NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Mark Howard, who spent 16 years as the co-host of “The Wake Up Zone” on 104.5 The Zone after working as a sports anchor at News Channel 5, passed away Sunday at his Bellevue area home in Nashville.

He was 65.

Mark Howard and Terry Crisp

Mark Howard with Terry Crisp, courtesy of the Predators Foundation.

Howard was a very popular host and with good cause – he was an encyclopedia of sports knowledge with a good sense of humor, willing to laugh at himself. He grew up in Connecticut which split his sports allegiances. He was a die-hard fan of the Yankees and Giants but also of the Bruins.

He was a graduate of Ithaca University.

I’m sure obituaries will more sufficiently cover his background.

I just wanted to touch on what Mark meant to me.

I was, and remain at heart, a newspaper guy. We were friendly when he was a TV guy and I was occasionally his guest on News Channel 5 Plus where there is a sports show every evening, and we connected over our Northeastern roots and Yankee fandom.

When Mark, Frank Wycheck and Kevin Ingram launched “The Wake Up Zone” they brought Nashville sports talk from hokie good-old-boy laugh-a-thons that spent an hour at a time talking Middle Tennessee into a more modern, fun, funny era with game reviews, previews and analysis, mixed with self-aware humor.

They included me a bit at the start and then more and more until I was on for an hour three mornings a week. I got to be part of the conversation and the chemistry and the fun too.

Those were some of the most fun working mornings of my life. I rolled into The Zone parking lot full of anticipation, knowing things were going to crackle.

Once, when Mark was getting fit he was feeling good about the mileage he was walking and said he could walk Wycheck, a former NFL Pro Bowler, into the ground. We feasted on this, setting up a Walk-Off at the downtown YMCA during which Mark pulled a muscle and Wycheck walked to glory.

Their show was a real launching pad for me.

When it turned into my own show, “The Midday 180” with Jonathan Hutton and Chad Withrow on Jan. 9, 2012 I said on the air how grateful I was to those guys for what they did for me. I know Frank liked to take credit for “discovering" me but I wouldn’t have been there if it was not for Mark.

WithMarkHoward

Since The Zone canceled WUZ in August of 2020, I didn’t see Mark the same way I had when we were coming into the studio as they were leaving. I may not have seen him at all.

I texted him a long thanks and tribute after that radio station shake-up – which came at a time when the station needed changes but made the wrong ones.

I was glad that he got to continue to do some work for the Preds for a while beyond that and did some filling in on The Game.

But lately, things had been quieter for him and I know that had to be a tough thing for a guy who had spent so much time in front of cameras and microphones, sharing so much information and opinions.

He was funny in our texts.

I sent him one in June of 2021 telling him about a segment on OutKick 360 where I recapped a weird dream I had: He silently coached a Yankees team including Ron Guidry from under one of his beloved hoodies in a misty rain at a rec field. We psychoanalyzed it on the show but all Mark sent back was a thumbs-up emoji.

But at other times since then he sent more.

He fired me a link to a big remembrance of John Clayton written by Mike Sando and we chatted about the amazing detail in there. He helped me with a question when I needed some perspective on something that predated me. He pointed me to a big shot in the media business who, like me, is a huge Graig Nettles fan. He wished my family a Merry Christmas. He complimented this website. We discussed the Washington Football Team scandal and someone involved. And just recently he expressed excitement when OutKick 360 landed on the radio in Nashville on 94.9 The Fan.

I’ll miss those too-small interactions and the bigger friendship. I’ll be thinking of his sons Jack and Rocco.

Mark Howard was a good man who gave a lot to Nashville and gave a lot to me.

I'm thankful for it all.

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