For three decades, the same voice has boomed over the speakers at every Catamount home game. Rick Zeisig became the Voice of the Catamounts in 1992, and since then has been announcing every Dalton High School home game.
Rick took over the job in 1992 when his own eighth-grade science teacher and football coach, Ray Broadrick, retired.
“When he was in his 30th year of teaching, he knew it was his last year,” Zeisig said. “Dr. John McMillian, principal of Dalton High School at the time, contacted me a year ahead of time and said, ‘This is Ray’s last year, why don’t you go behind him, learn his routine, and next year we can make you the voice and you can hit the ground running.’”
Kit Carpenter, head football coach, said Rick’s contributions as the Voice of the Catamounts have been critical to the overall experience over the past three decades.
“There is nothing like the experience of a Friday night with the community in the stands supporting our kids,” Carpenter said. “That is what makes high school football so special. Rick has done a great job of doing his part to ensure the atmosphere is special and carrying on that tradition for the last 30 years.”
After 30 years, during the first Dalton High School home game of the season, Zeisig passed the mantle to his own son, Rowdy Zeisig, who is carrying on the family tradition as the next Voice of the Catamounts.
Rick, who is battling throat cancer, said he wishes he could’ve stayed in the position for longer, but he feels proud to see his son take over.
“I would’ve hoped this would be ten years later,” Rick said. “But, I couldn’t have picked a better person to do it. He’s been up here in the press box with me for several years, so he knows what’s going on.”
Stephanie Hungerpiller, principal of Dalton High School, said it is very special to see Rowdy take over from his father after 30 years.
“Rick loves Dalton High and our community, and we appreciate his years of service to our school,” Hungerpiller said. “It is also special to see Rick's son Rowdy, a 2018 graduate for Dalton High School, return to his alma mater to announce the football games for us. I know it makes Rick proud that his son is following in his footsteps.”
In 30 years, Rick has seen countless memorable football games played in Harmon Field. There’s been victorious wins, painful losses, and generations of players playing on the field.
One game in particular stands out in Rick’s memory as a valuable lesson learned. According to Rick, when Coach Bill Chappell was the head coach, football games would kick off at 8 p.m. The team would run on to the field at 7:52 p.m., and Rick was responsible for announcing the band to play the National Anthem before the team made their grand entrance.
On this particular evening, Rick said he was running late, and the team ran out onto the field before the National Anthem could be played.
“When the National Anthem started playing, Coach Chappell turned around,” Rick said. “He knew exactly what seat I was sitting in, and gave me a look that I will never forget. It never happened again, and I learned the lesson.”
When Broadrick turned over the position to Rick in 1992, he taught him the most important lesson. Rick said that Broadrick shared with him the importance of calling the names of each and every student.
“For every player out there, there’s a momma in the stands,” Rick said. “Every time you call their name, they want to hear their son’s first and last name. So, I don’t care if they carry the ball 50 times a game, every time, I call their first and last name.”
For Rick, the best part about being the Voice of the Catamounts is the camaraderie and ability to spend time with the community.
“I love the camaraderie and seeing folks I haven’t seen in a while,” Rick said. “I enjoy seeing people grow up. Rowdy comes to these games, and he was five or six years old the first time. Coming back every year is just amazing.”
Jeff McKinney, athletic director at Dalton High School, said he couldn’t be more grateful to have the chance to work with the entire Zeisig family.
“Rick has been dedicated to the football program for many years now and is always eager for the season to start,” McKinney said. “Our prayers are with Rick and his family during this time. We are appreciative for Rowdy stepping up filling in for his dad. Thanks Rick, and the Zeisig family, for all you have done for Dalton athletics.”
Rowdy said he didn’t necessarily plan on becoming the next Voice of the Catamounts, but he felt he was in the right place at the right time.
“Sometimes you’re just in the right place in the right moment,” Rowdy said. “You can either not do it, or grab it and run with it, and I decided to grab it and run with it.”
As for Rowdy’s favorite part of the job, he said it comes every time Dalton High School gets first down for the first time in any game.
“I have this catchphrase that happened season three or four, and it was totally accidental,” Rick said. “Right as the referee was making the first down call, it just came into my head and I said, ‘And the man in the white hat says, Catamount first down!’ And it stuck. For the first down tonight, Rowdy is going to let me say that, and officially pass the torch that way.”
Sure enough, approximately five minutes into the first quarter, Dalton High School made first down, and Rick’s voice boomed over the speakers with his signature catchphrase, marking the official transition of the position to his son.