At first, I chose not to write this article as I didn’t know if I could honor a legend in the right way. The more I thought about it, the more I thought about how John Ward would’ve wanted me too on the adage that you need to take every opportunity you can get and run with it. Being born in 1996 and with John retiring officially after the 1999 basketball season, most would say I don’t know who John is. Well with the power of YouTube where a lot of John’s broadcasts are and thanks to Vol For Life Films, I’ve heard him more than you might think.
John Ward was everything to Tennessee fans, especially in East Tennessee. When a fan didn’t have the opportunity to go to a game, it was straight to the closest radio and his voice would be the one to greet them, “Hello everyone, this is John Ward of the VolNetwork.” He would describe everything down to the last detail. He and the late Bill Anderson, the late color guy that sat next to John in the Neyland Stadium press box for three decades, would be overly homer for Tennessee without going overboard. You knew who they wanted to win and they never made the game about themselves. Those two were the best broadcasting duo that may ever grace this Earth. His storied calls are quotes that will be remembered forever, and they will be something I will show my kids someday:
“Did he make it? The crowd tells you. GOOD-AH JOB!” – Georgia vs Tennessee, 1995
“Give. Him. Six!!!” – after every touchdown Tennessee scored for over three decades
“Bottom! Bang!” – words tossed around in basketball broadcasts for Tennessee basketball
Or two of the most remembered calls:
“It’s Football Time in Tennessee!”
“No sir ree. No. Sir. Ree!! FINAL SCORE: Tennessee 20, Florida 17!! PANDEMONIUM REGINS!”
“You can count it down with us. Five…four…three…two…one…the National Champions are clad IN BIG ORANGE.”
John is someone that will never be replaced. He is someone that many broadcasters, including myself as I work to get started in the industry turned to his broadcasts to get some inspiration and maybe model a career after. If I get to have half as great of career as John’s was, I’ll truly be blessed.
As I finish, I have one John Ward story that I’m really blessed to have. I had a couple of high school coaches that knew I wanted to be a radio play-by-play broadcaster. When I was in high school, I really got into watching old Tennessee games that are all over YouTube, some even have John Ward’s voice taped over the television broadcasters. Occasionally, my coaches would ask me to give them a little John Ward and sometimes it’d be in the middle of class. The room would go quiet and all eyes were on me at that point. To be able to imitate the voice of a legend, mostly in front of people that had never heard of John Ward and what type of status he held was truly an honor.
Thank you, John. Tell Pat and Bill Anderson we said hello. Today, the heavens are truly clad in Big Orange.