Seventeen years ago, I sat down in front of the microphone for my first ever radio show. The show was humbly titled ClayNation and aired on Nashville’s 104.5 the Zone sports station. Chad Withrow, now one of the hosts of OutKick 360, was my co-host on that show. We’d met in a bar in Atlanta when we were both in town to watch the SEC title game. Tennessee was taking on LSU, and Withrow said he recognized me from my CBS Sportsline columns and wanted to get me on the radio show he was producing in the city. The Vols, in a trend line that would become all too familiar in the years ahead, lost to LSU in a brutal fashion — a fourth quarter pick six provided LSU’s winning margin — but that meeting in an Atlanta bar led to my first radio show.
Withrow and I were paid $50/day each for the new show, and we eventually sold a presenting sponsorship to Otter’s Chicken Tenders, which any Nashville resident or visitor around my age will remember as the late night chicken tender place next door to the Tin Roof on Demonbreun.
My goal on that first live radio show was simple: say exactly what you think and don’t apologize for it.
And all these years later, I’m still doing the exact same thing.
That ClayNation show was the start of a radio career that took me to middays and then afternoons with Brent Dougherty and Blaine Bishop on Nashville’s 104.5 the Zone. We had a phenomenal time on this show, and after several years of 3HL, which became the highest rated local sports show in the country, I made the decision to leave local Nashville radio. To be fair, Cumulus made this decision easier by offering me a $20 daily raise. But as much as I loved local sports radio, I was ready for a bigger challenge.
So for the past six years, I have been hosting OutKick the Coverage on Fox Sports Radio nationwide in the morning from 6-9 am ET, that’s 5-8 am CT. Given how late many games end, that means I really haven’t slept much for the past six years. But I’m proud of the work we’ve done with the OutKick the Coverage show, which is now the most listened to morning sports radio show in the country and one of the three most listened to sports shows in the country. The past several years working alongside Danny G., Eddie Garcia, Roberto Flores, and Dub Yarborough have been incredibly fun. (Thanks to our original OutKick producer Jason Martin for his work on the show as well.)
During these six years, I’ve loved interacting with all of our listeners across the country. Our connection as a show became even more pronounced over the past year when, even without sports being played, we set all time records for listenership.
As I looked at the data during 2020, the story it told me was clear. As much as people might enjoy my sports opinions, they loved even more when I talked about issues that were, frankly, far more important than sports: my belief in American exceptionalism and the meritocracy, my rejection of cancel culture and identity politics, my repudiation of everything woke in our culture. I’ve always said that sports should be an escape from politics, but increasingly, sports became politics.
I never chose to make sports political — you’ve never heard me take the mic and ask an athlete or team to talk more about politics — but I also haven’t avoided discussing hard issues when they’ve collided with sports or pretended they didn’t exist. In a world where many are terrified of saying what they actually think, I’ve sat down in front of the mic and said exactly what I think on daily radio for over 15 years.
And that’s why my audience has been growing every day for nearly two decades now. For the past six years of OutKick radio, Julie Talbott, Don Martin and Scott Shapiro, the best bosses I’ve ever had, have supported me 100%. Not once have I ever gotten a call asking me to avoid a topic or to be careful about what I was saying on a sensitive issue. All three of them have been absolutely fantastic. My wife, whose counsel I trust more than anyone on the planet, said upon meeting Julie and Don for the first time six years ago, “These people barely know you and they already treat you better than anyone you’ve ever worked for.” She, as usual, was right.
Several months ago, Julie Talbott called me with a question: What did I think about the idea of moving to the Rush Limbaugh time slot? Note, she didn’t say, “What do you think about replacing Rush Limbaugh?” She knows better than anyone that no one will ever replace Rush Limbaugh. No one ever replaces a legend, and Rush Limbaugh was the most influential and listened to radio voice across multiple generations. But the battles Rush fought aren’t ending. If anything, they’re just becoming more intense. And I think intense and rigorous and intelligent debate has never been more important in this country than it is right now.
