MTSU Set To Retire Kevin Byard’s Number

Kevin Byard at MTSU. Photo: Courtesy of MT Athletics

Middle Tennessee legend and Tennessee Titans All-Pro Kevin Byard will have his No. 20 jersey number retired on Sept. 30 during a ceremony at the Blue Raiders’ home game against UTSA.

Byard will join Teddy Morris as the only other player in MTSU football history to have his number retired, whose No. 14 was retired in 1965.

“I am truly honored and blessed to have my jersey number retired at MTSU,” Byard notes. “A lot of blood, sweat, and tears went into making this a reality. Thank you to my coaches, training staff, faculty members, and most importantly my teammates who all played a major role in my success during the five years I attended Middle.”

Byard, a four-year starter for the Blue Raiders from 2012-15, ended his career as the program’s all-time leader in interceptions (19), interception return yards (377), interception return touchdowns (4) and is one of just nine players in school history with 300 or more tackles. A team captain, Byard forced or gained 25 turnovers (19 INT, 5 FF, 1 FR) in 49 career games played.

“This is an incredible honor for any athlete to have their number retired,” says Head Coach Rick Stockstill. “I am very proud of Kevin in what he accomplished here at Middle Tennessee and how he has transitioned into one of the best players in the NFL. More important than his skills as an elite athlete is how he has represented himself, his family, MTSU football and the Titans in a first class manner. KB is very deserving of this honor of having his number hanging in the stadium forever.”

The Lithonia, Georgia native was a first team all-conference selection and an FWAA Freshman All-American while leading the team in interceptions all four years.

“Kevin embodies all of the qualities that warrant having a person’s number retired,” says Athletic Director Chris Massaro. “Kevin is a high character individual who always exhibited a tremendous work ethic. He is a great leader who always gives his all on and off the field. We are very fortunate that Kevin has continued representing our University so well in our local market as a Tennessee Titan. This retirement is in appreciation for all Kevin has done for MTSU and what he continues to do as a Tennessee Titan and beyond.”

Byard was selected with the first pick of the third round in the 2016 NFL Draft by the Tennessee Titans and is now considered one of the top safeties in the NFL. He is a two-time All-Pro pick and was named the team’s Walter Payton Man of the Year winner in 2020 for his work in the community.

From 2017 through 2019, Byard led the NFL with 17 interceptions and in 2020 he led the team and set a career-high with 111 tackles.

NFL Introduces Guardian Caps At First Week Of Training Camp

Photo: Donald Page/Tennessee Titans

With NFL training back in full swing, you may have notice something different on the players helmets this year.

For the first time in training camp, some players from all 32 NFL teams are wearing a padded shell affixed to the outside of their helmets called a Guardian Cap.

In all 2022 preseason practices up until the second preseason game, all offensive linemen, defensive linemen, tight ends and linebackers are required to wear the Guardian Cap, providing additional impact protection during the period when the league sees the greatest concentration of helmet impacts.

Taylor Lewan wearing the new Guardian Cap. Photo: Donald Page/Tennessee Titans

When worn, the Guardian Cap results in at least a 10% reduction in severity of impact if one player is wearing it, and at least a 20% reduction in impact if two players are wearing them.

“There hasn’t been any pushback and really after a day or two, I don’t think anyone’s really noticed. We’ve practiced with them with the early group and think these guys understand how important player safety is,” Titans head coach Mike Vrabel shared in an interview with NFL Network.

In March 2022, NFL clubs voted on and passed a resolution on this requirement. That vote followed consideration and recommendations by the Competition Committee and the Owners’ Health and Safety Advisory Committee, as well as consultation with head coaches around the League. The head coaches on NFL Competition Committee include Vrabel, Frank Reich, Ron Rivera, and Mike Tomlin.

The company that makes Guardian Cap was a recipient of the NFL’s first HeadHealthTECH innovation challenge series in 2017, which aimed to stimulate development of better player safety equipment.

Photo: Donald Page/Tennessee Titans

The model being worn at NFL training camps is not the same model seen on college and high school football fields.

The NFL and NFLPA, through their biomechanical engineering experts, worked collaboratively with the Guardian Cap manufacturer to test and evolve the design of a Cap that specifically withstands impacts NFL players experience on the field–work made possible because of the vast amount of data collected and analyzed from the NFL playing field which helps the league understand the biomechanics of head injury and simulate that in a laboratory environment.

