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From the booth to the Hall

Updated: Jul 21, 2021

Walker's run as Voice of the Pioneers honored

Jay Walker has been calling Pioneers games for 26 straight years, including calling his 250th straight game in 2019.

If you close your eyes and think of big moments in Pioneer sports the last three decades, the soundtrack playing in your head is probably Jay Walker’s steady voice. Walker may not be a big talker, but every word resonates as he describes the ins and outs of action on the gridiron, hardwood and diamonds.

His sound has become synonymous with Warren County sports as Walker has held the title of ‘Voice of the Pioneers’ for over 20 years. When it came time to select the newest batch of Warren County Sports Hall of Famers this year, nobody had to speak up for Walker.

His voice already carries enough weight in Warren County.

Walker is one of 12 individuals, along with one team, who were recently announced as the Warren County Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2021. When Walker received the news, he was overcome with emotion, knowing his name was being put with some elite company.

“Actually, I’m not ashamed to say I got a little teary-eyed. Warren County sports mean a lot to me,” said Walker. “I’m proud and also feel humbled to be included in such a great group of other inductees. Most of them, I remember when they played and they were great. I’m honored to be part of this institution. It’s a great feeling.”

Walker developed his love for sports in West Tennessee, playing little league baseball, Babe Ruth and basketball as a youngster in Union City. He also played high school football at Lake County and Savannah, but his playing days were long over by the time he turned his attention to radio.

In 1983, Walker knew he wanted to be a broadcaster, particularly for sports. He set the wheels in motion on the first day of broadcasting school.

“The first day, the instructor addressed the class and said, ‘we’re going to go around the room and (I want everybody to) tell me what you want to achieve in radio.’ Everybody wanted to be the next Carl P. Mayfield or John Landecker, great Rock N’ Roll disc jockeys. I said, ‘I’d like to get into sports,’ and I was the only one who wanted to do that,” said Walker.

Jay Walker had to wait 26 years, but he was on the call for a Warren County winning season in 2020. One of his memorable calls came on a Ryland Holder TD run against Cookeville.


Sparta gave Walker his start, with the now legendary voice locally calling Warrior basketball games. He was already living in Warren County, where he had settled down after marrying his wife Teresa.

Walker got a job at WBMC and was already working part time with WAKI, then separate stations, getting on the call as much as he could. But when it came to becoming the main voice in Warren County, it was a waiting game.

“I had to wait my turn. I got a job at WAKI in 1990 doing news, but I still wanted to do sports. Earl Dugan was doing sports at that time, so for four years, I helped him do basketball,” said Walker. “Earl got out of radio around 1995 and I took over his play-by-play duties. I had to wait my turn, but I’ve been doing it ever since.”

Walker is prepared to start his 27th season as the Voice of the Pioneers, including calling his 269th consecutive game when Warren County kicks off at home against DeKalb County Friday, Aug. 20. Being the ironman in the press box is something Walker wears with pride, even though he knows he’s getting the best end of the deal.

“One thing that makes me proud is I’ve never missed a football broadcast. I’ve always been able to show up and do the broadcast. The good Lord keeps me healthy – I have perfect attendance for 26 years for football games,” said Walker.

He also added, with a laugh, that calling games, “keeps me young, keeps me close to the game, and I guess more importantly, it means I don’t have to pay to get in. It’s been fun. I really enjoy it and I’ve come in contact with a lot of good people. I’m the one having fun.”

Along with the players he’s gotten to see, Walker has had a revolving cast of characters around him. One that stuck out early was Troy Jones, who was doing color commentary with Dugan when Walker started at WAKI. Jones was still around when Dugan stepped away and was guiding light in Walker’s first year.

“I don’t think I could’ve made it through the first year of football without Troy Jones. He had worked with Earl for many years and he knew what it needed to sound like. I was nervous – I had done a lot of basketball, but not a lot of football. Troy really got me through the first season and guided me to how the broadcast needed to be structured,” said Walker, who worked with Jones for nearly a decade.

Jones also had a unique talent out on the road before games.

“With Troy, a lot of (the fun) was out of the booth. He was funny and he always knew where to eat. We would ride the roads and he knew it – a steakhouse in Franklin County, a steakhouse in Gallatin, all these different places to eat. He always got catfish – that just what he always wanted,” said Walker.

Over the years calling baseball, softball, soccer, football and basketball, Walker has worked with many great color commentators. He can recite them off with ease – Jones, Jeff Barnes, Bobby Newby (“He was there for three years I believe and he was amazing. He could look at the formation and tell you what play they were going to run. He was usually right,” said Walker), Butch Bullen, David Harris, Bryan Denton and Jeff Lee have all occupied the seat beside Walker over the years.

Walker can call basketball on his own, but he's been joined by a cast of characters during the years in baseball and football. Jeff Lee has been his sidekick over the last decade.


Now a veteran in the game, Walker is the one who can offer words of encouragement if there’s a new person on the broadcast. Overall, it’s always about delivering a good product.

“I always tell any new color analyst, “It’s not brain surgery. It’s not rocket science. It’s high school sports.” I want them to be relaxed and when they feel comfortable, they can speak up and throw something in. It usually doesn’t take them long – Jeff Lee has never had a problem speaking up,” Walker joked. “If they’ve played a sport and are enthusiastic about it, it works. Everybody gets comfortable in the booth and I think everybody enjoys it. I want to have the best broadcast possible and they know that.

“Before long, we’re usually meshing pretty good. They know when to talk and when not to talk, though I have had to turn the mic down on people in big moments because they’ll drown me out. It always works pretty good.”

