In my mid-teens I worked odd hours — weekends, holidays and anytime nobody else wanted to work — at WGEA radio in Geneva, Alabama. In the fall of the year, we broadcast the Auburn college football games thanks to a complicated setup that involved re-broadcasting the play-by-play of the game from a radio station in Andalusia that carried the game from the Auburn network of stations.
We had an antenna and FM receiver tuned to the Andalusia station that was wired into our control board. We would monitor the other station to start the live coverage of the Auburn game on our station.
There was one big problem. We had to listen to the Andalusia station to make sure we didn't let their announcer inadvertently get on our air with their call letters (WCTA if I remember correctly) instead of WGEA. All the while we had to be playing our local Auburn sponsors' commercials. WHEW! That was a lot to ask a 16-year-old to do.
Back in those days, you had many familiar voices on the radio carrying Auburn football. I think the first voices I heard were Buddy Rutledge and Charlie Davis. Buddy did the play-by-play and Charlie handled the color portion of the broadcast.
I remember a friend of mine at the radio station in Geneva doing his best imitation of Buddy calling a make-believe Auburn vs. Alabama game. It went something like this when Auburn had the ball:
"There's the handoff to the Auburn running back ... he hits the line hard ... fighting for yardage ... dodging the Alabama linebackers ... dragging a big Alabama lineman with him ... and he picks up about one yard."
When Alabama had the ball, Buddy's call went this way:
"The Alabama running back takes the hand-off ... falls forward and picks up 11 yards."
But you've got to remember these Auburn announcers were AUBURN through and through!
Fast forward to 1981.
By the time I had graduated from college, worked a spell in Dothan and put in another five years at WSFA in Montgomery, Jim Fyffe was hired as the voice of Auburn football and basketball. Jim did an outstanding job. He gave us his iconic "TOUCHDOWN AUBURN!" and brought a certain energy to the press box over 22 seasons.
I remember distinctly the day the men and women of the state's sports community attended Jim's funeral. A who's who of broadcasters, Auburn fans, friends and, most importantly, family members filled the sanctuary at Montgomery's First United Methodist Church to pay their respects to Jim, who died after suffering a brain aneurism at age 57.
I had no idea that the man who would replace him behind the microphone in the press box and at courtside would also leave us so prematurely.
When I heard the news of the deaths of Rod Bramblett and his wife, Paula, it caught me completely off guard. It was so hard to believe — he was only 53 years old and she was just 52 — both killed in an auto wreck.
I was grateful that we had Rod on the radio ... especially when I got tired of listening to national television announcers who struggled mightily to get even the basics correct. I would turn down the audio on the TV, flip on the radio and relax knowing Rod was there for all the Auburn fans.
I'll always remember his legendary calls like the "Go crazy, Cadillac" when Carnell "Cadillac" Williams ran the first play of the 2003 Iron Bowl 80 yards for a touchdown — leaving Bama fans in shock.
Who could forget Rod's once-in-a-career call of the "Kick Six" when with :01 left on the clock, Auburn's Chris Davis ran a missed field goal back 109 yards to win the 2013 Iron Bowl.
And, yes Rod, as you predicted, they didn't keep the fans off the field at Jordan-Hare that night.
Thanks for all the calls ... and the ones you should have made had not your life and the life of your wife been cut so short.