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Announcers Are Familiar Voices In Leesburg
September 30, 2001|By Richard Burton, Sentinel Correspondent
LEESBURG -- Jack Wilson has seen it all when it comes to Leesburg High School sports.
From Wilbur Lofton's 1969 state runner-up football team to the 1977 boys basketball and baseball
state championship squads, Wilson, 71, has attempted to get "just the facts" out to his listeners and
"have a good time" while calling his beloved Yellow Jackets.
Wilson, who has been announcing Leesburg sporting events since 1964, works with Jack Mitchell and
Lenny Dickerson in calling games on 790 AM (WLBE) out of Leesburg.
Mitchell has been with Wilson since the 1978-79 school year, while Dickerson joined the team in 1991.
Wilson, a former mayor and Leesburg city commissioner and barber for 48 years, started out with
WLBE before going to 1410 AM (WQBQ) for a couple of years before coming back home to WLBE.
"I was cutting the [WLBE] station manager's hair one day and he said, how about broadcasting
tonight's football game?" Wilson said. "And I said, `I don't know anything about broadcasting.' He said,
`Well, you have the knowledge of the game,' and I was officiating at the time, and he said, `you've got
the voice for it, so why don't you try it?' "
The station manager helped him that first night back in 1964, but Wilson remarked: "During the middle
of the first quarter, the station manager left and I have been at it ever since."
The only interruption was five months he spent recuperating after three operations, including triple
bypass heart surgery, in 1995. As soon as he was up to it, he was back behind the mike.
Both Mitchell and Dickerson joined the broadcast team through their friendship with Wilson.
"I used to help him carry up the equipment up these steps," Dickerson said. "We used to have really
heavy equipment, and he needed me for that."
Things have changed. Dickerson, 54, now brings the equipment up to the press box in a folder.
Equipment for broadcasting may have changed for the trio, but the love and interest hasn't.
"We just try and give something positive for the kids and school," Dickerson said. "I think everybody
enjoys that if they can't come to the game, they can listen and they really appreciate the fact that we do
Mitchell, 63, took over for Don Napier during the 1978-79 school year and has been at Wilson's side
"I always came to the football games anyway, so it made sense," Mitchell said. "Being up here and
listening to Wilson is fun, we have really had a great time.
"We used to always take a couple of coaches with us to the games and we just had a great time."
The team jokes about their football careers prior to the game like most football fathers do.
"Wilson was a running back, so he was a hero at Webster," Mitchell said. "I played for a little bitty town
called Frostproof, which has been real good since I have left."
The trio points to Leesburg's last district championship football squad in 1992 as probably their finest
hour of calling football.
The Yellow Jackets were led by speedy tailback Oran Singleton, who ran for more than 5,000 yards in
his high school career before a knee injury in a second-round playoff loss to Daytona Beach
Seabreeze cut short his season.
"He put on a show," Wilson said.
Added Dickerson: "It was fun to do the games because he [Oran] was pretty much unstoppable. We
were talking about it the other night and the only team that was really able to keep him from scoring
was Eustis, for some reason.
"Because when we played them during his junior and senior year, we won both those games by
scores of 7-6, but then in every other game he scored like four or five touchdowns."
Leesburg's Jermaine Orr, who had a punt return called back in a Sept. 15 loss to Ocala Vanguard,
used a silky zigzagging style to run the kick back. This reminded Mitchell about Singleton and he let his
listeners on to what happened in 1992 compared to what with Orr's return.
"We saw that happen several times when Oran would zigzag across the field that we would get called
for a clip," Mitchell said. "I remember one time during those mosquito games [1990 when the Florida
High School Activities Association had some counties play day games because of the threat of St.
Louis encephalitis] that he went 80 yards and it got called back and then next play he went 90 yards for
a touchdown. Remember that?"
To which Dickerson replied, "Oran did that quite a bit back then."
The three men continued to carry their knowledge of the past into the present.
During a lull in the action, they talked of how Singleton made yet another amazing play.
"I remember one time a referee blew the play down at the 20 and the coach ran out on the field and he
was standing at the 40 all by himself," Mitchell said. "He was holding up the flag and the referee said,
`Oh, my goodness.' They blew the play down and felt bad that they had taken a touchdown away from
"Well, the next play Oran went 90 yards for a touchdown. We saw some things back in those days."
Leesburg may have lost to Vanguard 28-21, but Wilson, Mitchell and Dickerson made many football
fans in Lake County happy with their call of the game.
"I will be out and people will come up to me and say, `Hey man, I really enjoyed the broadcast of that
game,' " Mitchell said. "More people listen to you than you really think."