Veteran play-by-play man Gene Deckerhoff (left) and his new analyst partner Hardy Nickerson will cover Bucs games from all angles
The award-winning play-by-play man has been covering the team for 17 years and has a voice practically synonomous with Tampa Bay Buccaneers football. The color analyst is one of the greatest players in team history, with a mind built for dissecting the game.
It's the Buccaneers' own dream team of the airwaves: Gene Deckerhoff and Hardy Nickerson.
On Tuesday, the team announced two exciting developments regarding the broadcasting crew that will call games on the Buccaneer Radio Network in 2006. First, Deckerhoff has signed a new contract that will send him into his 18th consecutive year at the microphone for Buccaneer games. Second, Deckerhoff will have a new and exciting partner in the booth in Nickerson, the five-time Pro Bowler who patrolled the middle of the Bucs' defense for seven years.
That will give Buccaneer radio broadcasts in 2006 both a welcome familiarity and an exciting new voice. A five-time Florida Sportscaster of the Year, Deckerhoff has personally witnessed more than half of the franchise's history and has passionately captured many of its greatest moments for radio listeners. And Nickerson is a very significant part of that history, a player who helped begin the team's turnaround from former league doormat to Super Bowl champion.
Nickerson first flexed his on-air talents in the spring of 2004, two years after retiring from the Green Bay Packers.
"I did two games in Europe for the NFL Europe League, and found that man, this is quite a bit of fun," he said. "It piqued my interest a little bit so my agent and I started looking around for any opportunities out there."
They found the perfect one. The Buccaneers were looking for a color analyst to replace Scot Brantley, and they found one whose knowledge of the team, particularly on defense, is unassailable.
"I think I'll be able to add a lot," said Nickerson. "I definitely know what's going on with that defense…analyzing that won't be a problem for me at all. I just look at this as an opportunity to have fun and talk about the game. Really, since I retired I've been sitting in front of the TV every Sunday and talking about the games; the only difference now is that I'll have a mic in front of my face."
As a player, Nickerson owns a significant place in team history. He was the first significant free agent added by the team after the league's new collective bargaining agreement ushered in free agency in 1993, and the signing couldn't have worked out better. In his first season as a Buc after coming over from Pittsburgh, Nickerson set a single-season team record with 214 tackles and gave the team its first Pro Bowler in three years. Nickerson went back to the Pro Bowl in 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999 and led the team in tackles in four of his seven seasons. Along with Derrick Brooks, he helped form the league's most prolific and aggressive linebacking corps, and the Bucs began a streak of 10 straight top-10 defensive rankings in 1996.
Nickerson finished his playing career with two years in Jacksonville and one in Green Bay. His final career totals are eye-popping: 1,867 tackles, 21, sacks, 12 interceptions and 23 forced fumbles.
Though he was a standout during his first six seasons in Pittsburgh, too, Nickerson's greatest NFL years came in Tampa. That makes Tuesday's announcement particularly exciting for this former on-field dynamo.
"I'm very excited about this opportunity," he said. "Any time you get a chance to come back and be part of Buc family, it's a great honor. It's a great opportunity and I'm looking forward to it."
Deckerhoff, of course, has been part of the Bucs' family since 1989, giving him the fifth-longest tenure in the NFL among radio announcers. He has also been the voice of Florida State University football and basketball since 1979. Deckerhoff even handled play-by-play for the Tampa Bay Bandits of the USFL in the mid-80s and is a former sports director at WCTV-TV in Tallahassee. He is considered one of the nation's premier play-by-play announcers, and he is enormously popular among Buccaneer fans.
Clear Channel's US 103.5 FM will serve as the flagship station for the team's radio network for the third straight year. Buccaneer games are also simulcast on 620 WDAE-AM and can be heard throughout the state on a variety of affiliate stations.