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Another voice of my past silenced

Several times in the last few years I have used this blog to reminisce about the loss of some great broadcasters. I guess it's because they played a role in my dreams to work in TV.

Harry Kalas, the voice of the Phillies all my life until his death in April 2009, marked the loss of a long stretch of memories.

Skip Caray, the longtime voice of the Atlanta Braves, helped fill many hours during my childhood and somehow made a team I didn't root for worth watching.

Walter Cronkite and Don Hewitt were icons of TV news who made possible what so many of us in this industry do today.

Beth Younggren was a beloved colleague taken from us way too soon. Along the way she taught a know-it-all newbie reporter more than I realized for a long time.

Larry Munson is still with us, but when he retired as the voice of the Georgia Bulldogs, it ended a long tenure that included some iconic calls and great memories from my college years.

Long before I became a Bulldog and grew accustomed to Munson's gravelly delivery packed full of hyperbole, though, I cut my teeth on college football fandom through the eyes of Bob Fulton, who died last week. Fulton was "The Voice of the Gamecocks" at the University of South Carolina for generations. Unlike Munson, Fulton had the smoothest baritone that cracked only in the most exciting of moments. He was unflappable. He was old school. He was great.

Fulton was one of those old-timers who truly painted a picture of what was going on. Back in the late 1980s USC's football team had jerseys and pants in the team colors of garnet, black and white that they would wear in various combinations. In a time before seemingly every game was on TV, I would sit on my bed at home in Columbia, SC, and listen to the game on 560 AM waiting for the team to run onto the field after the playing of "2001" and hear "The Voice" describe the uniforms.

"Carolina wearing their usual garnet headgear, black jerseys and garnet football pants..."

For me, it became a finishing touch on the canvas Fulton brushed for his listeners prior to kickoff. I always thought that if I had the great fortune to be a football broadcaster, I would do the same thing. In 1989 USC went to more standarized uniforms of garnet jerseys and white pants at home and white jerseys and pants on the road. Though the combinations did not change for years, I still paid attention to Fulton's description hoping there'd be some variation. His greatness made it a tradition.

Another Fulton trait I wanted to adopt was his pronunciation of one single word: sophomore. Most of the world pronounces it as two syllables. Soph-more. Not Bob Fulton. He made sure all the letters got their due.

"Starting at quarterback, a 6'2" soph-oh-more from Greensboro, NC... Todd Ellis."

To this day I can't see, hear or say the word without thinking of Fulton's way of saying it.

Fulton retired as "The Voice" in 1995. Five years later, while shooting a USC game for FoxSportsNet, I was asked to shoot an interview with Fulton as part of a feature piece we were doing on the great voices of southern college football. Just a couple months into my career, it was a great honor.

Though his run as broadcaster was long over, Fulton still watched the games from the press box at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia. So my mentor Terry Chick, who I was working with that day, sent me into an empty broadcast booth and brought Fulton in. As I set up, that golden baritone spoke up and said hello to me. I was a professional in my first job, and I was admittedly starstruck.

We were in a hurry, and the interview was terribly backlit, as I stupidly put Fulton in front of a window trying to frame the distant scoreboard behind him. Back in Atlanta the next week, the producer working on the story was disappointed with what I shot. She decided to cover most of it with other video. In the end, though my shots in the story stuck out like a sore thumb, the audio was crystal clear. Of course, that was never really in question. Even when the Gamecocks looked bad on the field, even when a rookie photographer set up a bad shot, when Bob Fulton was involved, you always knew it was gonna sound like gold.

Tomorrow family, friends and fans will bid a final farewell to the legendary voice of the Gamecocks. Though others have tried since, no one will ever replace him in the broadcast booth. For anyone to ever think they could would truly be soph-o-moric.

By: Kevin Wuzzardo