Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- He is the rowdy voice, if not the face, of Monday Night Football.
And during the intro to this week's telecast, the lyrics of his "All My Rowdy Friends are Comin' Over Tonight" will include this:
The Colts and Titans LIGHT UP the marquee
It's gonna get nasty in ole' Tennessee
We're gonna blow the roof off Nashville tonight
Tennessee's own Hank Williams Jr. will also sing the national anthem at LP Field before the Colts and Titans kickoff.
I had a winding 10 minute phone conversation with him recently, during which he talked about being a Steelers fan first and a Titans fan second, recounted his friendships with players like Ken Stabler and Derrick Thomas and talked proudly of his association with Monday night telecasts.
"It's the ultimate," he said. "I've got some awards in cases. But when we visit a hospital or something and a 10-year old says, 'Oh my God, you're the Monday night man,' that is the supreme award right there. How could you imagine a one-year deal was going to turn into, in the words of Al Michaels, an American signature?
"I'm not sure I can explain it. People love their football and that song is the song that people are waiting to hear when that game starts. It's just one of those magical things. They probably know that I am into it, that I enjoy what I am doing instead of 'Oh, God, another one of those.' That ain't the way it works."
Colts center Jeff Saturday still listens to Williams sometimes, but not as often as he did when he was a high school wrestler looking to get pumped up for a match.
"I've been to a couple of his shows and he threw some good ones down in Atlanta," Saturday said. "When you are growing up I think you can relate to a lot of his tougher man songs, 'Country Boy Can Survive.' You can connect with struggling and fighting through things."
Tennessee quarterback Kerry Collins hopes to get a chance to say hello to Williams before or after the game.
"That would be cool, I'm a big fan," Collins said. "My favorite song is 'Family Tradition,' without question. I think the line, 'I have loved some ladies, I have loved Jim Beam, they both tried to kill me in 1973' that's one of the greatest lines ever in a country song. I just like what he's all about. It's kind of that outlaw deal."
"We're going to do that," Williams said of meeting Collins. "We might even get some guitar lessons worked in."
Williams is still that outlaw, but he concedes he's settled down and is now more in line with his 1981 hit, "All My Rowdy Friends (Have Settled Down)."
"I'm in Henry County, Tennessee, I take an 11-year old to school about every morning, and I do a mile-and-a-quarter with two Labradors," he said. "I'm out there with the McCain-Palin camp. You can't do what I do and my kind of regimen and not be taking care of yourself pretty good. I like my cigars, like I am having right now, and I still like to go to training camps."
His daily walk and the time he spends hunting and fishing qualify as quality creative time, he said.
He's connected to a younger crowd through a close relationship with Kid Rock, proudly pointing out that on Kid Rock's album titled "American Bad Ass" he's mentioned in four different songs.
Williams was with Kid Rock when Titans reserve offensive lineman Daniel Loper met him at Agave, a Nashville nightspot.
"He seemed like a real nice guy, down to earth, and apparently a country boy can survive," Loper said. "His family is the cornerstone of country music. A lot of my years growing up were listening to Hank Junior. I have a lot of favorites, but the best song hands down is 'Country Boy Can Survive.'"
Williams didn't offer much when asked to review the state of rebel country mainstream music these days.
He's currently recording an album he promises "is going to be completely loaded" and willingly listed artists he enjoys: Steve Earle and Lucinda Williams, whose work is regarded by some critics as following in the tradition of Hank Williams Sr., and more mainstream country artists like Alan Jackson, Kenny Chesney and Brad Paisley.
He lists all of his kids when he's asked about Holly Williams, but she's a recording artist and he said he can envision her taking over for him on Monday nights some day.
"I'm all for it, why not?" he said. "I taught her to aim high, so why not?"