College Corner: Vanderbilt Football, MTSU vs. Memphis, Vanderbilt Basketball

Vanderbilt’s Wright, Bresnahan, Orji Named To Pre-Season Watch Lists

Mike Wright. Photo: Courtesy of Vanderbilt Athletics

College football season is a little over a month away and Vanderbilt standouts Mike Wright, Ben Bresnahan and Anfernee Orji have been named to multiple pre-season watch lists.

Wright earned a spot on the Maxwell Award watch list, given to the player of the year by the Maxwell Football Club, while Bresnahan has been named to the Mackey Award watch list and selected as a nominee for the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team. Orji was picked to the Butkus Award watch list, given to the nation’s best linebacker by the Butkus Foundation.

As quarterback in 2021, Wright eclipsed 1,000 passing yards with eight touchdowns, while also rushing for just shy of 400 yards in five games. In his first collegiate start at South Carolina, he threw for 206 yards and ran for 43 while falling one point shy of a victory.

Bresnahan has appeared in 31 games during his time in Nashville, making 20 starts. In that time, he’s caught 45 passes for 509 yards and four touchdowns. Bresnahan’s most productive season was 2020 when he caught 80 percent of passes thrown to him and was rated as one of the top 10 tight ends in the SEC per pro football focus.

Orji led the Commodores with 93 total tackles a season ago, while also pacing the team with 13 tackles for loss. He started all 12 games and finished 12th in the SEC in total tackles. His 13 tackles in the victory at Colorado State were the most by a Vandy player in a single game last season.



MTSU Football Agrees To Home-And-Home Series With Memphis

Middle Tennessee State University and the University of Memphis have agreed on a home-and-home football series, as announced jointly by both schools on Tuesday (July 26).

The first game is scheduled for Sept. 28, 2024 in Memphis before the two teams square off a second time on Sept. 25, 2027 in Murfreesboro.

“We are very excited to add Middle Tennessee to our future schedules,” says Memphis head football coach Ryan Silverfield. “Anytime you have the opportunity to play an in-state opponent, it makes sense from a recruiting and logistical standpoint. MTSU has a great tradition and we look forward to playing them in years to come.”

The two teams have played 27 times since their very first meeting in 1925 with the Blue Raiders owning a 17-9-1 advantage. The Blue Raiders and Tigers last met during a six-year stretch from 2009 until 2014 with three games in Murfreesboro and three in Memphis.

MTSU finished its 2021 season 7-6 overall and 4-4 in conference with a home record of 4-1. They kickoff the 2022 season on Sept. 3 at James Madison University and at Colorado State on Sept. 10 before returning home to face TSU on Sept. 17.



Vanderbilt To Face St. Mary’s In The Paycom Wooden Legacy Tournament

Photo: Courtesy of Vanderbilt Athletics

Vanderbilt men’s basketball is set to play mid-major powerhouse St. Mary’s at the The Paycom Wooden Legacy in November.

The event, which will be held at the Anaheim Convention Center Arena in California, will begin Nov. 23 with Washington taking on Fresno State before the Commodores battle the 2021 WCC runner-ups on ESPN2. 

The Nov. 24 schedule includes the third-place game on ESPNU followed by the championship game on ESPN2.

In 2021-22, Vandy had one of its best seasons in a number of years behind coach Jerry Stackhouse. They finished the season 19-17, picking up two wins in the SEC Tournament against Georgia and Alabama. They went on to run in the NIT beating Belmont and Dayton before falling to the eventual champions Xavier in the tournament’s quarterfinal.

NFL Launches New Streaming Service NFL+, Replaces NFL Game Pass

Photo: Adrian Curiel

The National Football League is launching an exclusive video streaming subscription service called NFL+ which is available now. NFL+ will replace the NFL Game Pass in the United States.

NFL+ offers fans access to live out-of-market preseason games, live local and primetime regular season and postseason games, live local and national audio for every game, NFL Network shows on-demand, NFL Films archives and more.

“Today marks an important day in the history of the National Football League with the launch of NFL+,” says NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “The passionate and dedicated football fans are the lifeblood of the NFL, and being able to reach and interact with them across multiple platforms is incredibly important to us. We look forward to continuing to grow NFL+ and deepening our relationship with fans across all ages and demographics, providing them access to a tremendous amount of NFL content, including the most valuable content in the media industry: live NFL games.”

The streaming service marks the next evolution of the NFL’s direct-to-consumer offering, building upon what the league developed with NFL Game Pass. With the growth of over the top media services (OTT), NFL+ brings fans the content they want and delivers a marquee direct-to-consumer experience.

