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Meet the Man Behind ‘First Down, Ole Miss’

By Benita Whitehorn

University of Mississippi

Glen Waddle announces at the Ole Miss first home football game of the 2023 season vs. Mercer on Sept. 2. Photo courtesy Ole Miss Department of Intercollegiate Athletics

Glen Waddle (BPA 77, JD 80), public address announcer for Ole Miss football for more than a quarter-century, has no plans to quit anytime soon.

“If they don’t want me anymore, that’s a different thing,” the University of Mississippi alumnus said. “But as long as I’m ambulatory, I want to keep working the games if they’ll let me.”

Renowned for his “First down, Ole Miss” call and response during home football games, Waddle is also a true red-and-blue sports fan.

He has been to every Ole Miss home football game since 1965 and has not missed a game, home or away, since 1975, when he was an Ole Miss student. That is 562 games in a row before the start of this football season.

“If you know Glen, there is no doubt about his tremendous loyalty and dedication to Ole Miss,” said Langston Rogers, senior associate athletics director emeritus for athletics media relations, who has known Waddle for about 40 years. 

“He is so dependable, and you knew he would always be there on game day. When Glen became our public address announcer, I attempted to pay him for his service, but he declined my efforts with a simple reply that this was a way for him to give back to Ole Miss.”

Waddle, who lives in Jackson, gets paid for all his other numerous announcing gigs. But to this day, he still announces Ole Miss football and baseball – and fills in for basketball, volleyball and tennis – for free.

“To me, it’s giving back to the school because I enjoyed it so much here, got a good education, met people that I’m still lifelong friends with, and it’s just a school that I’ve always had in my heart and will always keep it there,” he said.

For Waddle, public address announcing is his ancillary career. When he is not behind the mic, he is the director and counsel for the Mississippi Bar Association’s Consumer Assistance Program. He said he created the consumer assistance program in 1994, and 18 other state bar associations have created similar programs since.

Previously, he practiced law as a court-appointed attorney for about 15 years, during which he said he handled everything “from traffic tickets to capital murder.”

Student Years

Though his family wanted him to go to Mississippi College, Waddle said he wanted to go to the university ever since he went to Ole Miss football games in Jackson as a kid.

He paid his own way during his undergraduate years by working summers for his dad in construction and earned a bachelor’s degree in public administration, with a minor in history, in 1977 and a law degree in 1980.

During his years at the university, Waddle joined Sigma Pi fraternity and described his time on campus as “crazy, wild, fun. Everything you would expect out of a college experience.”

Through the fraternity, he also made lifelong friends, including Marc Palmer (BRL 81), who is his spotter for football games, and Tom Burke, who escorted the Ole Miss football team for many years as a highway patrolman.

As students, Waddle and his friends took their role as Ole Miss sports fans seriously.

“Glen and a group of classmates would get to any home game they attended very early,” said David Kellum, play-by-play radio announcer for the Ole Miss Rebels, special assistant to the athletics director and UM adjunct instructional assistant professor of journalism, who has known Waddle as a friend and co-worker for 45 years.

“Normally they would be on the front row of the Tad Pad, Old Swayze or Vaught-Hemingway ready to get after the opposing players and coaches,” Kellum said. “I don’t know if they have been matched since, ha! They were loud and pointed in their fandom. You could hear them from anywhere in the facility.

“They once got an Auburn baseball coach so mad he was ready to confront them in the stands.”

A Special Calling

Soon after Waddle finished law school in 1980, he joined the Jackson Touchdown Club to get to know people and do business. The club sponsored the Mississippi High School All-Star Football Game, now known as the Bernard Blackwell All-Star Football Game, and while sitting in the stands during one of those games, Waddle noticed and remarked upon the PA announcements.

“I said, ‘You know, I think I could do a better job.’ And so in ’82, the Touchdown Club brought me up in the press box to start doing the games, and I’ve been doing PA ever since.”