Walker has seen some amazing moments while following Warren County. He’s called state tournament soccer games, district and region championships in multiple sports and even worked with Tommy Lasorda for an inning during a game against Oakland. He isn’t looking to stop making memories with Warren County sports either.

Walker retired from his day-to-day job at the radio station last year, but he’s not going to be turning over the mic anytime soon for Warren County games. He is still as enthusiastic as ever about describing the big moments for the Pioneers.

“I’m taking it a year at a time. As long as I still get excited about football season – and right now, I’m counting the weeks until kickoff – I’m good. I still look forward to it – there’s nothing like Friday nights,” said Walker. “I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be on a Friday night than up in the booth doing a football game. As long as I feel that way – and I do, I’m also having fun doing basketball and love doing baseball – and the voice is working and the concentration is there, I’ll keep doing it.”

Nobody is going to be rushing Walker out of the booth anytime soon. If there is a new path for the Voice of the Pioneers, it's the one leading straight to the Warren County Sports Hall of Fame.

This is the first of 13 feature stories the Warren County Sports Authority will be presenting in the coming weeks on the Warren County Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2021. A banquet will be held for the new inductees Thursday, Aug. 26 and the group will be honored at a home football game Friday, Aug. 27.


Jay Walker in the booth over the years for Warren County football

More tidbits from Jay Walker

On the changes to the press box at Nunley Stadium: “We went from the worst press box to the best in Middle Tennessee. The old press box leaked really bad. Other stations didn’t want to come and it was really kind of embarrassing. I was so glad when they tore it down and built this new one. Now everybody wants to come to Warren County to broadcast.”

Some of the eye-opening and amusing moments over the years:

“I remember Coach (Sid) Fritz being here. He was the first coaching I had contact with as far as being the play-by-play guy. We didn’t have very good seasons – he went 0-10 his first year and 2-8 his second year. I remember going to Smyrna and it was his first win.

We got greedy before the half and threw a couple of interceptions, one of which was a Pick-6. He wasn’t in a good mood and he didn’t want to talk to Jeff Barnes (sideline reporter at the time). It was funny because I’ve talked to Jeff about it many times.

He said Fritz looked at him, looked at the microphone and looked back at him. Jeff knew it wasn’t a good time to talk to the coach. But we won that game and it was his first win. Later that year, we went to Lebanon and it was their homecoming. Daniel Webb kicked the extra point that ended up being the game winner. It was a very exciting football game.”

“I’ve been through nine football coaches, so it’s hard to remember everything. But I remember Alan Perkins, I think we were playing at LaVergne, and he could just rip the ball of out people’s hands and he would take it for a touchdown. He did that a couple of times.”

Jay Walker joined by Earl Dugan at 2020 homecoming.

“I remember the old gym at Lebanon – It was haunted, or I thought it was anyway. Every time we went there, something strange happened. Earl Dugan and I went there one year and coach (Bobby) Luna got kicked out of the game and riot almost ensued. It was packed.

Another time, I was sitting in the balcony and a fight broke out. There’s not much room to operate up there anyway and the fight breaks out. The fight participants started running down to the end of the balcony, down the steps and outside. Well everybody wanted to see the fight, so they followed and they were all bumping my chair to get out of the balcony.

One time somebody fell from behind me in the bleachers and crashed against me. It nearly knocked my headset off, but I kept going on. I remember Rob Nunley did a column about it. Something weird always happened there.”

“I remember doing basketball games at the old high school in Cookeville. Usually we would be at the very top, but one year they put us down lower. We were right behind the Cookeville student section and they wouldn’t sit down. We asked them to sit down, Cookeville’s broadcaster asked them to sit down and they wouldn’t do it. So we had to stand up on our bleacher seats to call that game. There’s been a lot going on through 26 years and it’s been a lot of fun.”

On some of the standout football players Walker remembers: “Josh Paz was a good running quarterback. He didn’t play on a lot of good teams, but he was a good QB. Caleb Northcutt was exciting to watch. He wasn’t as big as anything, but man he could score touchdowns.”

Some of the standout games Walker recalls: “Both championship games with Sparta the last two years – CJ (Taylor) had a lot to do with those and they were important. I think the game two years ago – because the crowd was so huge and the place was packed – stood out. I had to stand up – I was standing up to see over everybody. It was an exciting finish and I got a little bit excited. Not often do I hear myself on the radio, but I got hear some playback from that game.

There was the Matt Cotten game – he had to hit two free throws at the buzzer to tie and three to win. He hit all three.

There was a game, and I think it was in Murfreesboro for a tournament, where we were playing Cookeville and Chuck Moore hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer. I think that was his name – it’s been a long time.

I was also on the broadcast, but I wasn’t doing play-by-play, when we beat Oakland on their home floor when they were No. 1. There was also a time when White County came into town – maybe 1999 – when they were No. 1 and we led at the end of three by 12 points. They were able to come back and beat us, but the place was packed. It was one of the most exciting games I ever called. I believe Brett Dowdy scored 32 points in that game.”

On helping getting baseball broadcasts started: “We started doing baseball in the postseason of 1998 because we didn’t do it in 1992 and we should have. I went to cover the games, but we weren’t doing the broadcast and I felt like we dropped the ball that year. In 1998, I went to the GM/Owner and said, “We need to do this.” He said if they made it to the region championship, we’ll do it. Sure enough, they did and I think went to Tullahoma. Jeff Barnes and I went to it, then called the substate back at home and went to the state tournament for three games.

“We’ve been doing it every year since then. Jeff did it a couple of years and, while he was doing the play-by-play, I was doing the PA. After a couple of years, I went back to the play-by-play and have done it ever since.”

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