Voice of Lady Wildcats has East Tennessee sound

Morristown native Price grew up UT fan

Neil Price was interviewing for a job in the spring of 2005 to be play-by-play radio announcer for the University of Kentucky's women's basketball and baseball teams when he realized he'd made a big mistake.

Price, at the time a graduate assistant at Middle Tennessee State University, was asked during the interview about the most influential people in his radio career, which started when he was a sophomore at Morristown East High School.

"I said, 'I grew up in East Tennessee, and I was fortunate to listen to the greatest there ever was, John Ward,' " Price said Monday. "I got these looks. Everybody in the room either worked for UK or was a UK grad. I was like, 'Did I say something wrong?' "

He realized the interviewers were thinking of longtime UK radio announcer Cawood Ledford when Price referred to Ward, the legendary voice of the Tennessee Vols.

"We listened to Cawood Ledford, and we're awful partial to him," Price recalls hearing.

Price recovered in the interview, got the job, has been covering the Lady Wildcats and Wildcats' baseball teams since, and has done play-by-play for three UK men's basketball games.

Price, 28, says the memories swirl when he returns to UT, and that happens again Thursday night when the Lady Vols play host to the Lady Wildcats at 7 p.m. in Thompson-Boling Arena.

"It's a special place," Price said of UT. "My earliest memories of college sports are in Knoxville."

They go back a ways.

Price grew up listening to Ward's trademark calls for UT football and basketball - like 'Give him six!' in football and 'Bottom!' in basketball - and Mickey Dearstone call Lady Vols basketball, and then Bob Kesling when Ward retired.

As a sophomore at Morristown East, Price went with the radio crew to games, and he soon started calling baseball games and a few basketball games for the Hurricanes.

After graduating from Morristown East, Price went to Walters State Community College where he had got his first big break - calling basketball and baseball games for the Senators as a student.

"That was the first experience I had doing games on a regular basis, a whole schedule of games and working with coaches on a daily basis," Price said. "I was 18, 19 years old, and they (coaches) were really nice to humor me. I'd ask questions that came from out in left field, I was so new at it."

From there, Price went to MTSU, where he earned his degree in 2003 and as a graduate assistant became the radio play-by-play announcer for women's basketball and baseball, and was a football sideline reporter for the school's sports network.

When his confidence was shaken after missing out on a couple of jobs before Kentucky, Price said Kesling gave him encouragement.

"Bob has been super to me in a mentor's role," Price said. "Bob talked me down off the cliff, so to speak, when I was thinking about getting out of it (radio)."

Price was quickly in the fray at Kentucky. He recalls early at UK doing the call-in show of former Lady Wildcats coach Mickie DeMoss, who coached under Pat Summitt at UT.

When DeMoss invited Summitt to the call-in show before a UT-UK game, and the Lady Vols' coach sat down next to him, Price was a nervous wreck.

"She (Summitt) leaned over and said, 'I think you have a terrific voice,' " Price said. "That made me feel a little better about life. It was just kind of surreal, to be around them and be in that situation."

Price has become more accustomed to those situations. He did play-by-play for the UK men's basketballs games against Florida International on New Year's Eve 2007 and for two tournament games, Kansas State and West Virginia, in Las Vegas this season.

"That's a huge deal," he said. "I don't want to sound arrogant, but it's Kentucky basketball."

Now, his rooting interest has changed from his days as a youngster.

"I'm a Kentucky fan," Price said. "Anybody who listens to me on the radio, that's the way I come across, but I always look forward to coming back to UT, whether it's to cover women's basketball or baseball."

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Comments » 9

ncvol writes:

Absolutely loved John Ward...give him 6...Go Vols!

BigOrangeVol writes:

I'm sorry but with all due respect to Cawood... "Got it", "Bullseye" and "The Cats are runnin'" didn't compare to "Give ... him ... SIX!", "Bottom" or "It's football time in Tennessee!"

WeLoveTennesseeVols writes:

in response to ncvol:

Absolutely loved John Ward...give him 6...Go Vols!

I am sorry that I think that Bob K ought to do just basketball and not football, but i am spoiled by Mr. Ward. I just hate canned corn. Sorry.

BigOrangeVol writes:

"No-sir-ree"

"Caught by Flowers! Breaks a tackle! He's in the open field! Watch that rocket roar! They simply won't catch him!"

"Pass to Grunfeld on the wing - bounce pass into King - makes a move across the lane - give it to him - KING of the Volunteers!"

"It is Gault pulling it down at the six. Gault at the 10, 15, 20. Gault outside 25. Gault 30. Gault 35. Gault 40. Gault 45, 50, 45, 40. Yes, Sir. Willie Gault, ladies and gentleman, is running all the way to the state capitol.....give him six...........Willie Gault!"

"It is intercepted - White. 30,35,40,45,50,45,40,35,30,25,20,15,10,5 and he is knocked out of bounds at the two-yard line...another interception that makes ten for the season for the Senior from Cleveland, Tennessee. The Volunteers are six minutes away from knocking off the nations #2 team. We'll let you share the enthusiasm of a Big Orange night in the Superdome!"

"It is, uh, 27 yards. This will be Rob Leonard. The kick is up; the kick is GOOD; NO, it is no good! It is no good!! It is no good!!! Tennessee beats Notre Dame 35-34."

"Ladies and gentlemen the National Champions are clad in BIG ORANGE."

Sorry Cawood, it ain't even close!

BillVol writes:

Just like men's and women's ball are apples and oranges, so are men's and women's radio voices.

pupvol writes:

in response to CatScratchFever:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I"d take Tom thumb over Kesling.

BillVol writes:

Good ones, BOV, but it IS close. Cawood may not have had all the catch phrases that John did, but he made up for it with his talent and class, qualities John had, too.

John and Cawood were close friends BTW. In fact, it is well known that John called Cawood his mentor.

ncvol writes:

When John Ward retired I got the cd of some of his calls.It is awesome....
Nice post BigOrangeVol -I can just hear him saying all that...Good memories...Go Vols!

BigOrangeVol writes:

I believe that the SEC has been disproportionately and abundantly blessed with John, Cawood and Larry. I don't care what team you are a fan of, those three are all Hall of Fame guys that will live in honored perpetuity.

Yes, maybe I'm a tad biased but I still feel like John was the greatest of all time and never got his due on the national stage - but that wasn't his style! Very few great men are as humble as John Ward.

BTW, not to slight anyone else...props to Paul Eells (AR & VU); Jim Fyffe (Aub); J.C. Politz (LSU); John Forney (Ala); Jack Cristi (Miss St) and Bob Fulton (SC).

These mes learned their craft from listening to RADIO announcers unlike today's generation that watched TV guys. Radio sportscasters are not the same now and never will be again.

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