Jermaine Williams: The man on the mic is the voice of the Mavericks
Portrait 2011 — Volume 3: Up-and-Comers
Jermaine Williams works the microphone at athletic events like a natural.
Beginning in a low monotone voice he respectfully introduces the opposing team’s starters. Then he flips the switch like he has since he was first handed the microphone as an eighth-grader.
“AND NOW FOR YOUR MESA STATE MAVERICKS.”
Williams’ contagious excitement as the public address announcer is only one of many duties for the 27-year-old Williams. He’s in his second year as the athletic events coordinator at Mesa State College, where he oversees game-day management of Mesa State’s athletic facilities and 19 NCAA Division II sports.
“At every athletic event we have student staff members and I help gather those work-study students and schedule them for events,” Williams said. “I work with student engagement and the student group call “the Herd” and get the word out to those students that we have big games coming up. Ticketing, marketing and really anything that has to do with event management, I try to have a hand in those things.”
Williams has always been around sports, but he never got as much enjoyment from playing as he does being involved in other facets.
“I’m really passionate about sports and that comes across when I’m announcing,” Williams said. “If anyone watches me while I’m at the scorers’ table, I get as animated as the coaches do on the bench.
“I stomp my foot, slap the table as professional as I can without making me look like a fool.”
Williams found his calling early on in life.
He grew up in the small southern Indiana town of French Lick, which also happens to be the hometown of Boston Celtics hall-of-famer Larry Bird. As per state requirement in Indiana, Williams played some basketball growing up.
“In fifth- and sixth-grade basketball we had 30 kids in the school and 25 of us played basketball,” Williams said. “Of 25, I was probably 26, but when I did get in there I busted my butt.”
Once Williams arrived at Spring Valley Junior-Senior High School he stayed involved by being a manager for the basketball team. It wasn’t too long before fate stepped in and Williams had his first chance to work a microphone as a timid eighth-grade manager.
“I helped out with our high school basketball team and one of the guys running the scorers’ table said, ‘Hey our announcer isn’t here tonight will you announce?’ So I announced the starting lineup for the varsity basketball team as an eighth-grader scared to death and shaking while I was doing it, but then I did it another night, and by my freshman year they said, ‘Hey you’re now the announcer.’ ”
It’s more than parents in the stands at varsity basketball games, and Williams saw that up close during the 1998 sectional tournament. Spring Valley won the tournament despite a poor record, and Williams found himself holding the trophy at the end of the night.
“We were 3-17 but everyone makes the state tournament and the team we’re playing was 5-12 so you were looking at two of the worst teams in the state,” Williams said. “The gym seated 2,200 and there were 3,000 people there. It was packed.
“The game goes into overtime and we win. Our one senior on the team was walking out of the gym and had to get his bag so he said, ‘Here take the trophy.’ In Indiana, the sectional trophy is a huge wooden plaque of the state of Indiana, so it’s about a 20-pound trophy, and I’m walking out of the school with the sectional trophy and get outside of the school and there are 50 to 60 cars lined up ready to caravan the bus back to French Lick. They all start honking and screaming and I’m holding the trophy as an eighth-grader thinking this is the coolest thing on the planet.
“That sealed it for me that Indiana basketball and the pageantry behind it is like nothing else.”
Williams was heavily involved in other areas of the high school. He was a member of the school’s marching band and was a drum major his final two years.
“In Indiana you have basketball and you have marching band,” Williams said. “By the time I graduated I was a manager for five teams on top of being in band and being class president.”
He continued his education at Greenville College in Greenville, Ill. Williams had many of the same roles at the small Christian school, and after one year as manager he became director of basketball operations.
Williams graduated with a degree in Sports Management, and developed a close relationship with Greenville Athletic Director Doug Faulkner.
“Working with him was a huge benefit,” Williams said. “I saw how things went on the game management side and I make fun because I call it the ‘Faulknarian theory,’ which is plan for the worst and expect the best.”
Williams got his first job for the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Wash., as the assistant to the athletic director. While there he worked with Robin Hamilton, the sister of then-Mesa State Athletic Director Jamie Hamilton.
“She said, ‘This is a young guy that will be an AD someplace someday,’ ” said Jamie Hamilton, who is still involved at Mesa but as athletic director of fundraising. “ ‘See what you can do with him at Mesa because he’s been a value to us.’ ”
Williams began at Mesa State in the fall of 2009, bringing with him the enthusiasm he gained as a schoolboy in Indiana to pass along to the members of the Herd.
“School spirit is big in my mind because that’s how I was brought up in Indiana and watching Indiana University basketball,” Williams said. “Everyone knows and stands up during the fight song, and it’s all those little thing I want to bring with me and it’s starting to pick up momentum.”
Williams’ vacation is going back to French Lick for three weeks every year to help with the Spring Valley High School Blackhawk Brigade Marching Band during their summer camp and the state championships.
“I feel like it’s something I can do to give back to my community, being 1,300 miles away it’s not like I can drive back every weekend for every contest, but it’s one of those things that’s close to my heart,” Williams said. “I have a lot given I’m on of those people that left French Lick, because not a lot of people do.
“So seeing those kids I say, ‘You guys are great kids doing great things but don’t lose sight of graduating high school, going to college, seeing and doing things outside of our small area.’ ”
Williams’ younger sister, Francesca, is a sophomore in the band, and Williams was in attendance when the Blackhawk Brigade won the state championship last fall.
“Seeing those kids cross that threshold and win a championship is something they’ll never forget,” Williams said. “It was such a delight to be there, and to see my sister win it, I cried like a little kid because I was so thrilled for her.”
Williams said someday he hopes to be an athletic director, but realizes the challenges that come with the job.
“At 27 it scares me to death to be an AD because so much of what they have to do is outside of what’s going on the basketball court or the baseball field or soccer pitch,” Williams said. “There is the fundraising aspect of it, dealing with student athletes and coaches issues that, as a game management guy, I don’t have to deal with.
“So I want to be AD, but I want to be like (Mesa State Athletic Director) Butch (Miller), who doesn’t lose sight of all this stuff we have to deal with doesn’t supersede getting up at 5 a.m. to take our softball team to the airport. You have to do that, and you can’t be a hermit in your office who never leaves and the students don’t know who you are, They have to see you out there cheering for them.”