As Nashville’s first first full-time female sports radio personality, Dawn Davenport never thought she would get to earn that title.
“I set goals, and I knew where I wanted to end up, but I didn’t ever sit and realize where I am. If you would’ve asked if I thought I’d be hosting an afternoon drive sports talk radio show as the only female host in Nashville, I would say no way. You never know where your path will take you.”
Born in Texas but raised in Atlanta, Davenport remembers watching college basketball before she could even hold a ball.
“Sports have always been in my blood,” Davenport said. “I played volleyball for Auburn. Family vacations would involve going to spring training. My dad went to Duke, so we’re all huge Duke fans. Looking back, it’s a neat thing to combine something you love into your career.”
Despite her love for sports, getting into the industry was no easy feat.
“Back in the day, when VHS tapes were still around, you had to have those to put your resume and reels on them,” Davenport reminicised. “I remember going to Walmart and buying a big box of blank VHS’s, putting my reels on them, and sending them out everywhere. I would then drive to local TV stations and pass them my resume tape in person.”
Even when visiting friends in different states, she still made sure to get her name out there.
“My best friend from college lived in Wilmington, North Carolina. When I would go see her, I would also visit those stations to see if I could get a job,” she admitted. “One of the news directors at the ABC affiliate happened to give me a yes. After watching my reel, he told me he didn’t have a sports position for me, but I could do a news reporting job.”
Davenport walked in on her first day and found out a certain position had opened up, and the timing could not have been more perfect.
“No joke, my first day on the job, the second sports person quit,” she laughed. “I ended up never having to actually report news, and I spent two years in North Carolina covering sports. Granted, I wasn’t making money, but I was lucky to learn a lot.”
She knew her experiences before landing the job would not have been possible without the women in the industry who helped her.
“There was a woman who worked at my first internship in Georgia named Jennifer Blossom. She took me under her wing and taught me everything. If it were not for her, I would have never been able to swim in my first job.”
When it comes to female empowerment, Davenport says to find someone who will be your mentor and guide you while you’re making a name for yourself.
“I think every woman in this industry looks back and says there’s one person who helped them get to where they are. It’s very important to help people and give them advice when they need it. You need to find that strong female who will give you that encouragement.”
After working in North Carolina for a couple years, Davenport moved to Richmond, Virginia where she worked in a sports department that eventually received some bad news.
“They decided they were going to cut the sports department. I was the youngest and the newest, so I got laid off,” she sighed. “My news director who I worked for in North Carolina called me and said he was working in Nashville. He told me he had a position for me. It was a number three position in a great market. That was a no-brainer for me considering I had no job.”
It turned out to be an opportunity that Davenport will never forget.
“Looking back, I remember how devastated I was that I lost my job. Everything works out how it’s supposed to. Getting laid off was the best thing that ever happened to me. If it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t have ended up here.”
Davenport currently works as a sideline reporter for SEC network and ESPN. She also works for 104.5 The Zone hosting 3HL alongside Brent Dougherty. Although she thought she wouldn’t stay in Nashville long, she can never see herself leaving.
“I thought I would only be in Nashville for three years max,” she said. “I got here and absolutely fell in love with it. Now I’ve been here almost 14 years. It’s amazing how much it’s changed, but it’s this big city with a small city feel. You can say hi to everyone, and everyone is friendly. Seeing people help each other during the flood and the recent tornado, it really sets Nashville apart.”
She smiled as she talked about the favorite parts of her job, and she knows she picked a good one.
“I sit on a three hour radio show, and we have plenty of time to get deep into subjects. I love how we can establish relationships with our listeners through social media. I love feeling like you have people who are a part of the show. I think I know I’m in the right job if I don’t have a tough part about it.”
Although Davenport is named Nashville’s first female radio host, she feels lucky to have great coworkers who never treated her differently.
“I never thought going into a male-dominated field was something that was going to be difficult,” she said. “But, I would look at jobs in the beginning and think since they already had a woman hired, I wouldn’t get the job. Look down the street at WKRN, who now employs two females in their sports department. We are definitely still making steps, but I am lucky to be treated so well.”
More Nashville Women in Sports Media:
Emily Proud: from the Belmont soccer field to your living room TV.
Lyndsay Rowley’s ‘fork in the road’ that led her to the Nashville Predators.
Featured image via Dawn Davenport