Middle-schooler making his mark as a football announcer

By Jason A. Smith
Times Correspondent

Football season means different things to different people.

For some, it means gathering in front of a television with friends, and cheering on their favorite team every weekend. For others, it means watching a game from the stands while surrounded by throngs of rabid fans.

Avery Johnson has been announcing football games for Locust Grove Middle School since sixth grade. Special photo

But, for 13-year-old Avery Johnson, football season isn’t about sitting in front of the TV or in the stands. It’s about calling plays from the announcer’s chair.

Johnson announces home games of the Locust Grove Middle School Wildcats football team.

“I enjoy being enthusiastic, being at all the games and being able to watch the game, too,” he says.

Avery snagged the plum announcing gig when he was in sixth grade. Prior to that time, he had spent a few weeks doing the morning and afternoon announcements for his school.

That changed after he talked with his Principal, Tony Townsend, about announcing football games.

“He came to me and asked if he could be a part of it,” says Townsend. “He has been interested in moving into that career. He was very adamant that that was what he wanted to do. He came to us and talked about his ideal career behind scenes, behind the camera, behind the microphone.”

The school devised a television-productions class specifically for Avery, as part of its personalized-learning approach to education.

“I was very ecstatic about it, and I was grateful for the opportunity that they were giving me,” says Avery. “I would like to pursue that as a career.”

Soon after talking with Townsend, Avery spent a day shadowing a teacher and parent volunteer named Herman Mason to learn the basics of being an announcer. By the time the next home game rolled around, Mason – who now teaches at Locust Grove High School – had turned the microphone over to Avery to announce games on his own.

“Some people were surprised that a kid my age was calling games,” says Avery. “After seeing me and hearing me, they really enjoyed seeing me at the games.”

On game days, Avery arrives at his school’s stadium early, checking the sound equipment and assembling any announcements that need to be made for the crowd during a game. As is the case with many sports announcers, he has worked to develop his own style of calling plays to generate excitement from the crowd.

Avery says a highlight of any game for him is when the team reaches the end zone, resulting in him yelling, “Touchdooooown, Wildcats!”

“The football players really like it when we do that, too,” says Avery.

One person who has been in the booth with Avery for every game he’s announced is his mother, Buffie. She says she was surprised when she first learned her son would be calling football games for the school.

“I was shocked,” Buffie Johnson says. “I thought if they were going to let any student do it, it would be an eighth-grader.”

Still, she adds, Avery’s passion for football as a fan comes through during games -- particularly when his team scores a touchdown.

“When he calls that play and he does that long, drawn-out call, he’s jumping around in the booth. It brings a big smile to my face,” says Buffie Johnson. “Avery has watched football from a very early age. He has always enjoyed watching the refs and learning the calls. So he really didn't have much to study when this opportunity came up.”

When he’s not in the announcer’s booth, Avery Johnson enjoys playing recreational soccer and watching international soccer. His mother says her son’s interest in football and soccer has helped him to hone in on different announcers in developing his own style.

“Larry Munson, former UGA announcer, is one of his favorites, because you could hear his love of the game through his voice,” says the mother. “He also enjoys listening to International soccer announcers because of the ‘party atmosphere’ they put into their announcing.”

An emotional Buffie Johnson says she is grateful for the chance her son has been given to announce games for the last three years.

“My heart just wells up with pride for him because he works hard for it,” she says while holding back tears. “He does a good job.”

Townsend says he is proud of what Avery has accomplished thus far as a student and as an announcer.

“The thing I’ve enjoyed about Avery is just the growth and maturity and confidence that he’s had in himself,” says Townsend. “He’s really made the games more enjoyable, to be honest with you.”

The Wildcats wrapped up their regular season Oct. 21, losing to Austin Road Middle School.

However, Avery Johnson’s days as a football announcer may not be over. He already has plans to talk to officials at Locust Grove High School to see if they have a spot for him as an announcer there.