By Loran Smith, an award-winning writer and a longtime staff member of the University of Georgia Athletic Association. He has been a prolific author, penning a regular column that still appears in the Athens Banner Herald as well as several newspapers around the state, and he has written more than a dozen books. A native of Wrightsville, Ga., Smith is a past chairman of the State of Georgia Sports Hall of Fame and president of the NFF University of Georgia (Athens) Chapter.

Last spring in America’s most exciting city, official validation of Verne Lundquist’s career came when he won an Emmy for lifetime achievement amid toasts and slaps on the back that had him in a post-game party setting throughout the evening.

The Lincoln Center, which hosted The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences annual Sports Emmy Awards, for the 37th time, was abuzz, starting at 5:00 p.m. when New Yorkers were fighting never ending traffic as they headed home at the end of the workday.

 The Lincoln Center soon reached capacity for the event with the spotlight of the evening routinely focused on Lundquist.   Presenters and honorees kept giving him shout outs as the Academy honored producers, directors, technicians, editors, studio hosts and Uncle Verne, who is, perhaps the most beloved announcer in sports.

            His professional associates paid tribute, his colleagues raised enduring and heart-felt toasts, and, to speak to the character of the man, friends and family were invited to come along for the ride.  The industry’s finest—from Jim Nantz to his on air partners such as Bill Raftery and Gary Danielson—spoke about Verne as the good guy as much as for his remarkable talent.  Somewhere Leo Durocher was chagrinned that a nice guy finished first.

            At a CBS hosted party at Bella’s, an Italian restaurant near Central Park, Verne was in his element.  His industry friends were there.  His brother Dan and wife Herbie Kay joined him and so did friends.  Michael Irvin showed up and so did Calvin Hill, headline making Cowboys of yesteryear.   Sean McManus, the CBS executive offered generous and sensitive remarks.  It would not have been tacky in the least if those who had gathered in the southwest corner of this classy restaurant, had jumped to their feet and sang, “For he’s a Jolly Good Fellow.”

            That is what Verne Lundquist has always been.   It seems to have intensified, since he became the face and voice of Southeastern Conference football for a network, troubled by not having any college football coverage in its portfolio, gambled on making the centerpiece of its fall Saturday sports coverage SEC football.  Seldom has there been a mutual admiration society in sports like this one.   A league with a national network?  How over the top is that?

            The network could have found an accomplished announcer.  It could have found a competent play-by-play voice, but it could not have found greater ambassadors for the network than Verne and his wife, Nancy, who is always by his side.  They are social and they are likeable, having made friends for the Big Eye network for years.  There is good reason for this.  Verne has time for the little guy.  He does not let the passionate fans around the SEC get in his hair.   He embraces them, yet keeps them at arms-length when it comes time to do his work.

            Laughable, lovable and honorable, Verne has always been a professional who enjoys his work, goes to the various venues to do a sterling performance in the booth, but when the final gun sounds he is ready to belly up to the bar.

            A delightful and accomplished raconteur, he never minds if the joke is on him, like the time he was honored as the Texas Sportscaster of the year.  The emcee, in rehearsal at Salisbury, N. C., had difficulty with his name, first asking, “Is it Vin Lindquist?”  Verne replied, “No it is Verne Lundquist.”   As they were the positioning the honorees for the ceremony, the emcee approached him again, this time asking, “Is it Van Londquist?”   Verne again, “No, it’s Verne Lundquist.”  Finally the big moment came, and the nervous emcee announced that the Texas Sportscaster of the year was, “Verne Ludicrous.” 

            The Emmy committee showcased Verne’s signature calls including his famous Masters calls:  “Yes sir” on Jack Nicklaus’s birdie putt at No. 17 when the Golden Bear won in 1986 and Tiger Woods chip-in at No. 16 in 2005, “Here it comes, oh my goodness…oh, wow.  In your life, have you ever seen anything like that?”  And, his first stirring football call when the Cowboys ‘ Smith dropped a touchdown pass in the Super Bowl, Jan 21, 1979:   “Bless his heart, he’s got to be the sickest man in America.”
            The best line of the evening, however, came when his buddy Raftery noted, “The only call Verne never liked, was, ‘Last Call.’”