#STINGDAILY: A Familiar Voice

Aug 29, 2013

Matt Winkeljohn, Sting Daily –

John Pendergast doesn’t have the butterflies quite like Georgia Tech players and coaches as the Yellow Jackets prepare for Saturday’s first game, but the longtime PA announcer is a little more amped up about this home opener than the last.

Pendergast’s voice was the one fans heard over the sound system in Bobby Dodd Stadium for more than a decade before he redshirted last year.

A convergence of events in his professional and personal lives – he opened a second law office and got married – prompted him to sit out the 2012 season. Look who’s back for ’13, and looking forward to talking – just a little bit – about the Jackets’ spar with Elon.

“It’s fun, a great opportunity, and a privilege to be able to do that,” he said. “I’m very lucky. I’ve told this to many people: if you wanted to raise money, you could put that [PA announcer’s job] up for auction, and people would pay to do it.”

This is a bit like coming out of retirement. A redshirt student-athlete keeps practicing. Pendergast watched Tech on TV last season, but did not make it to a game. It would  not be right, however, to suggest that Pendergast is jittery.

“No, not really,” he said. “But you always get a little nervous before you get started because you want to make sure you do everything right.”

Pendergast has been getting it right for a good, long while.

He first served as the PA voice for Tech basketball in the early ’90s. He’s not sure when his first year was, but believes it might  have been ’91, and he did that for 19 seasons.

And all of it started on something of a lark.

Some years after the Wake Forest graduate moved to Atlanta in the early 1980s, he became involved with the Chamber of Commerce and the folks who in those days put on the Peach Bowl. He had a sense of humor, and he’d occasionally bug former Tech sports information director Mike Finn (now in the ACC office) and others: “I was always just kidding with them that if they ever needed a PA guy, and Mike Finn called me up . . . “

Then came legitimate jitters.

“He said my first game will be Carolina on national TV on a Sunday afternoon. I had never done this in my life,” Pendergast recalled. “Baptism by fire. I’d never been behind a mic before. An hour before the game . . . they didn’t have any script written down or anything so I’m writing.”

It worked. In addition to 19 years as Tech’s basketball PA man, he’s about to start what he believes will be his 14th season behind the mic in Bobby Dodd.

With real work that is plenty serious (Pendergast & Associates has an office near Perimeter Mall and another in Jacksonville), the voice keeps it light on game day.

Most of the time, he’s reading from a script, like when introducing folks at halftime and so forth. “The only thing I kind of ad-lib is the plays, and I try to keep that simple.”

There is research involved. Pendergast strives to avoid mis-pronouncing names. To that end, he goes over the game scripts days ahead of time, and in the hour or two before games he reviews rosters with officials from each school.

His advice to himself: “Just get there in plenty of time so you don’t feel rushed.”

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