10 questions with Steve Jones, the voice of the Nittany Lions


Penn State football and basketball have both seen their fair share of ups and downs over the years, but the one thing that has remained consistent is the pipe radio commentary from a Penn State legend and the sports broadcast.

Steve Jones is in the midst of his 40th season calling for the Nittany Lions as a radio announcer for Penn State football and basketball. Jones delivered the top notch fan commentary from the moment he stepped into the booth.

We sat down with Jones, the voice of the Nittany Lions, to talk about his personal life, his career, as well as his favorite Creamery ice cream flavor.

Advanced Status: Tell us about Steve Jones. Where are you from and who is your family? What are some things about your personal life that people might not know?

Steve Jones: I grew up in Enfield, Connecticut. [Fun fact]: A connection I have with someone national is that I played Little League baseball with NBC’s Peter King. So we ended up getting into the media. Obviously, he is doing extremely well. I mean, like, extremely good. A great writer, a very good broadcaster …

A brother, a mother and my father worked in a sheet metal workshop. I can solder and do all kinds of things that a lot of people don’t realize. I ended up going to Penn State and graduated in March 1980 in Broadcast Voice Communication and got a job right out of college, working here in town. I am married to my wife, Kathy. We have been married for 42 years and have five children – three boys, two girls and now I have seven grandchildren. And the grandpa thing, I’m good at it.

OS: How old are your children? Is any of them actively considering or pursuing sports broadcasting?

SJ: They are 40 to 27, four of them are teachers and one is a cardiac nurse. It’s not like they weren’t tempted [to follow in my footsteps], but I think they feel more comfortable with what they’re doing and they’re really good at it.

OS: How did you navigate in the field of sports broadcasting? Was this always something you wanted to do?

SJ: In college, I joined the college radio station. I actually started at Penn State Wilkes-Barre, and they had a 10 watt radio station over the commons on campus. Now 10 watts, you could have lost signal in the parking lot. But that’s where I started and I loved it.

I remember the first play-by-play I did. It was December 8, 1977, at Lake Lehman High School, which is Connor McGovern’s high school. It was Penn State Wilkes-Barre in basketball against Allentown Business School. And when I was done doing the game, I was like ‘man this is exactly what I want to do’ and that’s really how I started. Then when I got to Penn State’s [University Park] campus, I joined WD FM and broadcast sports games and did talk shows, just trying to get on the air as often as possible because I was trying so hard to improve myself.

This, right now, is my 30th season in football and my 22nd as a play-by-play announcer. Coming up will be my 40th basketball season and I just finished my 16th season with the Spikes. It’s great for me because the change of sport, I think, keeps you cool.

OS: What do you like the most about your job?

SJ: Everything in the moment is awesome. Sitting in the broadcast booth, calling a Spikes game in the summer … hearing the bat click […] Sitting at the Jordan Center, watching the field, hearing the ball bounce, working with Dick Jerardi – amazing. Sitting in Beaver Stadium, watching tens of thousands of people, waiting for the team to burn out, working side by side with Hall of Famer Jack Ham. Every experience is just a great experience for me.

OS: You’ve been part of some memorable moments, ups and downs. When you look back on your career so far, is there a particular moment that has stood out for you?

SJ: There are several of them. It is difficult to reduce it to an “instant” … [If we’re talking about] basketball, Penn State beating UCLA in the NCAA tournament at the Carrier Dome in 1981, or in 2001 beating North Carolina to qualify for the Sweet 16, or the NIT Championships… For football, Joe’s victory exceeds that of Bear Bryant 324, his 400th, number 409, doing a few Rose Bowls, James Franklin going to three New Years Six games in four years… But I think at all times, the field-goal blocked by Marcus Allen who was picked up by Grant Haley against Ohio State in 2016 [stands out]. He ran it on that close sideline and the fastest bettor who was the starter, Cameron Johnson, has to be the fastest bettor / starter on the planet, tripped him but he still scored.

The explosion of joy in the stadium is something that, after everything that happened in 2011, there was a us versus the world mentality that I have always felt in the stadium. And on that piece there was an explosion of joy and I felt like it was that moment, that game, that White Out that told everyone that Penn State was a national power again. . And it’s a moment that I will cherish forever.

OS: Talk about your relationship with Jack Ham. How does it feel to share the booth with an icon from the world of football?

SJ: There is no one more down to earth than Jack. You wouldn’t know he won anything. You wouldn’t know he won four Super Bowls; you wouldn’t know he has a gold jacket except for the people who keep walking up to him and saying, “Can we have your picture? “Can you sign that?” “. And he is courteous to everyone. He’s just a great advertiser who makes me better. You have to have the desire to work with people who make you better. And Jack Ham makes me better; Dick Jerardi makes me better. Now, in my turn, it is my responsibility and I hope they feel like I am improving them.

Corn [Jack Ham] is the same guy on the air that he’s not on the air. And that’s what’s great about him, he’s a guy with no ego. He has a great sense of humor. He carries me on the golf course when we play golf as a team. He’s the kind of person, and the same with Dick Jerardi, where one of the key things was you have to be a good listener.

OS: who is the montht eminent or famous person you have met in your years do what you do?

SJ: I have been very lucky over the years […] Interviewing Bear Bryant was really cool. Now obviously I was around Joe [Paterno] All the time. There’s George Steinbrenner, who laughed at me for being a Red Sox fan, which is part of the fun of the job.

Michael Jordan. Jordan was a great interview. And someone said, ‘What was he like?’ I said, Michael Jordan knows exactly who he is. He got out in the jacket on time and we did the interview…

I’ve been fortunate to have been around a lot of people with names, you know. And I’m not someone who likes people, to begin with. So I think that’s why they end up talking to you because you don’t like them, you talk to them. And it’s because I’ve been around people like Joe [Paterno], it’s because I’ve been around people like Jack [Ham] who are so down to earth, and James Franklin is down to earth too. You get so used to it, and like that, you don’t just sit there and think, “Oh, wow, who is that?” You realize that these are all people.

OS: What do you think has made you successful all these years, and what will continue to make you successful?

SJ: Job. Always work at your craft. I never take a single second of this for granted. You don’t rest on your laurels, you don’t rest on any perceived success, because Saturday is my next game. Now next week it’s going to be Villanova, and people say, “Well, it’s not quite the same game as Auburn”. Yet, I will put exactly the same amount of work and effort into it.

You never take a single moment of anything for granted. You don’t take work for granted. You don’t take gambling for granted. You don’t take the people you work with for granted. You don’t take your wife for granted. You don’t take your children for granted. You don’t take your grandchildren for granted. You have blessings all around you and you must appreciate everyone every time. And you have to have the desire every week, somewhere inside of you, to say, “OK, no matter what I’ve done before, I’ve got to be better. Because you are either getting better or you are getting worse. You never stay the same. It’s the desire to do it, always.

OS: What’s your favorite Creamery ice cream flavor?

SJ: Coconut chips, which is really bad for me. Because it’s ice cream, it’s chocolate chips, it’s coconut and it’s not great for my blood sugar. So, maybe it’s a once a year thing, but it’s my favorite. My wife loves the WPSU coffee break.

OS: According to Onward State lore, if you could be any dinosaur, what would it be and why?

SJ: Lots of people think I’m a dinosaur now! But if I could be any dinosaur, I would probably be a Brontosaurus. Even if I think of the Fred Flintstone Brontosaurus burgers. But they are big. They look awesome, but they’re sweet.


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