For the past 15 years of daily radio, I’ve answered the question, “How do you decide what to talk about?” with a simple explanation. Sports is the foundation of our show, but we aren’t restricted to sports alone. As anyone who has ever listened to my shows will tell you, that’s remained true for 15 years. Sports has been the foundation, but it hasn’t been the only topic we discuss.
But for the past several months, I’ve had a new question: what if instead of sports as the foundation for our show, we had a broader mandate, one where I could talk about the biggest issues in America every day for three hours? And what if I could do it for the biggest audience in radio with complete editorial freedom and support?
I spent a lot of time thinking about this question and wrestling with the choice. I love my sports radio show, and it’s always hard to leave something you love. But I also loved my local show at 104.5 the Zone, and I loved my column at CBS Sportsline as well. Sometimes, truth be told, you have to leave something you love so that you can grow. And ultimately, I made the decision that my radio voice is more valuable talking about the issues facing the country today than it is talking about who won a game the night before.
So tomorrow will be my final OutKick the Coverage radio show on Fox Sports Radio. I look forward to talking with all of you one last time, and I’m hopeful the phones will even work and allow us to hear from you all as well.
I understand some of you will be upset by my decision, and I respect your opinions. But if I’d worried about what other people think, I’d still be a practicing attorney and I never would have entered media in the first place. In the end, all of us have to make the decisions that are best for ourselves and our immediate families. And let me tell you, my family is really pumped about this new radio show. This morning, as I was writing this column, I took a break to go talk with my ten-year-old. I asked him what he thought about my new radio show, and — and I swear this is 100% true — he said, “I really don’t care, Dad. When can we play Wiffle ball today?”
So as you can see, my family is just as excited about this new show as I am.
For those of you who care more about my career than my son, I’m going to continue to write at OutKick, do a daily OutKick the Show, and do Fox Bet Live on FS1. So those things aren’t changing. And when sports are one of the top stories in the country, guess what, I’ll still be talking about them on the new show too. Our mandate is simple: talk about the biggest stories in America every day in a smart, original, funny and authentic way.
In other words, I’ll keep doing what I’m already doing, just with a bigger mandate and a bigger canvas.
Ultimately, this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
So beginning in June, instead of hearing me daily on Fox Sports Radio nationwide, you will be hearing me from 12-3 Eastern every day, on the largest radio show network in the country. And I’ll be joined by co-host Buck Sexton, whom I believe many of you will come to love as well. This is a secret both of us have been keeping quiet for months now. We’ve even done secret mock shows with each other in addition to the daily shows we’ve been doing. Trust me on this, Buck is fantastic, and we are going to have the best daily conversations anywhere on radio. I’m 100% confident of this fact.
Between the new radio show and OutKick being sold to Fox, I’ve been in the midst of daily negotiations for months. I’m ready for all of those to be over now and to get back to focusing on the daily work. (Thanks to Edward Hartman at Fox, in particular, for helping to assure this radio deal happened. Fox is extremely excited about the new show as well, and I’ll be on Tucker Carlson to discuss the new show tonight, which serves as a perfect plug for Fox News.)
Finally, I’d like to thank all of you who have come along for this wild OutKick journey. Some of you have been listening to me since those first nightly ClayNation radio shows. You have made all of this possible, and I hope most of you will come along for the ride on the new show.
One of my idols as a kid was Tennessee explorer Davy Crockett. And Davy Crockett’s life motto was “Be sure you’re right and then go ahead.”
I think about that motto all the time. And I’ve added my own coda to this, which is necessary in our new woke culture: “And don’t worry about who follows you.”
Unfortunately in our modern woke culture, most people don’t make their own bold choices. They think about what they’re supposed to say or what they’re supposed to believe, and then they seek, like sheep, to follow the lead of the woke masses. I’ve never done that, and I never will.
And to my OutKick VIP members and those considering joining, I’m leaving it up to you to continue to fight the fight against mainstream non-sense. If you’re looking to speak your mind regardless of the consequences and leave woke sports media in the dust, OutKick VIP is the place for you. Click here to join today.
After much contemplation, I’m sure I’m right and now I’m going ahead.
See you on June 21st.