PSU news by
Penn State's student blog

Topics

More

10 Questions With Steve Jones, The Voice Of The Nittany Lions

Penn State football and basketball have both had their fair share of ups and downs over the years, but the one thing that’s remained consistent is the radio commentary from the pipes of a Penn State and sportscasting legend.

Steve Jones is in the midst of his 40th season calling games for the Nittany Lions as the radio play-by-play announcer for both Penn State football and basketball. Jones has delivered fans’ first-rate 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.

Onward State: Tell us about Steve Jones. Where are you from, and who’s your family? What are some things about your personal life that people may not know?

Steve Jones: I grew up in Enfield, Connecticut. [Fun fact]: A connection that I have with somebody national is that I played Little League baseball with Peter King from NBC. So, the two of us ended up getting into media. Obviously, he’s done extremely well. I mean, like, tremendously well. A great writer, really good broadcaster…

One brother, mom, and my dad worked at a sheet metal fabrication shop. I can weld and do all sorts of stuff that a lot of people don’t realize. I ended up going to Penn State and was a March 1980 graduate in speech communication broadcasting and I got a job right out of college, working here in town. I’m married to my wife, Kathy. We’ve been married 42 years and have five children – three boys, two girls and I have seven grandchildren now. And the grandfather thing, I’m good at it.

OS: How old are your kids? Are any of them thinking about or actively pursuing sportscasting?

SJ: They’re 40 down 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 felt more comfortable with what they’re doing and they’re really good at it.

OS: How did you navigate into the field of sports broadcasting? Was it 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 on top of the commons on campus. Now, 10 watts, you could’ve lost the signal in the parking lot. But that’s where I started, and I loved it.

I remember the first play-by-play I ever 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 thought ‘man, this is exactly what I want to do’ and that’s really how I got started. Then when I got to Penn State’s [University Park] campus, I joined WD FM and I was sportscasting games and doing talk shows, just trying to get on the air as often as I could because I was trying very hard to make myself better.

This, right now, is my 30th season doing football and my 22nd as the play-by-play announcer. Coming up, it’ll be my 40th season doing basketball and I just finished my 16th season doing the Spikes. It’s great for me because the change of sports I think keeps you fresh.

OS: What do you enjoy most about your job?

SJ: Everything in the moment is great. Sitting in the broadcast booth, calling a Spikes game in the summertime… hearing the crack of the bat […] Sitting in the Jordan Center, looking out onto the court, hearing the ball bounce, working with Dick Jerardi – incredible. Sitting in Beaver Stadium, looking out at 10s of 1000s of people, waiting for the team to run out, working side by side with the Hall of Famer Jack Ham. Every single experience is just a great experience for me.

OS: You’ve been a part of some memorable moments, some highs, and lows. When you look back on your career thus far, is there one moment in particular that stands out to you?

SJ: There’s a lot. It’s hard to narrow it down into ‘a moment’… [If we’re talking about] basketball, Penn State beating UCLA in the NCAA tournament in the Carrier Dome in 1981, or in 2001 beating North Carolina to get to the Sweet 16, or the NIT championships… For football, Joe’s win to go past Bear Bryant’s 324, his 400th, number 409, getting to do a couple of Rose Bowls, James Franklin going to three New Year’s Six games in four years… But I think of all the moments, the blocked field-goal by Marcus Allen that was scooped up by Grant Haley against Ohio State in 2016 [stands out]. He ran it down that near sideline and the fastest punter who was the holder, Cameron Johnson, has to be the fastest punter/holder on the planet, tripped him up but he still scored.

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

OS: Talk about your relationship with Jack Ham. What’s it like sharing the booth with an icon in the football world?

SJ: There’s nobody more down to earth than Jack. You wouldn’t know that he’s won anything. You wouldn’t know he’s won four Super Bowls; you wouldn’t know he has a gold jacket, except for the people that keep coming up to him and saying, ‘Can we get your picture?’ ‘Can you sign this?’. And he’s gracious with everybody. He’s just a great announcer 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 turn, it’s my responsibility and hopefully, they feel like I make them better. 

But [Jack Ham] is the same guy on the air that he is off the air. And that’s what’s great about him, he’s a no-ego guy. He’s got a great sense of humor. He carries me on the golf course when we’re playing team golf. He’s the kind of person, and the same thing with Dick Jerardi, where one of the key elements was that you have got to be a good listener.

OS: Who is the most prominent or famous person that you’ve encountered during your years doing what you do?

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

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

I’ve been fortunate, to have been around a lot of people who have names, you know. And I’m not somebody who fawns over people, to begin with. So, I think that’s why they end up talking to you because you don’t fawn over 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] that are so down to earth, and James Franklin is down to earth too. You get so used to being around it, and that way you don’t sit there and go, ‘Oh, wow, who’s that?’ You figure out that they’re all people.

OS: What would you say makes you successful for all of these years, and what is it that will continue to make you successful?

SJ: Work. Always working 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 is going to be Villanova, and people say ‘well, that’s not quite the same game as Auburn.’ Yet, I’ll 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 the job for granted. You don’t take the game 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 need to appreciate each and everyone every single time. And you have to have a desire each week, somewhere inside of you to say ‘OK, no matter what I did before, I need to be better.’ Because you either get better, or you get worse. You never stay the same. It’s the desire to do that, always.

OS: What is your favorite Creamery ice cream flavor?

SJ: Coconut chip, 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 sugar level. So, it may be a once-a-year thing, but that’s my favorite. My wife loves WPSU Coffee Break.

OS: Per Onward State tradition, if you could be any dinosaur what would it be and why?

SJ: A lot of people think I’m a dinosaur now! But if I could be any dinosaur, I would probably be a Brontosaurus. Even though I think of Fred Flintstone Brontosaurus burgers. But they’re big. They look imposing, but they’re gentle.

Your ad blocker is on.

Please choose an option below.

Sign up for our e-mail newsletter:
OR
Support quality journalism:
Purchase a Subscription!

About the Author

Zach Donaldson

Zach is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. He is currently an Onward State contrib. and also serves as an editor for Penn State’s CommRadio. He’s hails from Downingtown, Pa. or in other words just outside of Philly. When he's not watching or ranting about Philly sports, you can probably find him at the gym. If you like sports tweets, follow him on Twitter @zachdonaldson_ and all inquires go to [email protected]

Comments

State College Links
Other posts by Zach

Penn State Football’s Jaquan Brisker Accepts Senior Bowl Invite

Brisker opted to use his extra year of eligibility to return to Happy Valley, and it’s paid off immensely so far.

Donate Extra Meal Points To Students In Need Starting November 13

Sean Clifford Named Finalist For Senior CLASS Award

Staff Predictions: Penn State vs. No. 12 Michigan State

Our staff is expecting a tight battle for the Landy-Grant Trophy this weekend.

Staff Predictions: Penn State vs. No. 12 Michigan State

Our staff is expecting a tight battle for the Landy-Grant Trophy this weekend.

Onward State Gives Thanks 2021

From El Jefe’s burritos and Penn State football to our friends and family, our staff is thankful for a little bit of everything this year.

James Franklin Agrees To New Contract Stretching Through 2031

End the speculation, folks. James Franklin is sticking around in Happy Valley for a long while.

Send this to a friend