Contributed story, Alice Echo-News Journal
Veteran sportscaster Mike Smith has retired as the football voice of the Texas A&M-Kingsville Javelinas.
Smith, who for many years owned KOPY in Alice and is the Executive Vice President of the Alice Chamber of Commerce, enjoyed ten memorable years behind the microphone.
"It's been a real thrill to call Javelina games for the past decade and I've had some great memories. I'll always be a Javelina fan and I will continue to do all I can to support Javelina Athletics."
"The thing people don't realize is that Mike took things over when nobody else wanted to do it," says former color analyst John "Tiger" Womack. "Radio was changing in the 1990's and Mike picked up the Javelina broadcasts and spent a lot of his own personal time and money to keep the Javelinas on the air. He was very professional, kept the broadcast in line and handled every moment."
Smith has also broadcast Alice High School athletics for many years, and will continue with football this fall.
Texas A&M-Kingsville Vice President Vice President for Institutional Advancement Randy Hughes was a former long-time Alice resident and San Diego High School football coach.
"I lived in Alice for years and I knew him from his days of broadcasting Alice Coyote football. He's a legend in Alice. That's where I first met him and I've really enjoyed listening to him and loved having him involved in our program."
Smith took over as the "Voice of the Javelinas" in 1997. That year the Javelinas went 8-0 in conference play, but lost in the first round of the NCAA Division II playoffs.
The following year the Javelinas started the season by losing their first two games, then won 11 straight, capturing another Lone Star Conference title and advancing to the NCAA Division II semifinals.
Both of those years were under the leadership of Ron Harms.
"Mike did a great job for us and I really appreciate what he did for us," says Harms who served as head coach from 1979-99. "He was instrumental in getting us on the air and he really got Alice involved.
He was also responsible for getting our basketball games on the air and that was very important to our fans. I really enjoyed our relationship while I was football coach."
The Hogs stumbled the next two years, but regained their winning ways in 2001, winning the first of four consecutive league titles.
In 2002, the Hogs made a return trip to the NCAA Division II semifinals.
Smith and Womack formed a close personal bond, which translated into an enjoyable broadcast for Javelina fans and resulted in some interesting travel stories.
"Neither one of us had good directional sense," says Smith. "I think my favorite moment was when we were in Fargo, ND, looking for the FargoDome. We were driving around and it was a typical trip. We couldn't find the darn stadium. Tiger and his dad were in the frontseat and his dad said, 'let's just look for the lights'. Tiger and I looked at each other and tried to figure out which one of us was going to tell him it was an indoor stadium and we couldn't see the lights."
Womack confirms that things didn't always go smoothly from the airport to the stadium.
"We were going to UC Davis for a playoff game (1997). We landed in Sacramento and got out the map to find the way to Davis. We wound up on top of some canal road and took it 15 miles into Davis. We could see the highway, but just couldn't get to it."
One player who made both Smith and Womack smile was former Javelina quarterback and Rio Grande City star Abel Gonzalez. Gonzalez was the Lone Star Conference Offensive Back of the Year in 2002 and his playmaking ability and leadership left quite an impression on Smith.
"He was a lot of fun. Abel was special because he played with a big heart. He looked like a high school kid and he wasn't that big, but he was a terrific player."
Womack also enjoyed Smith's ability to make eloquent sense out of Gonzalez's unpredictable style.
"Listening to him trying to explain an Abel Gonzalez scramble is a great memory. Nobody, including the staff knew what would happen when he (Gonzalez) had the ball in his hands. Mike did a great job of describing it."
The 2002 season was memorable for the team's success, but it also spawned another good story for the archives.
"We made it to the semifinals and played at Valdosta State," recalls Smith. "It was a high school stadium and to get up to the second level of the press box you had to climb a straight ladder like you were getting into a hayloft. There was no tabletop and from where I sat I could see one end zone and from where Tiger sat he could see the other end zone. After the game Tiger was dying to get out of there and get down to the post game press conference. I told him I could handle getting the equipment together. Everyone left and I was the only one in the stadium and I was wondering how I was going to get down that straight ladder with all our equipment. It took me about 20 minutes, but I finally made it."
The duo's lasting friendship is the most treasured outcome of the years together behind the microphone calling Javelina football games.
"After traveling together for eight years, we became the best of friends," says Womack. "I was a big fan of the (Kingsville High School) Brahmas and he was a big fan of the (Alice High School) Coyotes and we would share some good stories."
Smith will be honored during ceremonies at the Javelinas' first home football game on Sept. 15th.
"It wouldn't have been any fun without Tiger," says Smith. "He and I really became great friends by doing the Javelinas games and making those road trips."
Just because Smith won't be behind the microphone doesn't mean he won't be part of Javelina athletics.
"He will continue to be part of our program and a real asset to the university and the athletic program. Mike really stepped in and helped built our network. He has played a vital role in Javelina Athletics. I know we'll continue to see him at Javelina Stadium on Saturday nights."