allison spent 16 years as an on-air announcer for the Titans. “He could get stories and interviews just because people liked him,” says Titans’ announcer Mike Keith.

The son of a CPA and a librarian, Allison played high school baseball and didn’t give much thought to where he’d be attending college. “There was no choice,” he says. “I’m from Knoxville. I was born to go to University of Tennessee.”

There, Allison became sports director at the university radio station, a position he chalks up to the fact that he was “the only student willing to get up at 5 a.m. for a 6 a.m. broadcast.”

Through that job, Allison got to know Mike Keith, who hosted his own nightly talk show on WIVK’s AM radio station and offered Allison an internship. Keith recalls one quintessential Allison moment.

In 1994, a highly touted high school quarterback named Peyton Manning was holding a press conference to say he was committing to Tennessee. Keith was busy speaking at a UT baseball banquet, so Allison got the assignment. Skipping two final exams that professors later allowed him to make up, he sped to the airport to catch a flight. Despite the fact that he was a college student competing with professional sports journalists for the story, Keith notes, “He goes down and gets an interview with everyone who counts—Peyton, Archie, Peyton’s mom, his coach—and gets to know an assistant coach from University of Michigan and winds up hanging out with him. … This is who he is. He’s so easy to associate with, so comfortable with anyone he comes into contact with. He can get along with anyone. He could get stories and interviews just because people liked him.”

When the internship was over, Keith told him they’d find a way to work together again. And they did, in 1998, after Keith became the color man for Titans broadcasts.

“He called me and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got an opportunity for you with the Titans,’” Allison recalls. One catch: He’d have to drive to Nashville every week for the game, and sometimes travel with the team. At the time, he was a 3L at Mississippi College School of Law in Jackson, six hours away. But Allison persuaded his professors to let him record lectures he couldn’t attend.

At first Allison worked as a spotter—identifying on-field players—for play-by-play man Joe McConnell. “McConnell loved him,” Keith recalls. “Of the entire group he worked with, Cody was Joe’s favorite person.”

By his second year, Allison was a sideline reporter, doing live in-game broadcasts, post-game player interviews and injury reports. One injury—unreported—was his own.

In Green Bay, the Titans’ Joe Nedney was practice kicking into a net when one kick went astray—and hit Allison in the lower back at point-blank range. “I immediately fell to the ground,” says Allison, who had to be checked out by the team doctor. “[The Green Bay fans] are all laughing hysterically and I can’t even breathe. I couldn’t walk straight for weeks.”

Initially, practicing law during the week while broadcasting on weekends meshed well. Broadcasting made him well-known to Titans fans, which helped him become established in the Nashville legal world. Sideline reporting also helped him stay comfortable in front of an audience, think on his feet, and pivot during unexpected situations—useful skills in a courtroom.

Over time, though, as his practice grew and he became a father (Allison has an 18-year-old daughter and a 14-year-old son), the demands of the side gig became too much.

“I just couldn’t balance the two,” says Allison, whose eponymous firm specializes in ERISA law. “I couldn’t say, ‘Sorry, judge, I can’t do that because I’ve got football practice.’”

He still misses it. “You’re getting ready to see a game, which is, of course, not scripted, and you have to be on your toes,” he says. “The excitement of the crowd and being involved in that excitement—I miss that.”

But all those years on the sidelines have an unanticipated benefit in the courtroom. “I’m able to talk a little football when it gets contentious,” he says.

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