Chris Low remembers staying up late to pick up a spotty 990 WNOX in his childhood Rock Hill, South Carolina home to listen to John Ward call a Tennessee game.
The son of a Tennessee graduate, Low already had plenty of reason to attend UT, but those late nights listening to Ward elegantly paint a vivid picture with his legendary voice was among the biggest reasons.
“I grew up in the Carolinas,” Low recalled. “Back then you didn’t see Tennessee play in the Carolinas, there was no cable. I listened to John Ward. That was sort of my introduction to Tennessee was listening to John Ward. You could get 990 WNOX at night.
“That’s where I fell in love with Tennessee, listening to John Ward call basketball and football games at night.”
Like many before and after, that love lead Low to Knoxville in the fall of 1983, where he had hopes of following in the footsteps of Ward by pursuing a career in broadcasting at the University of Tennessee.
His sophomore year, he got his feet wet on the print side of journalism, joining the staff of the Daily Beacon.
The relationships built in the newsroom there have persisted throughout the years, even playing a part in him landing a job with ESPN years later.
“I didn’t start working for the Beacon until my second year,” Low said. “My (senior) year I was the sports editor. I worked with some great people there; I worked with Joe Wojciechowski who is at ESPN. Joe is probably most responsible for me getting my foot in the door at ESPN back in 2003.
“Joe is a great friend, and I’ll always be indebted to him for that.”
But before covering college football and breaking big stories for the World Wide Leader in Sports, Low covered Tennessee athletics for the Beacon.
It was at the Beacon that Low recalls some of his greatest memories, particularly from the Vols 1985 SEC championship season.
“The ‘85 SEC Championship season was magical,” Low said. “I think the two moments in that season that stuck out to me the most are Dale Jones’ interception at Legion Field in the win over Alabama, and then, the Sugar Bowl where Tennessee just absolutely took it to Miami.”
His memories weren't just limited to the press box or on the field, they were also made in the Beacon newsroom.
The newsroom is where he met Jane Pope, the director of student publications.
Pope had a profound effect on Low and their relationship is one he still cherishes years later.
"Jane Pope was so good to me," Low said. "She believed in me. I'll never be able to thank her enough for what she did for me. It was those types of people that I am still so thankful for."
During his career, Low estimates that he’s been to more than 50 college football stadiums at least once, covering a lot of games from a lot of different press boxes in that time. But of all the venues, coaches, players and moments that he has experienced, the one that he remembers the most harkens back to his own Tennessee roots; the Vols’ 23-17 triumph over No. 2 Florida State in the 1998 BCS National Championship Game.
For Low, who covered the team for the Tennessean at the time, that win meant something to everyone associated with the university and the state.
“I’d say my best memory is the 1998 national championship Tennessee won out there in (Arizona),” Low said. “That’s probably right there at the top. It was big, not just for the players, not just the coaches but to see the passion, the excitement, the emotion.
“The whole state rallied around that team. It really captured the imagination of the state, certainly for everybody whoever stepped foot on that campus.”
As Low reflects on a rewarding career that began as a student at UT, his faith reminds him of how grateful he is for the opportunities, experiences and most importantly, the people he’s encountered along the way.
“It’s such a blessing to do what I do for a living,” Low said. “I remind myself that every time I go somewhere. I love going new places that I haven’t been before. I’ve been everywhere in the SEC, but that to me is the best part of it, to get to soak up a new gameday experience.
“You don’t take that for granted, you don’t take those experiences, and the people you meet along the way and the memories you create, I really try to remind myself not to take those things for granted.”
From the Superdome in New Orleans on New Year's Eve, 1986, to Sun Devi Stadium in Tempe, Arizona to witness Tennessee make history in 1998 and everywhere else in between, Low is most grateful to the University of Tennessee.
His decision to attend school there is one he'll never regret.
"I had a great experience at the University of Tennessee," Low said. "I wouldn't do it over again for all of the money in the world. If I had to do it over again, I would go to Tennessee every time.
"The thing that made it so special there were all of the people I met."