Waddle started with football but branched out to announcing basketball, baseball, hockey, soccer, volleyball and tennis for high school, college and national events.

At Ole Miss, he filled in for a few football games in Jackson in 1997 and started announcing full time at all home games in 1998. He began working Ole Miss baseball in 2001, which was coach Mike Bianco’s first season.

“Glen’s voice is synonymous with Ole Miss baseball and is a crucial part of the environment we have created at Swayze Field,” Bianco said. “We are grateful for the long hours he puts in each weekend to make this program better.”

At football games, if fans don’t know the PA announcer’s name, then they certainly know his catchphrase. Waddle unabashedly confessed to how the “First down, Ole Miss” call got started.

“It’s a stolen idea,” he said. “Most good public address announcing ideas are stolen. You go to a ballpark and you hear something and say, ‘Hey, that might work in my yard.’

“There was an official in the NFL named Red Cashion. And when they put him on the mic, he would announce, ‘First dowwnnn!’ He was a Southern dude. He had the Southern drawl. And I said, let’s see if I can try that with Ole Miss.”

Waddle said it took a few years for the saying to take off, from when he started announcing full time in 1998 to quarterback Eli Manning’s senior year in 2003.

“After that, it caught on,” he said, adding that it’s fun and exhilarating to shout “FIRST DOWN!” and hear the crowd respond “Ollllle Miss!”

Waddle has a wonderful, professional-sounding voice that is deep and projects well, Kellum said.

“His ‘First down, Ole Miss’ in football has become a huge fan favorite,” he said. “Sometimes fans get us confused and will tell me, ‘I love your first down, Ole Miss!’ My answer always is, ‘That would be Glen Waddle on the PA. I’m the radio guy.'”

Waddle spends a fair amount of time on the road, traveling between Jackson and Oxford for games, but he said he sees it as a drive around the block. Over the years he has made the trip during all kinds of weather, including ice storms and a tornado that passed right over his car near Winona.

To prepare for football games, he arrives at Vaught-Hemingway at least three hours before kickoff. He starts his preparation by going over announcements and the pronunciation of players’ names, as well as helping the radio crew with pinning depth charts and such.

He also goes to every road game and contributes as the spotter or statistician for the Ole Miss Radio Network. Due to an inner-ear condition, he has driven, rather than flown, to all the games, including two games in California.

“He not only does the current game’s stats but also keeps up with trends and records that could be broken,” Kellum said.

Goals, Penalties and All That Jazz

After football, Waddle’s second-favorite sport to announce and watch is hockey. At the mere mention of the Stanley Cup-winning Philadelphia Flyers back in 1974-75, he reels off the names of the players.

“The Broad Street Bullies: Bobby Clarke, Bernie Parent, ‘Moose’ Dupont. He was a fighter. Dave Schultz, the ultimate fighter. He set the record for penalty minutes. I followed all that stuff back then.

“I love hockey. I called three years of pro hockey in the minor leagues in Jackson. … I’ve been following the St. Louis Blues for a very long time. I used to follow the New York Islanders for a while. But yeah, I’m a big hockey fan.”

In his spare time, Waddle also loves something else.

“I love to listen to jazz music,” he said. “I go to live jazz all the time in the Jackson area. My favorite artist is Herb Alpert, the trumpeter from the ’60s who’s still playing. He’s 88, but he’s still doing gigs. I’ve seen him five times in the last four years.”

While Waddle enjoys his leisure time, he said he hopes to keep announcing games for a long time.

“I have no intention of retiring anytime soon, really from anything, whether my regular job or my announcing job. I like both. It keeps me off the streets, keeps me involved.”

And even after all the games he’s seen, he wants to see more.

“Every game is fresh,” he said. “It doesn’t make any difference what the circumstances are. Every game is fun. Every game is different. Every game’s a new deal.”

Adam Brown
Adam Brown
Sports Editor

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