With his young son at his side, Kevin Dyson was flipping through TV channels last Sunday when he saw it: A replay of the defining moment of his life — the final play of Super Bowl XXXIV, played on Jan. 30, 2000.
“There’s Daddy right there,” he told his son.
Dyson continued to watch as the NFL Network showed the play repeatedly from several angles in slow motion. Each time the result was agonizingly the same: He catches the ball at the 5-yard line and is tackled by Mike Jones one yard short of a touchdown on the final play of perhaps the greatest Super Bowl ever. Final score: St. Louis Rams 23, Tennessee Titans 16.
Every year about this time he can count on it. The play — which has become known as The Tackle — will turn up on TV, the Internet, newspaper pages and radio shows. Reporters will call asking him to relive each excruciating detail all over again. Dyson, the former Clearfield High and University of Utah football star, deals with it all patiently and politely.
The play has become part of the pop culture. During the 2000 presidential campaign, Al Gore, a senator from Tennessee at the time, said there was at least one Tennessean who wouldn’t come up “one yard short.” In the Tom Hanks movie “Castaway,” the Helen Hunt character refers to the play.
“I was sitting in the theater with my brothers (watching "Castaway") and heard that mentioned,” recalls Dyson. “The crowd started cheering. No one knew I was in there.”
Dyson is philosophical about the attention the play receives. After being taken in the first round of the 1998 NFL draft, he had visions of grandeur — 80-catch seasons, Pro Bowl selections, Super Bowl rings, the Hall of Fame. But circumstances derailed such ambitions — namely, injuries and the Titans’ conservative offensive scheme, which was built to run the ball.
“Not every player has a Hall of Fame career,” says Dyson. “For some of us, it just doesn’t work out due to circumstances. But to have something of a legacy, something you did that is remembered, that’s all you can hope for I get asked about (The Tackle) a lot. It’s cool. I could have something NOT to talk about.”
Actually, Dyson left not one, but three plays that have been accorded legend status. On the penultimate play of Super Bowl XXXIV — one play before The Tackle — quarterback Steve McNair appeared to be sacked only to escape and fire a running bullet to Dyson at the 10-yard line for a 16-yard gain (let’s call it The Scramble). And then there is the Music City Miracle, in which Dyson caught a lateral pass on a kickoff return with 16 seconds left in a wild-card playoff game against the Buffalo Bills. Dyson ran 75 yards for a touchdown, winning the game and starting the Titans’ run to the Super Bowl.
Bleacher Report listed The Tackle No. 5 and the Music City Miracle No. 3 among the 10 most memorable plays in NFL history. Fox Sports and the New York Post listed The Tackle No. 4 among the greatest plays in Super Bowl history.
On a list of the 100 Best NFL Moments Ever, Men’s Health Magazine listed The Tackle at No. 7 and the Music City Miracle No. 4. ESPN listed The Tackle at No. 35 among the 100 most memorable moments in sports in the last 25 years.
On a list of the 100 best Super Bowl plays ever, ESPN placed The Scramble No. 20 and The Tackle No. 2. AskMen listed the Music City Miracle No. 9 among the 10 greatest moments in NFL history.
This week Sports Illustrated posted its top 100 Super Bowl photos. Dyson saw the post. “It was No. 3,” he says, referring to The Tackle.