Ravenwood’s football players have a nickname for their special teams coordinator, Alan Lowry.
“They always refer to him as the G.O.A.T., the greatest of all-time,” Raptors coach Matt Daniels said. “I love that. I hear some of our seniors at the end of the year, ‘Where is the G.O.A.T.?’ They just have a special level of respect for him.”
Lowry, who just finished his fourth year as a Ravenwood volunteer assistant, earned that respect after five decades as a player and a coach.
He is most well known as the architect of the Music City Miracle, the last-second kickoff return that won a playoff game for the Titans 20 seasons ago.
Lowry, 69, was also the Cotton Bowl offensive MVP for Texas in 1973 and the special teams coach for San Francisco when it won the Super Bowl in 1995.
He coached in college for three teams from 1973-81 before moving on to the NFL for four teams from 1982-2012.
The 45-year veteran said there are “a ton” of differences between coaching NFL and high school players.
“The first thing I told (the Ravenwood players) was I probably learned more from them because I had to learn that it wasn’t their job,” Lowry said. “They’ve got all kinds of other things that they have to concentrate on and it’s not their livelihood, but yet you want them to have fun doing it, enjoy the game and learn it.”
Lowry said most high school special teams are different whereas NFL teams are similar.
Former Raptors coach Richie Wessman and ex-freshman coach Al Smith lured Lowry to Ravenwood in 2016.
“I had worked with them at the Titans,” Lowry said. “They asked me if I’d just help out and then it became a little bit more than just helping out.”
Wessman had been an offensive quality control coach and Smith was a front-office executive with the Titans.
Lowry works with David Akers, a six-time pro Bowl kicker, on the Raptors’ special teams. Akers’ son, Luke, signed with UCLA on Dec. 18.
“He’s got a chance, I think, to be very good,” said Lowry, a former punter, quarterback and defensive back at Texas. “I think they’ll like what they get.”
Lowry helped lead Ravenwood (13-2) to a runner-up finish in Class 6A after a 42-21 loss to Maryville (15-0) in the championship as the Rebels won their 17th state title on Dec. 7.
“After we lost to Brentwood (in September), they could have folded the tent, but they didn’t do that and we were able to beat Brentwood in the playoffs,” Lowry said. “I was really happy for (the players) to go as far as they did.”
Lowry was an assistant with the 49ers from 1992-95, capped by San Francisco’s 49-26 win over San Diego in Super Bowl XXIX. It was the only Super Bowl between teams from the same state.
Quarterback Steve Young and wide receiver Jerry Rice led the Niners to their fifth title.
“I tell people that I actually loved to just go out and watch practice with those guys because they were so good that just watching practice was fun,” Lowry said.
Lowry finished his NFL career with the Houston Oilers and Tennessee Titans from 1996-2012.
He orchestrated the Home Run Throwback, the dramatic kickoff return that rallied the Titans to a stunning comeback win over Buffalo with three seconds left in the AFC Wild Card game on Jan. 8, 2000.
He developed the play 18 years earlier, but didn’t use it until that moment against the Bills.
“I got it, actually, from SMU,” Lowry said. “I was at the Dallas Cowboys and SMU used it to beat Texas Tech one year and I went over and talked to them about it. And then I adapted it to our personnel and how we would do it. Thank goodness it worked.”
Kevin Dyson completed the play with a touchdown down the Titans’ sideline even though someone else was supposed to be in there for him.
“We had two guys get injured,” Lowry said. “Derrick Mason had a concussion and Anthony Dorsett, who had practiced the play, had cramps so neither one of them could go. So Kevin, who had never practiced the play, ended up going out there and scoring on the play.”
Lorenzo Neal fielded a short kick at the Titans’ 24-yard line, where he handed off to Frank Wycheck. The tight end ran right before lateralling the ball to Dyson on the opposite sideline.
Running behind a wall of blockers, Dyson raced to the end zone for a 22-16 win.
It was a devastating loss for Buffalo, which took a 16-15 lead on Steve Christie’s 41-yard field goal with 16 seconds left.
“When we decided, okay, this is what we’re doing, I took the 10 guys and (Titans coach) Jeff (Fisher) took Kevin and just went through all the what ifs with him,” Lowry said. “The fact that he was able to get in the right place and be there to have that happen is a huge tribute to Kevin.”
The ABC television broadcasters initially thought Wycheck threw a forward lateral before changing their minds after watching several replays. Many Buffalo fans, to this day, swear it was a forward lateral.
“The reason I though he had done it the right way is was because Kevin caught the ball, actually, going backwards,” Lowry said. “But I didn’t realize Kevin had actually got in front of Frank and then had to come back to catch the ball. If anything, it was slightly backwards or just straight down the (25-yard) line. Either one of them is fine.”
Lowry has a satellite photo of the play at his home in Franklin to commemorate the win.
Dyson started the play near the Bills’ sideline and ran to the opposite sideline on the west side of Adelphia Coliseum, the stadium’s name back then.
“The one thing we had to do is fool one guy, for sure, on Buffalo’s team,” Lowry said. “Their contain guy went as hard as he could for the ball (when Wycheck had it). That let us set up the wall that we had.”
Some fans at the stadium missed the thrilling finish because they thought the game was over when Christie’s field goal sailed through the uprights.
“My oldest daughter was in the bathroom crying because she thought we had lost,” Lowry said. “My wife was sitting in her seat with her head down in her lap and didn’t see it until it was almost over.”
After referee Phil Luckett watched the replay and ruled the return was a TD, Lowry couldn’t celebrate because he had to get the Titans’ kickoff team on the field.
Celebrations erupted all over Nashville.
“I’ve got a friend that was driving into town and listening to it on the radio and was at a red light,” Lowry said. “All of a sudden, everybody at the light just put their cars in park and started honking their horns and went nuts, just going crazy.”
Lowry kidded that there were 200,000 people at the game because everybody from Nashville claims to have been at the stadium that day.
The stunning finish was the signature moment in Lowry’s career, but a low point for Bills special teams coach Bruce DeHaven. Lowry and DeHaven were close friends.
“He ended up getting fired after that game for really no reason at all,” Lowry said. “A couple of years ago he passed away, he had a bout with cancer. But Bruce was a tremendous guy and a really good coach, and I hated to see that happen to him.”
Tennessee went on to the Super Bowl as Dyson was tackled 1 yard short of the end zone on the final play on a pass from Steve McNair in a 23-16 loss to St. Louis.
The Titans ran the Home Run Throwback one more time a few years later at Jacksonville, but the kickoff went 8 yards into the end zone and it didn’t work.
Lowry coached the secondary, wide receivers and tight ends early in his career.
Daniels and Lowry worked on special teams together in 2016 before Daniels was promoted to head coach the following year.
Both coaches played high school football decades apart near Dallas: Lowry at Irving and Daniels at Carroll.
Daniels likes trick plays, so he’s learned a lot from his veteran special teams coordinator.
“It was a no-brainer for me when I became the head coach to keep him on as long as he was willing to help out,” Daniels said. “It’s been great and amazing for our kids. They know what he’s been though and done at the highest level. There aren’t too many game situations that he hasn’t seen.”