If you have ever been to a Harrisonville High School football game, you know his voice.
The voice that announces the play, names the players and keeps the crowd informed from the press box belongs to Kevin Thomas, a 1983 Harrisonville High School graduate.
After graduating from the University of Central Missouri in the fall of 1988 with a degree in broadcasting and film and a minor in speech communications, Thomas decided to come back to his hometown.
“I was going to have to travel around a lot to do a small market radio,” Thomas said.
Instead, Thomas said he took the easy way, taking a job with Consolidated Freight Ways, where he worked for 13 years.
He wanted to be involved in his community though so Thomas started announcing youth football games at North Park ball fields on Saturdays. He announced everything from flag football to tackle division out of the back of a pick-up truck before a press box was built.
After doing that for awhile, he got a phone call from Richard Cornell.
“He said let’s go up to the school and see if you can announce the games for eighth grade, freshman and junior varsity because it’s not right that these kids don’t have an announcer,” Thomas said.
So, Thomas and Cornell got in touch with the Harrisonville School District, which gave its blessing for Thomas to announce the games. And when Jim Thompson retired 12 years ago from announcing for varsity, the school contacted Thomas to fill in.
“They gave him (Thompson) a plaque,” Thomas said. “Just like it will be time for me to go one day. Everything comes to an end.”
Thomas volunteers his time, coming to each football game at least two hours in advance. The school blows up two rosters for him and he talks to the opposing team’s coaches to make sure he pronounces names correctly.
“Everyone that’s out here is a grandma, grandpa, mom, dad or friend, so you want to be sure that you get the name pronounced to the best of your ability,” Thomas said. “They will let you know if you don’t. We make a very cognizant effort of that.”
Thomas has also helped start some Friday night Harrisonville football traditions, such as leading the crowd in shouting “first down” after the team makes one and the Monday Night Football theme when the captains meet at the center of the field.
“It’s about the community here, and the community likes that,” Thomas said. “It’s a way to get the kids involved. One thing about Friday nights here, I’ve always likened (it) to a rock concert or great country show. It’s real exciting. There is electricity.”
Thomas said those two things are just pieces of the puzzle that makes Friday nights at Harrisonville’s Memorial Stadium work.
“It’s all a big puzzle,” he said. “You have a band that gives a performance, you have a press box that gives a performance and ultimately a team that gives a performance...You want all the pieces to fit to the best of your ability. The fans also give a good performance, because everyone is a part of this. All your successful high school football programs have that.”
Thomas went on to say that because Harrisonville has such a rich tradition of being successful, it puts more pressure on everyone.
“When the bar is this high, when the community is behind a program, it puts pressure on everyone to be the best you can be, instead of just mediocre,” he aid. “You have to have the community involved to have a successful program. You have to have a great coaching staff and you have to have the kids buy into it.”
But fortunately for Harrisonville, Thomas believes that the Wildcats have great coaches, that are also great teachers.
“You have coaches here that can teach,” he explained. “Great coaches that can teach, instead of like a lot of other schools where you have teachers that can coach.”
Thomas chose to announce football because of that great tradition, but also because he believes that football is kind of like life.
“Football is a lot like the game of life I suppose,” Thomas said. “You kind of fight over some land, you fight over some territory. I don’t care what a kid does in high school as long as they do something...As long as kids stay focused and have activities, it helps keep them out of trouble.”
Thomas said he will probably be announcing games for at least eight more years, so it will be his 20th anniversary plus the 100-year anniversary of Harrisonville football when he retires.
“You do this for the love and it’s something you enjoy,” he said. “And you do it for the community. I’ve always tried to stay big in the community and this is one way to do it. I’ve always considered it a privilege.”