The day I replaced Gene Deckerhoff
Everyone has times when they get nervous. Standing on the tee of a hole with a narrow fairway, the first time I went live on Sky Sports, or explaining to my wife when I'm two hours late back from being out with friends. And then there was the fourth quarter at Wembley Stadium in October 2009.
As part of the NFL Films documentary on myself and the Bucs UK, we had set up the opportunity for me to join Gene Deckerhoff and Dave Moore on Buccaneer radio. It would depend on the game situation but my past TV and radio experience had convinced producer Jeff Ryan that I was no broadcasting novice and it was on the cards.
Half-time came and went, as did the third quarter and as the game disappeared out of reach, so it seemed did my chance of fulfilling probably the only dream I had left on my Buccaneer wish list.
And then came the call from Jeff Ryan - you're up. Eight minutes left in the game and the Bucs are trailing the Patriots 35-7. And whilst Josh Freeman is getting some last minute advice from the coaching staff, I'm sitting down next to Gene and putting on the headset ready to go when we come out of the commercial.
And I'm absolutely crapping myself. I've done seven-hour long live shows on Sky Sports to half a million people, radio broadcasts across the world and interviewed all kinds of famous people. But nothing quite prepared me for what I was about to do.
And after an initial introduction, I'm on the hotseat as the Patriots kick deep to Sammie Stroughter who takes a knee in the endzone. Except it's Yamon Figurs. First play and I've blown it.
The TV feed in the media seats runs about two seconds behind the live action so you have to use your own eyes to describe the action and you're sideways on with no spotter help (I've taken his seat). And 16 and 18 look pretty alike from that distance.
We go to a commercial and I don't know what to say or do. But Jeff Ryan and Dave Moore are re-assuring me that it's OK and Gene is sitting taking a back seat for a few minutes. So it's still down to the even more nervous Brit now.
Two running plays, a sack and two passes later and the Bucs are punting to end the short drive. But it's one I will never forget because I called it. All the research and prep work I had done in anticipation went out of the window in sheer nerves and having heard the commentary, I really feel it's pretty appalling as I know what I can do in such a situation.
Except it was one that went beyond anything I could have imagined. I have a new understanding for what Gene, Dave and Jeff do for Buc fans around the world each game and I wish you could all appreciate it more too now.
And for the record, I called Josh Freeman's first NFL pass which made the post-game summary. And even funnier was that it was broadcast on WDAE620 when I of course work regularly for 1010 Sports, the rival channel.
But I have lived the dream albeit it briefly. NFL Films captured the occasion for their documentary, Gary Woollard snapped loads of pictures of the sweat rolling down my face and Nick Houllis has linked up the audio with the game feed. All I need to do now is clean the stains off my underwear.
Paul Stewart, 27 October 2009
From the producer Jeff Ryan - "I want you know that you really are being hard on yourself..I thought it went well..itís live radio and it was fun .. I received some comment s that it added to the flavor of being in London. Now that Josh Freeman has been named the starter you may have brought us some luck! All the Best. Jeff"