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Basketball

BLUM: Cyclone Legends on the Mic

It’s hard to believe it has been almost 14 years since the passing of Pete Taylor. Taylor was the Voice of the Cyclones for 33 years before his untimely death at the age of 57 on March 5, 2003.

For the Cyclones that grew up listening to Pete, he was as much a part of Iowa State athletics as any player or coach. When he passed away, it felt as if we ALL lost one of our best friends. The person we spent so much time with at home, in the car and at the game was gone just like that. His impact cannot be overstated and his name rightfully hangs in the Hilton rafters.

Replacing Pete Taylor was an almost impossible task. How do you fill the chair of a legend?

In the weeks following, Iowa State still had games to play and games to broadcast. The ultimate professional BJ Schaben stepped up in trying circumstances and finished the season on play-by-play. He never got the credit he deserved for those few weeks.

John Walters was tabbed as the new Voice of the Cyclones in the summer of 2003. Pete was John’s mentor and John knew very well the gravity of the position he was stepping into full time. He has since teamed up with Eric Heft for the football and basketball broadcasts for the years since. It’s almost hard to believe that the current students at Iowa State likely only have listened to John and Eric.

I’ve been fortunate to be a part of the football broadcasts as the producer and pre-game/halftime host since 2010. I get the distinct privilege of calling John and Eric colleagues and mentors. I’ve seen first hand the effort and passion they have for Iowa State and the tremendous work and talent they have.  And trust me, that work isn’t always glamorous. There aren’t too many Power Five play-by-play guys who would get up at 4 a.m. in a driving rainstorm in Waco to help haul bags of equipment up to the pressbox in a shirt and tie, but Walters never complains. His calls have become iconic and Iowa State fans are lucky to have John as its preeminent ambassador. There may not be a better guy around.

But John would be the first to defer any credit to Eric Heft. Heft has now been a part of Iowa State basketball broadcasts since 1979 after being recruited by his best friend Pete Taylor to help out. Heft was a point guard in the early 1970s at Iowa State and still has the single game assist record with 16 against Nebraska in 1974. But for 38 years Cyclone fans have come to know Eric for his supreme work on the radio. He has called virtually every basketball game since 1979 and every Football braodcast since the early 1980s.

Through almost 40 years of calling games, Heft has literally seen more Cyclone games in person than any other human on the planet. His knowledge of the game is impressive, but it is Heft’s wit, sarcasm and ability to call-out undesirable officiating that is second to none. Heft has seen it all and it hasn’t always been good. It’s that ability to roll with the punches that is at the center of every Iowa State fan that Heft exudes so well.

One of my favorite moments in the football booth actually happened in Iowa State’s 70-7 loss to Baylor in 2013. In what was probably the worst game I’ve seen in person, Heft and Walters made it memorbale.  Iowa State had just scored late in the fourth quarter to erase the zero on the scoreboard. We thought the worst was over, Heft knew better.

It’s been truly an honor and a privilege to witness first-hand these two Cyclone legends at work. They are our voice each and every game through the ups and the downs, the celebrations and the times we’ve been “jobbed” by the stripes. Not to mention, they are even better dudes away from the mic.

The next few weeks are always tough for those who knew or listened to Pete Taylor. His impact and legacy should never be forgotten. But that legacy lives on through John and Eric, and they have only added to it. All of us Cyclones are so fortunate to have such great ambassadors and on behalf of Cyclone Nation, I want to say a simple thank you.

Someday Eric and John will have banners side-by-side with Pete Taylor. Right where they belong.