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bringing the game to life
Story by Audrey Poff; photography by Amy Long

Growing up in Texas, some of Matt Stolz’ best memories were listening to the Rangers broadcasts on a transistor radio placed on the back porch.

“My dad and I would play catch while listening to Mark Holtz and Eric Nadel call the games,” said Stolz. “I remember feeling like they were a part of our family and would marvel at how they called the game with such vivid description and
enthusiasm. They brought the game to life, and in my mind, they took me to the ballpark every night. I knew that’s exactly what I wanted to do.”

Stolz, who is employed by East Arkansas Broadcasters as the“Voice of the Red Wolves” is beginning his 10th year broadcasting A-State football, men’s basketball and baseball games on the EAB/ Red Wolves Sports Network. The network provides on-air coverage of all Arkansas State contests in football, men’s and women’s basketball and baseball.

The Texas native got his start, however, in his home state.“I went to school at the University of North Texas, mainly because it had an excellent radio and television department,” said Stolz. “My first day on campus, I went to the student radio station and auditioned to do an afternoon sportscast. I’ve been on the air ever since.”

Like many in radio, Stolz said he “bounced around” a little before landing in Northeast Arkansas. “In 2005, I was blessed with the chance to become the ‘Voice of the Indians,’ which of course transitioned into being the ‘Voice of the Red Wolves.’ I’ve enjoyed every moment of the journey.”

For Stolz, the best part of his job is getting to work with good people.“Bill Keedy and I are beginning our 10th year together in the football broadcast booth,” he said. “We’ve had some amazing memories on the air, but the man I know off the air is second to none.”

Stolz also praised the team at East Arkansas Broadcasters, including Chief Executive Officer Bobby Caldwell and Chief Operating Officer Scott Siler for giving him the opportunity 10 years ago; A-State Athletic Director Terry Mohajir and the administration at Arkansas State; and A-State coaches John Brady and Tommy Raffo. This will be his first season to work with head football Coach Blake Anderson.

You cover a lot of ground as a sports broadcaster, calling A-State football, men’s basketball and baseball games. When seasons overlap, does it become challenging? The craziest time of year is definitely when the sports overlap. The football/basketball overlap in November and December is always a blur. It’s the same way when basketball and baseball intersect in February and March. It makes for a busy, challenging time, but it can also be one of the more fun times of the year as well. My biggest concern is whether or not my voice will hold up.

What are some of the biggest challenges associated with the job? I’ll never complain, but the biggest challenge is the travel. I can relate to people whose jobs have them on the road a lot. I made five trips to Mobile, Ala., last year alone – twice for football, once for basketball and twice for baseball. I wouldn’t trade my job for anything, but it’s never easy being away from my wife and
daughters.

Of the three sports that you cover, what’s the easiest sport for you to call and why? I wouldn’t call any of them easy because all three sports are unique in their own way … something about being at a baseball park is more relaxing though. The less frenetic pace gives more time for storytelling and having fun on the air.

How much prep work do you do before a typical game and what’s involved in that proces? For football, the preparation is more intense than any other sport. I get teased about what some people call “over preparing,” but I don’t think it’s possible to do that. My goal is to be more prepared than any broadcaster in the country. After church on Sunday, I’ll spend my afternoon putting my charts together for the upcoming week. I update information about our team and begin learning the opposition. There is a lot of memorization involved and my
wife will usually quiz me during the week to make sure I’m getting it right. Going to practices, talking to our coaches and watching game films of the other team are also involved. One thing I’ve learned is that the more you invest your time, the more rewarding it is when you’re able to deliver a good product on the air.

Do you have a game day routine? I try to be as routine as possible on game day. For a six o’clock home game, I like to relax in the morning with my family, drink coffee and watch ESPN’s “College Gameday” while going over my charts for the umpteenth time. I’ll then arrive at the stadium between 2:30 and
3 and head to the booth. Once I feel confident that our equipment
is ready to go, I’ll head down to the tailgate area and visit with our fans before going inside the stadium.

Who are some of your sports heros? You have to remember that I grew up in Texas. I loved watching Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and the Cowboys of the early to mid ‘90s. I’ve always admired those guys that conducted themselves with character and grace on the field or on the court. Guys like Nolan Ryan, Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez and Dirk Nowitzki are on that list.

Are there any other sports announcers that you strive to be like? My favorite announcers tend to be baseball announcers. Guys like Vin Scully, Eric Nadel and Jon Miller are a few of my favorites because they don’t try to be bigger than the game. There are no catchphrases in their play-by-play and they know that it’s not about them. It’s about what’s happening on the field and that adds an element of purity to what comes across on the air.

In the world of sports announcers, what would be your dream job? As a kid, I used to think about becoming the voice of the Rangers or the Cowboys, but honestly that’s not something I think about now. My family and I live in a community that we love, and I get to cover a university that I love. You can’t dream any better than that!

What would you say are the some of the most incredible moments that you have witnessed in A-State sports history as a sports announcer? The last two GoDaddy.com Bowl games come to mind. In the 2014 game, Fredi Knighten’s touchdown pass to Allen Muse with 32 seconds left is an image that I’ll never forget; neither is Ryan Carrethers’ blocked field goal at the end of the game. Also embedded in my memory is the 2013 GoDaddy.com Bowl and Qushaun Lee’s tackle on fourth down with less than a minute to go. The 2006 Hail Mary win over Memphis, the 2007 Comeback victory over Memphis and the 2008 victory over Texas A&M are a few others … and that’s just football.

What do you do to try to keep fans invested during seasons of rebuilding? Fortunately, the three straight conference titles have allowed a lot more ups than downs. However, every program goes through tough seasons at some point. My job is tell the truth, but always stay positive. These are college students, not paid athletes. I will never talk negatively about anyone on our broadcast. I’m a glass is “half full” kind of guy anyway, so for me, there’s always light at the end of the tunnel.

With the kickoff of football season just days away, who do you predict will be big playmakers for the Red Wolves this year? I’m excited about our team! Defensively, our linebackers and secondary are as strong as anyone in the league. Guys like Sterling Young, Qushaun Lee and Chris Stone are some of the best defensive players in the Sun Belt and we’re fortunate to have them on our side. On offense, junior J.D. McKissic is already the school’s alltime leading receiver and I believe he and running back Michael Gordon have a chance to be two of the more dangerous players in the country. Quarterback Fredi Knighten showed a glimpse of how good he can be at the GoDaddy.com Bowl and it’ll be fun to see him as the starter in 2014. It should be another great ride.