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Announcer Paul Overbay a South sports institution

Tanner Cook • May 30, 2020 at 10:45 AM

Few people can listen to a Sullivan South radio broadcast for either a football or basketball game and say they weren’t entertained.

Paul Overbay is the man behind all of the animated and lively Rebels broadcasts, and he’s been at it for quite a while.

“I started doing the ‘Friday Night Sports Spectacular’ with WJCW back in either 1988 or 1989,” Overbay said. “I originally signed on as a salesperson and just kind of worked my way into the broadcasting side of the business. I did envision myself as a broadcaster at some point because I was always associated with sports.”

PLAYING DAYS

Overbay attended old Sullivan High School — he was a member of the Class of 1967 — and played basketball and baseball.

“I was fortunate enough to play for one of the greatest basketball coaches ever in this area in Dickie Warren,” he said. “He was hard on us, but he later told us that he did that so that he could make us better. My senior year, we were ranked No. 2 in the state and played Science Hill in the regional finals.

“We played horrible in the second half and lost by two points (54-52) after we had a six-point halftime lead. Science Hill ended up finishing runner-up in the state that year and I sometimes think that we could’ve had a shot if we would’ve played better.”

On the baseball diamond, Overbay was an exceptional leadoff hitter his junior and senior years, batting .464 and .484 his final two seasons. He made the all-region team both times as a center fielder.

“We had a great baseball coach in Jim Norton and that was a pretty good team. We had a future second- round draft pick by the Pittsburgh Pirates in Alvin Sells,” Overbay said. “We were a bunch of guys that just loved to play the game, though.”

TAKING TO THE RADIO WAVES

Overbay has been affiliated with a number of the local teams across all sports.

“When we did the ‘Friday Night Sports Spectacular,’ we would send out five or six reporters to all the games,” he said. “I started out with Science Hill in the early ’90s and did a lot of their broadcasts. I did several of their state championship basketball games when they had their run.”

He’s worked with Daniel Boone, Tennessee High and Dobyns-Bennett, for a brief stint. He also stepped away from broadcasting for three years.

But Overbay has always been fond of the school in Colonial Heights.

“I live in Colonial Heights and my kids went there. It’s always been kind of like home,” he said.

ARBY’S CLASSIC IN ITS HEYDAY

Overbay and Bill Meade, another longtime local broadcaster, took to the airwaves for every Arby’s Classic for more than a decade. Meade mostly did the play-by-play and Overbay was the color commentator.

“There is nobody better than Bill Meade,” Overbay said. “The Arby’s was at its peak then and there were sellout crowds every night. We saw some of the best players in the country play and it was certainly an exciting time.

“That’s where one of my catchphrases came from,” he added. “When a player would go way up for a slam dunk, I’d say ‘There’s a slam, bam and a jam.’ ”

VOICE OF THE REBELS

“Whatever season it is, that’s my favorite sport,” Overbay noted. “I really have no preference.”

He’s been doing Rebels sports for four years and enjoyed every moment. Most listeners can recognize him by one of his famous catchphrases.

“The ‘Downtown Leroy Brown’ just came to me one night when a player hit a long shot from the outside. There’s also a ‘Downtown Loretta Brown’ for when we do the girls games,” Overbay said. “There’s a funny story with that catchphrase. One night, coach John Allen Compton and his wife were driving back and listening to the game.

“His wife, Dolores, asked him when that Leroy Brown kid was going to graduate because she thought he’d been on the team for eight years.”

Some of Overbay’s other famous calls include, “Roaring, soaring and scoring,” and, “He steals, wheels and deals.”

Overbay likes to pattern his broadcasting after one of his broadcasting idols: the late John Ward of Tennessee fame.

“I’ve always thought that John Ward was the best out there,” Overbay said. “We have to do a lot of improvising with doing the color and play-by-play when you’re solo.”

Though Overbay doesn’t really have a particular favorite moment from his career, he said the playoffs are always a special time.

“There was one time when South was in the playoffs against Science Hill and Jimmy Wingfield busted through the line of scrimmage and outran everybody down the sidelines for a touchdown,” he said. “That was a really exciting one that I remember specifically.

“The most exciting time is the next game. Every game is different and has its own makeup. Some of the biggest compliments that I have ever gotten have been from opposing teams’ friends and family. They told me that I was an unbiased broadcaster and they were happy that I mentioned the kids no matter who they played for when they made a great play.”

“A SPECIAL GROUP”

South qualified for the 2020 TSSAA Class AA boys basketball state tournament this past winter by winning a road sectional game at Alcoa, but the Rebels were denied a trip to Murfreesboro to compete for the title after the coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of the state tournament.

“I was heartbroken for those kids, especially those seniors,” Overbay said. “That was a special group and whether you started or were on the bench, a senior or a freshman, it was a family.

“A lot of credit should go to Michael McMeans, Justin Humphries and Clay Potter for giving the team that kind of feel.”

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