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Gainesville superfan is the voice of Red Elephant football

POSTED: October 8, 2009 11:32 p.m.
SCOTT ROGERS/The Times

Longtime Gainesville High football stadium announcer Walt Snelling is such a devoted Red Elephants' fan that the press box at Bobby Gruhn Field at City Park is named in his honor.

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Walt Snelling may work for Carosal Enterprises Inc. in Gainesville, but once Friday night comes around, his focus is on the Gainesville High Red Elephants.

Snelling, 72, a 1955 graduate of Gainesville High, is the football stadium announcer for the Red Elephants. He is a former football player, and he is such a dedicated Red Elephants superfan that he has been announcing for about 25 years.

Snelling recalls his time at Gainesville High as part of the best time of his life, especially when the Red Elephants beat then-rival Decatur.

"Beating Decatur back in those days was a much bigger deal than it is now," Snelling said.

Snelling enjoys being a small part in the lives of the football players, and he is proud of the progress that the Red Elephants have made in recent years. This year’s team is unbeaten and ranked No. 1 in the state among Class AAA teams.

"This year’s team will be hard to beat," said Snelling, who says this year’s squad is "probably the best one ever."

"The speed is beyond belief," Snelling said. "They are great kids who have got it together."

Snelling likes to joke around with the players, one of which is his grandson, Ryan Snelling, a junior.

Since Gainesville High football has always been a big part of Snelling’s life, he is commonly asked questions about past teams. Snelling says that the most frequent question he gets is which Gainesville High teams were the best. Snelling can recite the seasons without hesitation: 1948, 1949, 1951, 1959 and 2002.

While some people let the emotion of football rivalries get the best of them, Snelling keeps his cool.

"I’m one of those rare individuals," Snelling said. "The hate factor doesn’t apply to me. I love all of the children, and I pull for every local team — except for when they play the Red Elephants."

Like a true superfan, Snelling wears attire to support his favorite teams.

"You’ll either see me with a Gainesville T-shirt or a Georgia Tech shirt," Snelling said. "But I love the Red Elephants more than Georgia Tech."

On Friday morning you will find Snelling at Longstreet Cafe with many of the Gainesville High students.

Snelling said that students from every area school — Gainesville, North Hall and Chestatee, among them — will get along at Longstreet great with no problems. But he does admit that there is a growing rivalry between Gainesville and North Hall.

If there are problems though, Snelling said that it is mostly the parents who start things.

"The kids seem to respect and love each other just like the good Lord wants us to," Snelling said.

Snelling believes that football can be a good character-builder for children.

"It teaches them teamwork," Snelling said. "You’ll be a better person because of it."

The Red Elephants put their unbeaten season on the line tonight against the East Hall Vikings. This year’s run of victories has made this a memorable season for Snelling.

"It feels wonderful," Snelling said. "It makes me look forward to getting up every day, and I look forward to Friday night."



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