Photo: Mark Wallheiser
Gene Deckerhoff is a Florida Icon
Florida Sports Hall of Fame broadcaster, voice of the FSU Seminoles and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tallahassee; age 74
I began my college career wanting to be a chemical engineer, but there was something about being a college student and having a 7 a.m. chemistry lab that just didn’t work. And so I decided, you know what, I am not going to be a chemical engineer.
People say, ‘Well, you’re a homer.’ And yes you are, but I’m fair to the other team. I try not to get down on our team. You have to be positive, point out the bright spots, you know. That’s just the way I do it. Fan is short for fanatical. If you’re a fan, you want to hear what your guys are doing good, not what the other guys are doing good. Knock on wood, even when I’m done and gone, I hope that there will still be play-by-play radio announcers doing the home team because I think that’s important. That’s what the fans want to hear.
My mother taught my brother and me how to play baseball. She was a softball player and an excellent golfer. She had trophy cases and trophies all over the house. We get our athleticism from our mother. Dad was in the military and was rarely home.
I like Florida just the way it is. We have two puppy dogs that we just love to pieces. We’ve got seven fish in an aquarium, and we’ve got nine Vanda orchids. I gave up on the phalaenopsis orchids. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, but they just won’t rebloom. One time, I thought I was overwatering. Then I think I might not have watered enough. Maybe too much sun. But the Vandas, I got two of them to rebloom, and they were just beautiful.
I’m a news addict. I haven’t watched a sitcom since Archie Bunker. I don’t like lawyer shows. I don’t like medical shows. I don’t like reality shows. I watch the news — and I watch sports.
People still talk about Burt Reynolds being on Bobby Bowden’s TV show. He was a big part of our show. Bobby went down for Burt’s 80th birthday. Bobby said that Burt told him he wanted to find Jesus, and Bobby said they got down on the floor and prayed. Bobby thinks he was saved. That was Burt’s 80th birthday. He died at 82.
When youngsters want to know how to get into this business, I say read everything you can read and don’t just make it sports. Read novels. And learn math because sports is statistics.
I remember Florida before the interstates. I don’t know how we got around back in the day.
Once I rode a light rail train to Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum to call a Sunday night Bucs game against the Oakland Raiders. You think that guy who has the bullet belt over his chest and the horns sticking out of his head, you think he looks ornery on TV? Well, when you’re about four feet away from him, he looks really, really ornery.
April the 9th of 2001, I was baptized and born again at Immanuel Baptist Church in Tallahassee, and Coach Bowden sent me a personal note with a lapel pin — a cross — that I still have and wear. If I’m not wearing a Buccaneer pin or a Seminole pin, I’m wearing the cross that Bobby gave me.
Basketball may be more physical than football nowadays.
I was a baseball junkie before I threw my arm out when I was 13 years old. I was a pitcher. I struck out a lot of guys, but I threw curveballs too early. I probably needed Tommy John surgery before Tommy John was born.
St. George Island is about an hour and 45 minutes from our house. We like to go down there and just watch the blue waves and get a little sun, walk in the sand, and then I may have a little sip or two of vino in my motor home.
Philadelphia fans are absolutely the most fanatical fans there are in the country. New York fans are sort of split. But Philadelphia? It’s Philadelphia all the way.
Time and score and who’s on the floor is my basketball thing. Down and distance and time and score for football. Those are formulas I live by.
I’m trying to learn Italian. I get to about the third level in Rosetta Stone and then football season starts and I have to stop and focus on football. So I can’t speak a lick of Italian.
Bama fans, Auburn fans, Florida State fans, Florida fans, Miami fans — all at each other’s throats. It’s sort of the way politics is now.
I used to bake bread until I got up to 232 pounds. I used to love that smell of yeast rising in the kitchen. I was 221 the other day, so I still have to lose weight. Halloween killed me — candy.
People say, ‘You’re a Gator!’ No, I’m not a Gator. I’m a graduate of the University of Florida, but I’m a Florida State Seminole.
I fantasize about broadcasting a game perfectly — the perfect game. I’ll never do that, but that’s the goal.
Ann, my wife, wants me to slow down. I don’t envision that, but I know it’s coming. God will tell me when to stop doing what I do.
Read more in Florida Trend's January issue.
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