NFL+ is available in the NFL App across all app stores. Fans can also upgrade to NFL+ Premium, which offers all of the features of NFL+ as well as full and condensed game replays and the All-22 Coaches Film.

Provided below is a breakdown of the NFL+ and NFL+ Premium products:

  • NFL+
    • Live local and primetime games on mobile and tablet devices
    • Live out-of-market preseason games across all devices
    • Live game audio (home, away and national calls) for every game of the season
    • NFL library programming on-demand (ad-free)
    • $4.99/month or $39.99/year
  • NFL+ Premium (includes features of product formerly known as NFL Game Pass)
    • All features of NFL+
    • Full game replays across devices (ad-free)
    • Condensed game replays across devices (ad-free)
    • Coaches Film including All-22 (ad-free)
    • $9.99/month or $79.99/year

Tennessee State Picked To Finish Fourth In The OVC Ahead Of 2022 Football Season

Courtesy of TSU

The Tennessee State Tigers football team were voted to finish fourth in the upcoming OVC season by the league’s head coaches and communications directors. TSU received 46 points and one first-place vote in the poll.

The Tigers are welcoming back former Heisman Trophy winner and Titans legend Eddie George for his second year as head coach. TSU finished the season with an overall record of 5-6 and a conference record of 3-3

This year, TSU welcomes new quarterback Draylen Ellis, who transferred from Austin Peay. Ellis was named OVC Co-Freshman of the Year in 2020 and last season was a second-team All-OVC pick after passing for 2,626 yards and 19 touchdowns.

Ellis will be teamed with third-year running back Devon Starling, who shared those Freshman of the Year accolades with Ellis in 2020. A year ago, he was named All-OVC and earned Sophomore All-American honors after rushing for 800 yards.

In 2021, the Tigers were efficient offensively, throwing only six interceptions in 11 games, which led the OVC and ranked 17th nationally Defensively, the Tigers placed three players on the Preseason All-OVC team, in Tadarrius Patterson (30 tackles, 5.5 sacks), Teray Jones (15 tackles, 3.5 sacks) and James Green (77 tackles, 1 interception).

Ellis, Starling, Jones, Green, and Patterson, along with wide receiver Zaire Thornton, offensive lineman Robert Lacey and kick returner Dayron Johnson, were named to the 2022 Preseason All-OVC Football Teams.

UT Martin has been picked as the preseason favorites, coming off their 2021 OVC Championship and their first FCS Playoff victory. The Skyhawks picked up 10 of a possible 14 first-place votes.

In addition to the League schedule, OVC schools will collaborate with the Southland Conference in a non-conference scheduling alliance for 2022 and 2023. Beginning in 2023, the OVC and Big South Conference begin an agreement to create an association between its football member institutions. The unique agreement combines the two conferences’ football membership to ensure NCAA championship access and stability, and will provide the institutions a schedule of games against all the teams in their multi-sport conference and additional games against schools from the other conference.

MTSU To Host True Blue Town Hall With Chase McCabe, Jonathan Hutton & Joe Dubin

As part of the upcoming Blue Raider Blitz Tour, Middle Tennessee State University will host a True Blue Town Hall event at Nashville’s Listening Room Cafe on July 20. The evening will feature sports talk radio personalities and MTSU graduates Joe Dubin, Jonathan Hutton and Chase McCabe, as well as MTSU Director of Athletics Chris Massaro.

Moderated by Voice of the Blue Raiders Chip Walters (class of ’85), the Blitz event is set for 6 p.m. with the Town Hall portion getting underway at 6:30 p.m. CT. This event is free and open to the public.

As the world of college athletics continues to change rapidly, the panel will discuss the state of Blue Raider football, NIL, the Transfer Portal, and the many on-going changes in college athletics. Middle Tennessee head coach Rick Stockstill, members of his staff and a handful of student-athletes will also be on hand to talk Blue Raider football prior to the Town Hall portion.

Dubin, class of 1997, was a longtime sports anchor for WSMV and is now the host of “Mornings on Main Street.” McCabe, class of 2012, has spent most of his career with 102.5 The Game, starting off as an intern and working his way up to hosting the station’s midday show and now serving as the station’s program director. Hutton, class of 2006, is currently a co-host on Outkick 360 and was a longtime broadcaster with 104.5 The Zone. He’s worked with Titans Radio and continues to call Middle Tennessee high school football games.

Fans interested in attending can RSVP at to receive a complimentary meal at the Listening Room Café for the night of the event.

