Legendary announcer Rod Bramblett was an Auburn man and the voice of the fan
Bramblett and his wife, Paula, died Saturday from injuries suffered in a car accident
The college sports world was stunned early Sunday morning with. Bramblett, an Auburn graduate, had become the soundtrack of a university that, during his time calling games, experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.
Bramblett's signature moment came on Nov. 30, 2013 when he called the "Kick Six." Chris Davis took a missed field goal back 109 yards with no time remaining to give Auburn a 34-28 win over No. 1 Alabama; the Tigers also earned a berth in the SEC Championship Game and eventually a spot in the BCS Championship Game.
"Auburn's gonna win the football game! Auburn's gonna win the football game! He ran the missed field goal back! He ran it back 109 yards! They're not going to keep them off the field tonight!" Bramblett exclaimed.
It was 10 seconds of play-by-play perfection as he called one of the most incredible plays in college football history. It was total radio professionalism from Bramblett, unrestrained joy for the program he loved at a moment of extreme chaos for which nobody in the radio business could have ever prepared.
That call will live in college football history as one of the greatest of all time. But another moment shortly after he screamed "they're not gonna keep them off the field tonight" always stood out to me -- "Oh my Lord in heaven."
Any fan of any team in any sport can relate to this. It has nothing to do with religion. It has everything to do with exuberance. It came roughly 30 seconds after Davis crossed the goal line, and it was that feeling of finality that everyone experiences at some point. It was reality. It was the recognition that what you thought just happened -- yes, it actually did, indeed, just happen. For Bramblett, it was watching his team -- a team he has been associated with for nearly is entire life (either in media or as a fan) -- pull off one of the more miraculous feats in sports history.
Bramblett was the epitome of what a team play-by-play announcer should be. He was the soundtrack to a team, the voice of the fan, and the person to whom you turn during the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.
Very few fans get to know the voice of their teams. But even if you never get that opportunity, if you listen long enough, you feel like you are personal friends. Bramblett was a master at that.
The people who knew him, myself included, will tell you that he was one of the nicest people on the planet. That's not hyperbole or waxing poetic in the wake of his death. It's truth. Whether it was a simple hello and a conversation about life, insight about the team or advice on the media industry, Bramblett always made time for people because he cared about people.
What might not be discussed about Bramblett is the day-to-day pressure that he was under as the "Voice of the Tigers."
Bramblett worked for the Auburn Sports Network when I was a student in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He primarily called baseball games, and he did have one epic call of David Ross' NCAA regional walk-off homer in 1997 under his belt. For the most part, he did pregame, postgame and studio work while the legendary Jim Fyffe called football and basketball games. Fyffe passed away in May 2003, leading Bramblett to take over as the primary "Voice of the Tigers." He had his dream job, but he had to replace a legend. That's no easy task.
It was Nov. 22, 2003, when Bramblett himself became a legend. The Tigers hosted the Crimson Tide at the end of a trying week on The Plains that, as we later found out, included a clandestine trip by Auburn brass to interview then-Louisville coach Bobby Petrino for the head coaching job that was still occupied by Tommy Tuberville. The tension was thick the entire day leading up to that Saturday night game. Carnell "Cadillac" Williams then cut that tension and kicked off a 60-minute party with an 80-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage in a 28-23 win over the Tide.
"Go crazy, Cadillac," Bramblett belted out at the top of his lungs. "Go crazy! Touchdooooooown Auburrrrrrrn! Eighty yards."
It was then, just like he did with the "Kick Six" a decade later, that Bramblett encapsulated the feeling of his fan base -- complete with Fyffe's signature "Touchdown Auburn" call.
Bramblett was one of us -- a college sports fan. He loved his job, his school and its fans. He was orange and blue, through and through. He replaced a legend, became a legend and left a legacy that will never be forgotten.
"Oh my Lord in heaven."
Heaven received a legend Saturday night. That legend painted with words when he was with us on Earth. Something tells me that he's going to have his hand in painting some of those orange and blue sunsets now that he's gone.
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