September 01, 2016
It’s game week in Statesboro, but we’ll get to that later.
I believe everyone has at least one thing that takes them back. A song, a smell, a place — something that causes a flood of childhood memories that hit you like a truck. When you experience whatever that something is, it stops you for a second. If only for just a moment, you’re a kid again.
As a lifelong Georgia Southern fan who grew up in Statesboro, one of those things for me has always been the sound of Nate Hirsch’s voice. Nate was — and for many, still is — the Voice of the Eagles. I’m not taking anything away from his successors, but Nate began calling Georgia Southern baseball and basketball games in 1971. When Georgia Southern re-started the football program in the early 1980s, Nate delivered play-by-play for every game through 2006. If you were an Eagle fan and you weren’t able to be at a game, you listened to Nate Hirsch. He was the only Voice of the Eagles I ever knew from the time I was born until I was 24 years old.
He not only called all six football national championships, baseball’s two trips to Omaha for the College World Series and men’s basketball’s three appearances in the Big Dance, but for many years also brought Statesboro High School and Bulloch Academy football games to the airwaves. He was not just the voice of the Eagles. He was the voice of the entire community. But he was so much more to this community than just a voice. He was a loving husband, father, grandfather, friend, colleague and mentor. Quite honestly, he was a giant in this community in the eyes of many.
He had an enthusiasm for life that was contagious. Quite simply, Nate Hirsch just loved people, and you would be hard-pressed to find anyone more passionate about Statesboro, Georgia Southern and the people in those communities anywhere.
We lost Nate Hirsch on Sunday. He leaves behind a wife, four daughters and several grandchildren. He also leaves behind a community on which he had a huge impact — a community that has now lost its voice.
Hearing Nate’s voice somehow takes me back to a cool Saturday afternoon in late fall as a kid cheering on my Eagles. Growing up, I spent many a Saturday at Paulson Stadium watching my heroes in the blue and white do battle on the field. But my family didn’t go to every single game, and we didn’t travel to many road games at all. For me and so many others, Nate Hirsch — from the broadcast booth each Saturday — brought to life the careers of so many Eagle greats like Erk Russell, Tracy Ham and Adrian Peterson.
I have to wonder if Nate Hirsch and his longtime on-air partner, Frank Inman, are reunited in a broadcast booth in heaven, doing what they loved for so many years. If they are, I bet there’s a bald-headed coach pacing the sideline.
Thank you, Nate, for providing the soundtrack of my childhood. If you were here to do so, I know you would deflect all this attention away from yourself and would much rather talk about the upcoming Georgia Southern football season. A season with high expectations that starts this Saturday evening, when the Eagles welcome Savannah State to Paulson. So I’ll wrap up by doing just that.
Saturday’s opener will mark the debut of head coach Tyson Summers in what should be a blowout. Savannah State will be a huge underdog and the Tigers have looked way over-matched the last few times these teams have played. The Eagles have won the last two matchups by a combined score of 160-18.
Tattler Prediction: This team and coaching staff haven’t been in a live game scenario yet, so there is the potential for some early mistakes. However, even if Southern plays sloppy early on, the Tigers won’t have the ammunition to capitalize.
Eagles 63 Tigers 6
And Nate Hirsch will be sporting that infectious smile, looking down on Paulson Stadium as the sun goes down Saturday night.