NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark — Gary Stephen's voice is raspy, yet recognizable -- especially to anyone who has been to a North Little Rock football game sometime in the last 50 years.
“We’ll go to a store and I’ll buy something and I’ll give the girl my credit card, and I’ll say, here’s my credit card. And she’ll say, you do the announcing at the stadium.”
“It blows me away that she picked up on those four words or five words," Stephens said, "to know I do the announcing.”
Stephens has been the voice of the Charging Wildcats since the 1970's, when the North Little Rock alum first started doing the public address announcing.
“I graduated from university in January of '70," said Stephens. "I came back to North Little Rock and the Athletic Director called me up and asked if I would be interested in doing the games. And I thought, you know, I’m going to be there anyway, why not?”
Stephens didn't think he'd be doing the public address for ten years, let alone all the way to the 2019-20 season.
“Fifty years," Stephens laughs. "Yes, this is my fiftieth year right here.”
Stephens has seen a lot of football over the last five decades, and not all of it has been good.
"There was 20 years where we had two high schools," Stephens said. "We had a North Little Rock Northeast and a North Little Rock Old Main. And I joke about this all the time because it’s true -- there was one year where they each had 10 game schedules, and there was one year where I went 1-19, and that’s when they played each other.”
The Charging Wildcats have been tremendously successful over the last several seasons, but it's not the wins and losses or the championships that mean the most to Stephens.
“It’s brought me a lot closer to the community," he said, "because what I’m doing now, is I’m announcing names of grand kids. I announced the parents, I announced their kids and now I’m doing their kids.”
“Sometimes I’ll go down in the stands during halftime," he added, "and I’ll have people come up to me and they’ll say, ‘do you remember me? I used to play tackle. You used to call my name.’ And I’ll say, ‘yeah, I remember you.’ And they’ll say, 'well my kid's out there playing.'”
Stephens was recently honored at the Blue-Gold North Little Rock basketball game, as he's also the public address announcer for the Charging Wildcats basketball team.
But just because he's being recognized for fifty years of work, it doesn't mean he's planning on retiring any time soon.
"I keep telling my friends," Stephens said, "they're just honoring me, not retiring me."