Following his voice
At the young age of 39, Jeff Hamlin of Caldwell, is still searching for his voice.
It is not that he lost his voice. This son of a former tobacco farmer and schoolteacher has always had a voice. It’s just that Hamlin is hoping his true calling will one day be answered: Being the voice of any team, providing color commentary and play-by-play analysis for the most die-hard fans who still listen to the radio.
It was as a 16-year-old, that Hamlin heard his calling. “I was at Durham Regional Hospital and Northern High was playing Hillside High and I tuned the game in on the radio. There was something that just sounded good and I was immediately fascinated with the voices that called games from the radio,” Hamlin said.
With today’s super television rights, fans don’t have to settle for listening to a game, when most teams’ have lucrative contracts and their games are aired live. Radio, it seems, is something of a relic. Still, there is something of a legacy with college sports and the broadcasters that escalate voices when a pass is caught downfield at the 20, 15, 10, end zone and touchdown!
Hamlin’s first experience with radio came at the request of a teacher in school and through a student-produced spot at Orange High School, which Hamlin attended.
Hamlin read the sports report and was an immediate hit with his peers. When he was in Boone a few years later, he worked as a disc jockey with the campus radio station, and during that time he developed his passion for game analysis and his own taste in music.
“It was a real learning experience, and I became really fascinated with the connection an announcer had with the fans,” Hamlin says. To say that Hamlin was devoted to his profession would be an understatement, considering how devoted he was to listeners and to Appalachian sports.
“We were playing Davidson in basketball, and I said on the air that if we won the game then I would broadcast the next day naked. I was shocked when we won the game and then I realized I had to show up to work and play music while in the raw,” Hamlin said.
From Boone, Hamlin maintained his pursuit of a dream as a sports broadcaster. From 1999-2002, Hamlin worked alongside his mentor, Bob Harris, the voice of the Blue Devils, as a spotter. “Bob is a close mentor of mine; he is where I am striving to be one-day,” Hamlin said. Eventually, Hamlin worked for a local radio station and then transitioned to a role that uses his voice, just not necessarily on the sidelines. “I host Financial Safari, a business and financial show that airs on over 90 radio stations across the U.S. Basically, we interview noted financial experts and the show is broadcast to syndicate stations,” Hamlin said.
Still, Hamlin is using his time away from his full-time job as a radio host for a financial show to maintain his desire to work as a sportscaster. “I run the studio for ECU radio, under the IMG umbrella. Basically, I keep the voice of the Pirates on the air and provide studio check-in, with scores and other information that might be noted during a game or break in the action,” Hamlin said. Along the way, Hamlin has spent time as a local DJ at a radio station in Roxboro and has exercised his goal of broadcasting sports by calling high achool games in the area. Currently, Hamlin is in the exploration stage of broadcasting, via the Internet, Orange and Cedar Ridge football games, this fall.
“Really we have some great athletes and teams here with Orange and Cedar Ridge. I believe we owe it to these two schools to get the games out in any way we can, and showcase what we have,” Hamlin said.
Of his chosen passion and goals, Hamlin describes himself as following through on what he is good at. He attributes his character and energy on the air to his parents. “I have the excited and flamboyant attitude of my father and the reserved nature of my mother, and believe it or not, it just works when I am calling a game,” Hamlin said.
Going forward, this native of Orange County is hopeful that he will be the next voice, fans hear, when the wide receiver flares out and catches a pass with seconds to go. Certainly, Hamlin has already found his voice; he is just hoping the ears of thousands discover it, too.
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