Since 1989, Gene Deckerhoff has brought 453 Tampa Bay Buccaneer games to vivid life for radio listeners across the state of Florida.
Fortunately for those fans, "The Voice of the Buccaneers" will soon be pushing 500 games.
On Wednesday, the Buccaneers announced that they have signed Deckerhoff to a new two-year contract, lasting through the 2012 NFL season. A Florida institution for more than three decades through his work with the Buccaneers, the USFL's Tampa Bay Bandits and the Florida State football and basketball programs, Deckerhoff is possessed of one of the most recognizable voices in sports broadcasting.
About to enter his 23rd season calling Buccaneer games, Deckerhoff remains wildly popular among Tampa Bay fans and highly respected in the field of sports broadcasting. In fact, he recently won his 12th Florida Sportscaster of the Year award for his work in 2010.
"It's amazing how quickly 22 years have gone by," said Deckerhoff. "It seems like just yesterday that Jesse "The Body" Ventura was telling Al Keck in the booth, 'You pencil-necked geek, you have no earthly idea why that play worked.' Al didn't say a thing for the next quarter. That was the beginning of the Buccaneer Radio Network for Gene. We had some great times."
Ventura and Keck were Deckerhoff's first booth partners, and he has since worked with such well-known Buccaneer alumni as David Logan, Scot Brantley, Hardy Nickerson and Dave Moore. Moore joined Deckerhoff in the radio booth immediately after retiring following the 2006 season and the two, along with sideline reporter T.J. Rives, have formed a very colorful and informative team. Deckerhoff is pleased that his partnership with Moore will continue in 2011.
"I have been fortunate in my career as a football announcer, because I never played football," said Deckerhoff. "I have been very fortunate to work with gentlemen that know the game inside and out. I learn more every broadcast from Dave Moore about the game of football, particularly NFL football, than I could have ever learned from reading a book. He is the quintessential football analyst."
Of course, Deckerhoff's own knowledge of Buccaneer football runs deep, simply due to all he has seen during more than two decades of not missing a single game. He has uttered his trademark, "Touchdown Tampa Bay" call an incredible 674 times in the regular season and postseason combined. With a, "You go, Joe!" he urged the heavy-hearted Joe Jurevicius on during the receiver's memorable 71-yard catch-and-run in the 2002 NFC Championship Game in Philadelphia. A week later, he yelled, "There's the dagger!" when Derrick Brooks intercepted a fourth-quarter Rich Gannon pass and returned it for a clinching touchdown in Super Bowl XXXVII.
Brooks' own career is an indication of how much Buccaneer football Deckerhoff has absorbed in his career. Brooks owns the franchise records for games played (224) and tackles (2,196)…and Deckerhoff called them all (not to mention Brooks' entire career at Florida State). Mike Alstott's 71 touchdowns? Each one brought to life for radio listeners for Deckerhoff. When another Buccaneer great of the same era, Warren Sapp, is heard yelping, "Alstott up the gut!" on NFL Films sideline footage, it's Deckerhoff he's masterfully imitating.
Deckerhoff was already in his 10th season as a Buccaneer announcer when the team made its move into the gleaming new Raymond James Stadium in 1998 (his future partner, Dave Moore, would make a dazzling one-handed catch in the stadium's first game to help the Bucs come back to beat Chicago). He has since woven the building's most recognizable aspects into his audio portrait of every home game.
"I never get tired of watching The Pirates of the Caribbean because it's a pirate's life for me," laughs Deckerhoff. "I see that big ol' pirate ship over there in the end zone, and I remember when that thing was being built. The new Raymond James Stadium – that was going to be the corner piece of it. I guess it took five or 10 years before, "Fire those cannons!" became part of the lexicon of Tampa Bay Buccaneers football. I love hearing those cannons fire and I know our fans do, too. You can't fire them loud enough."
The cannons fired when Micheal Spurlock became the first Buccaneer player to return a kickoff for a touchdown in 2007, but fans are more likely to remember Deckerhoff screaming, "Run, Michael, run!" When Matt Bryant kicked a 62-yard field goal to beat Philadelphia in, Deckerhoff's thrilling call concluded with, "Matt Bryant is my hero!"
Deckerhoff believes there are more highlights to come in the next two seasons, and he's thrilled that he will be on hand to see them happen…and more importantly to help Buccaneer fans see them in their mind's eye.
"I've seen a lot," he said. "I've seen the 3-13 seasons, but by golly there have just been a couple of those and I've seen a Super Bowl season. One Super Bowl and 22 years – there are not a lot of guys in my business who are in that position. I really think we've got great football ahead of us, too, and I can't wait."