By: FHSU Alumni Association
HAYS, Kan. – When Gerard Wellbrock became the eighth Voice of the Tigers at Fort Hays State University, he only hoped he could fill the role’s big shoes previously worn by four Kansas Hall of Fame broadcasters. After taking the helm more than 20 years ago, Wellbrock likens the role as a conduit between the team and the fans, transferring the energy from the live game and crowd to those who can’t see the game through storytelling, commentary, and play-by-play.
Destiny and talent brought Wellbrock to the role in 2002 after years of working with the preceding Voice of the Tigers, Steve Webster. Wellbrock, a 1990 FHSU graduate, worked in Phillipsburg with legendary “Tad Pole” broadcaster Tad Felts and in Hays with Webster. Wellbrock served as a color commentator and station worker when Webster received a job offer that led him to leave FHSU. After thirteen years as the Voice of the Tigers, it was time for Webster to pass the baton, and Wellbrock, who had worked several years with Webster, was a shoo-in for the position.
Half a century before Wellbrock would graduate from Fort Hays State University and kickstart his sportscasting career, the first Voice of the Tigers arose. Through 73 years of sportscasters, the Voice of the Tigers has been embodied by eight people, including its first, Bob Schmidt from 1949-51; Bob Jenkins from 1951-55; Kay Melia from 1955-60; Keith Cummings from 1960-68; Bob Davis, from 1968-84; Wyatt Thompson, from 1984-89; Steve Webster, from 1989-2002, and Wellbrock, from 2002 to present. Wellbrock says each sportscaster has had two compelling common threads: a love of sports and a love for Fort Hays State University.
These threads have created an unspoken bond among the group, which meets during the summer to share stories of their time calling play-by-plays for FHSU Athletics. They share experiences, stories, and jokes that only their small group understands. Through heartbreak, like grieving the loss of Bob Schmidt and Kay Melia, and triumph, like calling a championship game, the group has bonded with unwavering support for one another.
Fort Hays State fans, Wellbrock says, have been fortunate to have had generations of talented sportscasters delivering engaging, yet fair, commentary on games. It’s the kind of job, he says, you can’t just show up for. To bring the best possible experience to fans, an effective sportscaster must be disciplined and dedicated to the craft. Though Wellbrock doesn’t plan on hanging up his microphone as the Voice of the Tigers anytime soon, he often thinks of what will be considered his legacy in the role.
Wellbrock has broken the record for being the longest-running Voice of the Tigers. Still, he aspires to announce a national championship for FHSU before passing the torch to the next sportscaster. He feels grateful to be among some of the best sportscasters in Kansas. While he holds out for the national championship, Wellbrock hopes that spectators and fans regard him as a passionate sportscaster who loves his vocation and the university.
Wellbrock will call all Fort Hays State basketball games during this weekend’s MIAA tournament in Kansas City. Going into this weekend, the FHSU men’s team will play their first quarterfinal game against Rogers State on Friday, March 3, at 2:15 p.m. Later that night, the FHSU women’s team will match up against Missouri Western in the quarterfinals at 8:15 p.m. Those tuning in at home can listen to Wellbrock’s broadcast by tuning in to KJLS 103.3 FM. Stay up-to-date throughout the weekend by visiting FHSUAthletics.com or following the FHSU Alumni Association on Facebook.