By Jon Cooper
It’s difficult to ignore the presence of the public address announcer at a sporting event like tonight’s Georgia Tech football home opener.
How the P.A.A. makes that presence felt can be a determining factor in fans having a positive or negative experience.
Tim Hanchey knows the difference and plans to be a positive in his Grant Field debut. He’ll know if he’s successful if no one knows he’s there.
“I look at a P.A. announcer as an offensive lineman. You don’t know they’re there until they miss a block,” said Hanchey, who will handle the duties for Georgia Tech this season, in place of long-time P.A. John Pendergast, who is on hiatus. “My hope would be that at the end of an experience where I’m a P.A. that you go home and don’t recognize that there was a P.A., that I’m subtle enough in the workings of the game, that I’m adding to the experience and never detracting from it.
“My job is not to try to take over, certainly not to be more than I’m supposed to be,” he added. “I want to be just under the surface, so that you recognize the experience without having to be focused in on the experience.”
Aspiring to be like Omoregie Uzzi — one of the top O-Linemen in the country and one of the toughest names on the Yellow Jackets roster — is a noble goal, but one at which he’s used to reaching. Hanchey has handled public-address duties in his spare time since 2004, starting with the Arena Football League’s Georgia Force. He’s been with the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons since 2005 and has been the voice of Chick-Fil-A Bowls since 2006.
His road to the announcer’s booth has been an interesting one, to say the least.
Hanchey calls Elba, Alabama, his hometown but grew up an “Army Brat,” having lived in Georgia, Florida and Texas as well as Alabama. He attended first and second grade in Tehran, Iran, and junior high school in Frankfurt, Germany. Regardless of where he lived — he currently lives in Suwanee, with Jill, his wife of 33-plus years — he always had a passion for football, especially college football.
That passion and a willingness to follow his dream, led Hanchey, a claims manager for Traveler’s Insurance by day, to the P.A. booth.
One afternoon, he made the short drive from his office to the Arena at Gwinnett to buy Force tickets. He had noticed on the team’s web site that the team was holding open tryouts for the public address announcer position and couldn’t resist giving it a shot.
“I looked at it for a second and thought, ‘I’ve always said I’m going to do this and If I don’t take a chance at it I’ll always kick myself,'” he recalled. “So I went over. There were tons of people. They set everybody up at a desk in the middle of the field with a monitor and a microphone and a script. A couple of decision-makers were in the stands and they had us come through one at a time and do some announcing.”
He didn’t get the full-time job but did get the position as alternate for full-time P.A.A. Chip Hoback and Hoback’s full-time spotter. When Falcons owner Arthur Blank bought the Force, Hanchey met people involved in game day operations for the Falcons and before long, earned a spot as one of the team’s co-P.A. announcers. In turn, his work with the Falcons merited a call from Derrick Martin of the Atlanta Metro Chamber of Commerce and led to work with the Chick-Fil-A Bowl games followed. He’s been handling their games ever since.
When Pendergast told Tech officials he’d be taking the year off, Hanchey auditioned for Georgia Tech’s Director of Game Operations Jeff Gilbert and Associate Director of Athletics-Sales and Fan Experience Rick Thorpe and Associate Director of Athletics-Chief Communications Officer Wayne Hogan and got the job.
That job is one Hanchey takes very seriously but one in which he also considers himself less of an employee and more of an extension of the Yellow Jackets faithful.
“I’m a fan first,” he said. “It’s not just a job. I don’t go in and then, win or lose, walk away and collect a paycheck and go home. I’m invested in the team. Being a fan first allows me to really get emotionally involved in the team I’m supporting.
“We want the fans to enjoy the excitement of a good play. That’s where I’m probably going to get a little more amped up,” he continued. “If it’s a big play, I know it’s a big play. If Tevin [Washington] has made a great throw or one of the receivers has made a great catch, if I just say the ball is complete at the 30 yard line that would take away from it. So you’ll be able hear that in my voice, that I’m as excited as the fans are.”
As Hanchey becomes a part of the Georgia Tech family, he’ll bring his immediate family aboard as well. His son, Justin, serves as spotter, something he’s done since Force days. He does expect some family strife on Sept. 29th, when Tech hosts Middle Tennessee State, as his daughter, Karen attended MTSU, and lives in Nashville, Tenn.
“We are a football family, so I’m sure there will be a good bit of “smack talk” and good-natured ribbing leading up to the MTSU game!” he said.
Making himself at home and carving his own niche with the fans will be something of a work in progress. But an undertaking he’s looking forward to.
“It may take me a couple of games to kind of get into what they enjoy,” he said. “I certainly won’t try to mimic what I do with my Falcons calls, because I think it’s a different entit,y and I want them to have their own identity as to what they expect out of an announcer.”
While Hanchey will seek to entertain the fans, he also knows there is a professional line he can not cross.
“There’s an esprit de corps that’s there for you but there’s also a responsibility you have,” he said. “I’m being entrusted with a huge responsibility. That responsibility is to add to the game experience and never be a detraction.
“It’s very clear to me that something special is going on at the Institute. To be a part of that is something I’m extremely excited about,” he added. “As you look at the tradition that the school offers in football and the other athletic endeavors that they have, they strive for excellence. They want an event-changing experience for the fan, really taking into consideration all the aspects of entertainment that the sports offer as well as just the competition that’s available. I just can’t be more excited and happy to be given the opportunity.”