2022 Complete Blitz Schedule:
Wednesday, July 20
Franklin— 12-1:30 p.m. at Party Fowl
Nashville — 6-8 p.m. at The Listening Room

Thursday, July 21
Manchester — 12-1:30 p.m. at Boskey’s Grille at Willowbrook Golf Course
Smyrna — 6-8 p.m. at Lee Victory Park

Monday, July 25
Mt. Juliet — 12-1:30 p.m. at The Pub – CP Between the Lakes
Shelbyville — 6-8 p.m. at Bedford County Courthouse

Thursday, July 28
Murfreesboro — 6-8 p.m. at Cannonsburgh Village

Tennessee Titans Name Tito’s As Official Vodka Sponsor

The Tennessee Titans have announced a new, multi-year marketing sponsorship with Tito’s Handmade Vodka that names Tito’s the Official Vodka Sponsor of the Tennessee Titans.

“We are thrilled to welcome Tito’s to the Tennessee Titans family as our official vodka sponsor. We both share a passion for entertainment and creating memories, so teaming up was a natural fit,” says Gil Beverly, Titans Chief Marketing and Revenue Officer. “We are always looking for ways to further elevate our fan experience and establish new opportunities to give back to the community. Joining forces with Tito’s is a perfect way to accomplish those goals.”

Fans will have the opportunity to enjoy a Tito’s-branded South Concourse space, serving delicious craft cocktails. In addition, Love, Tito’s–the philanthropic heart of Tito’s Handmade Vodka–will support Titans Foundation initiatives through Tito’s Turnovers, where the initiative will donate to the foundation for every turnover caused by the Titans, up to $25,000 per season.

“We’re excited to work with the Titans. They’re an incredible organization and our common goal of providing best-in-class experiences for our fans, as well as our shared commitment to giving back to the community, makes this such a great fit!  We’re thrilled to team up and help fans make memories they’ll never forget,” says Michael Calabrese, Field Sales Director at Tito’s Handmade Vodka.

Cumberland Football Voice Tommy Bryan Steps Down, Christian Kaposy Named Successor

Tommy Bryan and Christian Kaposy. Photo: Courtesy of Cumberland University

Cumberland University’s Tommy Bryan is stepping down from his position as the play-by-play voice of CU football and is being replaced with up-and-coming broadcaster Christian Kaposy.

“I just appreciate everything Tommy has done and will continue to do for Cumberland,” says Director of Athletics Ron Pavan. “He has always been great to us both on and off the air. He will still be involved as he is on the Sports Hall of Fame Committee, but we will miss him in the booth.”

Bryan, a Cumberland University Sports Hall of Famer has been calling Cumberland football games for the past 13 seasons alongside Bob Lea. He has called 67 wins over the years, all heard on WANT-FM, WCOR-AM, and the Cumberland Sports Network.

“I appreciate the opportunity Ron Pavan gave me over 13 years ago to call Cumberland football,” Bryan says. “It’s been fun, but always a grind–preparing for a Lebanon game on Friday and a Cumberland game on Saturday. Back in March, I took a long look at the schedule and decided I wasn’t very excited about the prospects of broadcasting the 2022 season,” he adds. “I knew then it was time to step aside and make way for someone younger and more energetic to handle the play by play duties.”

Kaposy, a graduate of Belmont University and a Mt. Juliet native, will take over the play-by-play duties with Lea still working by his side as the color commentator. Kaposy has worked with Titans Radio on 104.5 the Zone and is the founder and lead broadcaster for the Green Hill Sports Network where he calls the high school’s football and basketball games.

During his time at Belmont has worked closely with the Bruins and their ESPN+ teams working on broadcasts for all Belmont sporting events. Kaposy also has experience working with Vanderbilt’s football radio crew as a spotter. Kaposy has served as Cumberland’s basketball public address announcer for the past three seasons.

“Christian is an up-and-coming talent with the experience and education to handle anything that might come his way,” Bryan notes. “I know he will do his homework for every Saturday broadcast of Cumberland football and give his listeners a quality product. He’ll also have the benefit of working alongside my friend Bob–a guy he can lean on.”

“When it comes to football in Wilson County, Tommy Bryan has been at the forefront of it for a long time and we will miss his knowledge and experience at Cumberland,” shares Sports Information Director Kyle Allen. “I am excited for Christian coming in though, I know he will do a great job. He works hard at mastering his craft each day, and will be great along with Bob.”

Bryan remains as the play-by-play voice of Lebanon High football on WANT-FM and WCOR-AM along with Terry Stafford, Lea and Joe Gardner. Bryan and Stafford started working together with Bruce Skeen in covering Blue Devil football in 1986.