Music City takes center stage as host of NFL draft
NASHVILLE, Tennessee — Country music star Tim McGraw watched as Philadelphia hosted the NFL draft in 2017 with more than 250,000 people on hand and immediately had a vision of how to make the three-day event even better.
Bring it to Nashville and add the Music City touch.
“My first thought was, ‘Man I’d love to be down there and do a big concert right in the middle of Broadway down there with the stadium as a backdrop for the weekend of the draft,’” McGraw said. “I just thought it was something very special and I wanted to be involved with it. And I wanted to get it here.”
McGraw will cap Friday night performing on the draft stage across the Cumberland River from Nissan Stadium, home of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans.
McGraw sat down with coach Mike Vrabel and the Associated Press at the Titans’ practice facility for a conversation about why hosting the NFL draft means so much to Nashville, a country music town that has grown by leaps and bounds since the late Bud Adams first talked of bringing his Houston Oilers to Tennessee in 1995.
That’s when McGraw was first breaking out as a country artist, his own dreams of playing professional baseball ended by a knee injury, traded for a guitar.
Vrabel was finishing his college career as an All-American at Ohio State, while McGraw played the honky tonks on Broadway and Printer’s Alley before he started touring.
“As the stadium was going up, it just really filled everybody with a tremendous amount of pride and expectation having an NFL football team come to your place, and then to take over that side of the river and make it a place that’s a destination and make it something that really, really beautifies the city and makes the city look like a big city,” McGraw said. “And I think that for me anyway, I couldn’t be more excited about it.
“I mean every day you’d see it go further and further up, and you just couldn’t wait for the first games to be played there.”
An Ohio native and Cleveland Browns fan, Vrabel was aware that the Oilers were looking for a new home. He even played as a rookie with Pittsburgh in the Oilers’ last game in Memphis as nomadic lame ducks in 1997. He was with the Steelers in 1999 for a visit to the renamed Titans’ brand-new stadium.
“I remember the industrial feel, the red beams stood out,” Vrabel said. “I remember the skyline in the background.”
McGraw chimed in: “The crowd noise?”
Nope. Vrabel just remembers the beams.
“That was a new sight for me, I think, just playing in some older stadiums when I got into the league, or college stadiums,” Vrabel said. “This seemed to have a real new urban feel to it with the bright red beams.”
McGraw’s investment in football continued to grow when he joined Adams as a minority owner of the Arena League’s Nashville Kats in late 2004. Now the Louisiana native is a three-time Grammy-winning artist who has sold more than 37 million albums in the U.S. alone, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. Some of his biggest hits include “Humble and Kind,” “Live Like You Were Dying,” “Don’t Take The Girl,” and “Highway Don’t Care.” McGraw is also an actor, appearing in movies such as “Friday Night Lights” and “The Blind Side.”