In 1985, Graceland University’s Athletic Department asked Joe Shelton ’67 to temporarily cover PA Field Announcement duties for home football games. “I thought I’d work a couple games and then turn it back to the regular announcer,” Shelton said. This year marked the first time in 30 years that someone else was behind the microphone at Huntsman Field.
For his contributions, Shelton was an inductee in the 2016 Graceland University Hall of Fame. “He has served the Graceland community in various ways over the years: dedicating countless hours as the home announcer, ‘the voice of Yellowjacket football,’ and as the official scorekeeper for Yellowjacket basketball” can be read on the Hall of Fame plaque. “It was truly an honor to induct Joe into the Yellowjacket Hall of Fame,” Joe Worlund, Graceland University Athletic Director, said. “His years of service to athletics is well worthy of the recognition. Joe bleeds blue and gold and is the standard for distinguished service to athletics. His dedication as the voice of Yellowjacket football makes him an icon and truly unreplaceable.”
The Centralia, Illinois, native missed only three games during his tenure. As field announcer, Shelton had to have a strong knowledge of college football, including rules and positions, and specific knowledge of Graceland University’s football team and its traditions. Shelton announced starting lineups, all game action, public address announcements, presentations, contests and homecoming activities. He called the first few years of his tenure without a spotter, until his teenage son, Matt, joined him in the booth to help out. “Learning how to pronounce names was one aspect of my duties that I thought was most important,” Shelton said. “I wasn’t always successful. Occasionally a parent of one of the players would knock on the press box door to correct me during the game.”
Shelton wasn’t just the field announcer pronouncing player names, the runner or tackler, down and distance, and place on the field. He was the person people in the stands felt they knew. “For years one of the signs of Graceland football was the smell of grilled onions wafting through the stands,” Shelton said. “When the person who grilled the onions left, grilled onions left with her. It wasn’t too long until there was a rap on the press box door asking where were the grilled onions – then several more thumps. Finally, I passed their complaints along, and grilled onions were back. So, I guess I’m the ambassador for grilled onions, too.”
As field announcer, Shelton called all home games. “One year, Graceland played host to Mayville State University of Mayville, North Dakota,” Carl McGuire, who shared booth activities, said. “The game was held at Vikings stadium in Minneapolis. Since Graceland was the host team, we provided the press box crew consisting of Joe as announcer, Larry Sturgis running the game clock and me on the play clock. It was a special time for all of us and a thrill to work in the Vikings stadium. It was also a special time since the Yellowjackets won the game 27-7.”
“I wasn’t ever nervous except for homecoming games,” Shelton said. “There was always so much to do and remember, and the crowd was the largest of the year. I look back and think of plays – and players. I remember our 0-10 year and going 9-1… I’m still waiting for a perfect win season. I appreciate everyone who contributed to making Graceland football successful over the years: the chain gang, spotters, radio broadcasters. Mostly I remembered we yelled and cheered with the ebb and flow of the game. It was a great time.”
Joe Shelton ’67
As Published in The Lamoni Chronicle, written by Gary Rees
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