Last call: Legendary Voice of the Seminoles Gene Deckerhoff retires from FSU

NFF Chris Schenkel award recipient and Florida State broadcaster, Gene Deckerhoff, listens during the 56th National Football Foundation Annual Awards ceremonies held at the Waldorf Astoria, on Tuesday, Dec.10, 2013 in New York. (AP Photo/Jin Lee) (Jin Lee, Associated Press)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Close your eyes and picture a great moment in Florida State football or basketball. It’s nearly impossible to hear any other voice than Gene Deckerhoff’s calling the action.

Since he first called FSU basketball games starting in 1974 and since he became the Voice of the Seminoles for football in 1979, Deckerhoff has been the narrator of the rise of Florida State sports from the early years of Bobby Bowden establishing the football program, to the recent success of Leonard Hamilton’s basketball team, you can see the highlights and hear Deckerhoff’s energetic and brassy voice adding energy and description to those memorable plays.

WATCH UNCUT: Cole Pepper’s full interview with Florida State broadcasting legend Gene Deckerhoff

Gene Deckerhoff spoke with Cole Pepper before calling his final game with the Seminoles.

On Saturday, Deckerhoff called his last event as the Voice of the Seminoles. He’s retiring from the FSU broadcast. He’ll take with him decades of memories.

“Number one, great games, great coaches, great wins over rivals, Florida, Miami, Clemson,” Deckerhoff said, with a tinge of sadness in his voice. “The fans. I was walking up today and ran into a great friend who just lost his wife. We said a little prayer. I’ll miss that.”

Deckerhoff says he is under contract for one more year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers broadcast, with another option year after that. But starting this summer, he will have more time on his hands. What will he do with that time?

“I haven’t thought that far yet, but (wife) Ann will probably have some projects for me to do,” Deckerhoff said. “We like to go a few places: Mackinaw Island, Bar Harbor, places we’re familiar with. I may have a chance to finish two books that I got for Christmas that I’m halfway through.”

Minutes before his final broadcast, Deckerhoff held court, as he is wont to do, remembering the early days of his broadcasting career, calling for Bowden to be added to Mount Rushmore, and praising Florida State every chance he got. Deckerhoff has received scores of messages of congratulations, including from one broadcaster with whom he shared the crow’s nest at Tully Gym years ago.

On that night, Deckerhoff was calling the game for the Florida State radio broadcast, and another up-can-coming broadcaster was calling the Metro Conference game of the week.

“His name was Bob Costas,” Deckerhoff said. “He called to say congratulations and to say he remembered climbing up that ladder to get to that dad-gum crow’s nest. He may not have said dad-gum.”

Deckerhoff first caught the broadcasting bug while in high school at Forest High School, now Westside High School. Deckerhoff was a basketball player, his brother played on the football team and Deckerhoff was asked to do the public address announcing during the football games.

“Touchdown, Rebels,” Deckerhoff remembers calling. “That was my first thing in football.”

As a high school basketball player, Deckerhoff once scored a then-school record 32 points for Forest against Lake City High School. It was enough to earn him a scholarship to play at St. Johns River Community College.

“At the end of one season, a fella who was the program director of WWPF Radio came up to me and said, “I know you’re on the debate team, you won the state championship, I know you can talk. Have you thought about going into radio?’ Well, that sounded sort of interesting.”

Thus, the seed was planted. Now half a century later, Deckerhoff leaves behind a legacy that few broadcasters can match. The next Voice of the Seminoles will be hired in the coming months. He will have big shoes to fill.