For the third time in the past four years, Tom Taylor has been named the Virginia Broadcaster of the Year. Ned Jilton II photo.
KINGSPORT — For the third time in the past four years, Tom Taylor has been named the Virginia Broadcaster of the Year.
It’s a pretty neat trick considering Taylor broadcasts games for Sullivan South, a Tennessee school.
“We sent in a tape of our football game at Gate City and that qualified us for the Virginia competition,” said Taylor, who broadcasts South sports on WPWT (100.7 FM, 870 AM). “I think it’s pretty cool that a Tennessee school would be the winner among all the schools in Virginia.”
The three Virginia awards added to three Associated Press awards that Taylor has won in Tennessee make him one of the top sports announcers in both states.
“I’ve got a great team, especially for the South football games," he said. "Jeremy Osborne and Andy Creech really know their stuff. I truly believe we have the best high school broadcast team around.”
Taylor has come a long way from his humble beginnings as a stat guy on the Marshall University campus radio station.
“I was awful doing the stats during halftime,” joked Taylor, a Marshall grad. “But that’s how you learn, by the seat of your pants.
“I really liked doing it and wanted to do more.”
That more led him to doing high school games in Florida and then moving on to the college level, where he broadcast games at Marshall, The Citadel and East Tennessee State University.
His work at ETSU led to a life-changing experience.
Taylor was on the ETSU basketball charter flight that crashed in a field in Alabama during the mid-1980s. Everyone got out alive, but Taylor’s life was forever altered.
“It was the first time I’d ever been on an airplane. Trust me, those last 15 minutes before we crashed was really something," he said.
“When you’re not sure whether you’re going to make it out alive, your mind can really get to racing,” said Taylor. “It really changed me. I felt like God was trying to get my attention.
“I believe he was telling me that it was time for this cowboy to make some changes.”
Eventually, Taylor moved over to broadcast Dobyns-Bennett sports, which he did for 20 years, before heading to South, where he’s been for the past six seasons.
He has honed his craft at every stop along the way.
“There are dues to be paid in this business," he said. "I’ve had the good fortune to learn from some very fine broadcasters.”
Taylor spent a couple of sessions with the iconic John Ward, who lit up the airways with his broadcasting of the University of Tennessee football and basketball games.
“I got to pick his brain a few times,” Taylor said of his visits with Ward. “He gave me some very good pointers and I continue to adapt them to my career.”
The key for a successful radio broadcast?
“You’ve got to paint the picture,” said Taylor. “And you have to do it with passion.
“Something that is gratifying to me is to see folks at a game that I’m broadcasting listening to me on the radio. They’re seeing the game for themselves, but listening to me describe it. That’s pretty neat.”
Taylor has learned over the years how to make the transition from football to basketball to baseball.
“Football is very methodical. Run the play, go back in the huddle, run another play, go back in the huddle again.
“Basketball is like a track meet, you just have to follow the ball as best as you can.”
“There’s so much down time in baseball that you have a chance to let your personality come out. You can have more fun with the broadcast.”
One thing that is a constant for Taylor is the young athletes whose games he calls.
“You can never forget that for most of these kids this is as big as it will ever get," he said. "It’s their Super Bowl and their World Series.
“You have to respect that they are playing for the love of the games and because they really want to be out there. You can’t ever forget that.”
After surviving a plane crash, Taylor truly has things in perspective.
“You can’t take things too seriously,” he said. “These are high schools games. The outcome doesn’t impact the real world around us. Winning and losing doesn’t really change anything.”
Recognition comes with the job, but Taylor knows what matters most.
“The awards have been nice, but in the end it’s really about the relationships you develop with people," he said.
“I’ve been privileged to be around a lot of great coaches and athletes. I try not to let my helmet get too big. The good Lord gave me some talent and it has served me well.
“But that could all change in a minute and I know that all too well.”
It’s been a great run for a country boy from West Virginia.