Lightning in a bottle
Dave South, the 'Voice of Texas A&M,' calls games with emotion, spirit
Published: Thursday, September 12, 2013
Updated: Thursday, September 12, 2013 23:09
Near the press box of Texas A&M’s Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park there is an office — pitch black and seemingly unoccupied. While players and coaches are practicing on the field below it, the room holds a lone, legendary occupant.
Laying on the floor of this room is a 68-year-old man who’s head is propped up by a pillow he keeps for times like these. He closes his eyes and listens. In the background plays game after game after game. Not a live game, but replays from the previous football season.
Imagining every tackle and touchdown, the “Voice of Texas A&M” is critiquing his every word in anticipation of another football season.
“I grew up listening to Southwest Conference football on the radio. It’s all in your imagination,” said play-by-play radio commentator Dave South. “I hope what I’m conveying, you can see. That’s why sometimes I’ll come in and I have a pillow. I’ll lay down and I put the game on the computer. I try to visualize what I’m saying to make sure it comes across the way I want it to come across.”
For 28 years South has been synonymous with Aggie sports and the memorable calls that have followed and defined Texas A&M from the Southwest Conference to the Big 12 and into the Southeastern Conference.
The first calls
Originally from Wichita Falls, South was calling college football for a network company when he was contacted by Texas A&M in 1985. South agreed to replace the previous play-by-play commentator for a year. If he liked it they would discuss the future
“If I didn’t like it they could find someone else in ’86,” South said. “I told them I had always liked Texas A&M. I used to come down and watch basketball when I didn’t have a basketball game in the 70s. My wife’s father went to A&M and I had friends who went to A&M.”
The 1985 season was historic for the A&M program and hooked South. The Aggies won the Southwest Conference Championship and went to the Cotton Bowl.
That was where South’s first great call happened as A&M stuffed Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson on the goal line and defeated the Auburn Tigers 36-16.
“I remember the first time I heard him on radio was when I watched a season recap of the ’85 team that won the Southwest Conference and had the goal line stand on Bo Jackson,” said Will Johnson, Texas A&M Sports Network sideline reporter and 12th Man TV host.
South was on board and began to develop his own style as the seasons passed. He found that his emotion was his greatest asset and it jumped through the speakers when he was on the mic.
“I get excited,” South said. “If I can’t get excited about it, I want A&M to win. People say all the time that they can tune in and hear it in my voice whether we are ahead or behind. I don’t go do a broadcast with the mindset that we’re going to lose. The whole thing is to win and I get disappointed if we don’t.”
That excitement quickly made him a fan favorite and a recognizable figure around A&M with former and current students alike, reciting some of his most memorable calls.
“The excitement you can hear in his voice just brings back the excitement and joy of winning every time I hear it again,” said Chris Miller, Class of 1999. “I think he will be hard to replace. Every Aggie who hears his voice on the radio knows that he’s calling an Aggie game and you can tell he really wants them to do good.”
South, his partner Dave Elmendorf and the rest of the gameday broadcast have been accused of being “homers” due to South’s excitement when A&M makes a play, but that’s something Elmendorf says gets overanalyzed
“We are the Aggie Radio Network, who else would we be rooting for?” Elmendorf said. “We don’t want to sound as if we are unfairly rooting for the Aggies. We try to temper that with reality and being fair to the other team. I think we do that very well.”
“He got a touchdown”
In 1998 under head coach R.C. Slocum, the Aggies made it to the Big 12 Championship game in St. Louis, Mo. Taking on favorite Kansas State, who was expected to advance to the national championship game with a win, A&M dug themselves an early hole.
A flourished comeback drove the game to a double overtime. On third and 17, quarterback Branndon Stewart threw a pass to receiver Sirr Parker who ran a simple slant route. The rest was history.
“They snap it, gonna throw here to Parker,” South said on the call. “At the 20, at the 15, at the 10, at the five. He is almost… He got a touchdown! He got a touchdown! He got a touchdown! He got a touchdown! He got it in, he got it in, he got it in! Oh doctor!”
South said he has fans come up to him asking for a recreation of the call that has been played at A&M football games countless times since, but that it’s something that simply can’t be recreated.
“That just came at the spur of the moment,” South said. “That’s all there was to it. People ask me to recreate it. I can’t recreate that because of the emotion. When Sirr Parker went in, the emotion of that … everything just broke loose. The radio booth broke loose. Our president at that time, Dr. Ray Bowen, was laying down at one moment on the field doing snow angels.”