Ryan Phillips grew up a Spartan. He put on the Spartan helmet as a kid. He graduated a Spartan not long ago. Now, he is the voice of the Spartans, and it cannot feel more like home for him.
Phillips graduated from West Hall High School in 2006. He was only one year removed from the McEver Road campus before returning, but this time taking a seat above the gridiron as the Spartans’ football announcer.
“It comes as naturally as it does anything else to me,” Phillips said. “I feel very passionate about it still. I still enjoy coming around here. Obviously, we’re still part of the Spartan community. I met my wife here — she’s my high school sweetheart. We still live and breathe navy blue and silver, so it’s still very easy for me to come here Friday nights in the fall to not only announce the games, but to be passionate about it and continue to root on the team like that.”
In fact, navy-and-silver-infused air runs through the lungs of Phillips’ entire family. His father has been the band director at West Hall since 1988, and both of his brothers graduated from the school. One brother teaches there now.
“My family is a part of the Spartan community,” said Phillips. “All we’ve known is the West Hall community and the West Hall Spartans. So it’s been very easy to get into the games and feel like you’re a part of it.”
Phillips took to the microphone in the fall of 2007 after longtime announcer Gary Bagwell stepped down and the athletic director at the time asked him to take a shot at the booth. Phillips, who was a mass communications student at the University of West Georgia at the time, jumped at the opportunity to stay a part of the community he’d grown up in.
“So I got an email randomly one day from Dr. (Greg) Williams (then athletic director) saying: ‘Hey, we would love for you to come try this out and see how it works.’ So I came,” said Phillips. “My first game, I think we had a four-hour lightning delay and the game didn’t end until 12:30 (a.m.), so that was kind of fun. But ever since then it’s been a breeze — it’s been a blast.”
In fact, it’s so much fun, Phillips hopes to stay in the West Hall community and remain the voice of the Spartans for as long as he can.
“I am known as the voice of the Spartans — that’s how people identify me right now,” he said. “When I was growing up, Mr. Bagwell, he was what I always recognized as a football game being played at Spartan Field. You just heard that old, gravelly voice and you just knew that you were here.
“I’m hoping sometime I’ll hear a young kid say: ‘Hey, you were a big part of me going to West Hall football games when I was a kid.’ That’d be really neat.”
And this season, Phillips said, brings with it more excitement than he remembers in the past decade at West Hall.
With the new football coach, Tony Lotti, came a renewed anticipation of football season the Spartan faithful have not seen in years, Phillips said.
“He has created so much buzz, so much excitement out of this school,” said Phillips. “I’ve never seen so much excitement in the offseason following a 2-8 season.
“Excitement was very hard to find around here. So to see it starting to come back to how it was and how I remember it as a child, it’s very exciting. So I’m really excited for the future.”
And from the excitement surrounding the football team to the camaraderie in the press box, Phillips said it is where he wants to be — it’s where he belongs.
“It’s very easy to get excited about your school, to get excited about your team,” he said. “God willing, I will continue to come back and do this unless He leads me in a different direction.”