By: Derek Havens
For the past 28 seasons, Gino Cappalletti and Gil Santos have been on the call for he New England Patriots. Every play, every score, every historical moment in that time frame has been delivered by the two legendary broadcasters.
However, radio color analyst Cappelletti officially retired prior to the start of this season and Santos, 72, announced this will be his final year in the booth.
Santos battled a severe case of pneumonia and at one point lost feeling in his extremities, which caused him to be taken to the hospital by ambulance on Feb. 24. He left a rehab center on May 19 with the help of a walker and returned to the booth for the Patriots first preseason game on Aug. 9.
Former Patriots quarterback Scott Zolak, who joined Patriots radio broadcasts in a sideline role last season, replaced Cappelletti’s place in the booth. The question remains, who will take over for Santos as the play-by-play man?
For me, the choice is simple, John Rooke.
For starters, let’s take a look at his background:
– 16 years of Division I college football radio play-by-play experience, including six at the network level
– Two years of pro football experience for the USFL (United States Football League)
– ESPN, NBC Sports, WEEI talk show host experience
– Play-by-play for minor league baseball, MLB, Division 1 NCAA Football / basketball, MLS and NFL
– 20 years inside the Patriots organization
Of course, this is just some of Rooke’s extensive background in the business and most impressive is his 20 years of experience with the Patriots. I think that’s most important for anyone who would step in for Santos, having the right experience and knowing the team as well as the league.
In the Q & A below, I asked Rooke several questions in regards to his job qualifications and how his experience would help him succeed as Santos’ potential successor.
Q & A with the man himself, John Rooke:
What is your best trait that translates to the broadcast booth?
My best trait? The ability to talk fast, I suppose! I think I just have an ability to keep up with the play on the field, describe what is happening as a good reporter should do…but most importantly, create a visual picture for those who are trying or hoping to “see” the game through my eyes. That’s my job, first and foremost. The basics…and to paint the picture so the listener can see what we see. If I do that, that’s what it’s all about…and I’m always striving to perfect this trait.
How long have you wanted this particular job?
I’ve always wanted to be an NFL guy. Even when I was in the NBA! From the very first time I heard a Dallas Cowboys’ broadcast as a kid. To be there, describing the play on the field…it leaves me just about speechless. If I’m fortunate to receive an opportunity, it will be the realization of an almost life-long ambition.
What separates you from other potential candidates for this position?
Good question. I’m uniquely qualified, in that I’ve covered and worked for this team for more than 20 years. I’m at the Stadium visiting, talking, covering, reporting 3-4 days per week…I know the organization, the personnel, the people better than most. I know the ins and outs. I’ve covered pro football for more than a quarter century. In short, I’ve got experience. I’d be surprised to find someone with more, or better, experience and opportunity than I have had. Shoot, other than Dante Scarnecchia, I have more Patriots’ experience than just about every other person in that stadium.
Obviously you have a tremendous amount of experience, but do you think you are qualified to take over for Gil Santos?
I’m humbled just to be mentioned in the same sentence as Gil. Gil has been a friend and a mentor to me, and has always been available to offer a kind word or a thought about my work in the college game, or on ESPN, or wherever I might have been working. I think fans would want someone that knows the team and organization, but also someone who understands what it takes to do a professional job on the broadcast, how to present that broadcast with the proper energy and enthusiasm, and entertain as well as inform. Gil does that now. His shoes are very big, but I believe I’m uniquely qualified to fill them. I would embrace the chance to step into those shoes, and if I’m fortunate enough to be called upon, Patriot fans can rest assured the legacy he has created will remain in place… and grow.
Overall, John Rooke is the most sensible option to take over for Gil Santos for the 2013 NFL season. He has all of the necessary traits, incomparable experience and would be the perfect voice of the New England Patriots franchise moving forward.
Not only is he a tremendous broadcaster, but he is also an incredible human being and I know he would make the most of this opportunity. These reasons and countless others make Rooke the obvious choice to take over for Santos.