Man Behind The Broadcasts

Most UC fans are familiar with the smooth voices of Dan Hoard and Jim Kelly Jr. broadcasting football games over the radio. However, many fans are unfamiliar with one of the people in the booth responsible for making the broadcast go so smoothly.

There are several people in the booth with Hoard and Kelly, one of them is spotter Dominic Rapton. During the games, his job is to identify who has made a tackle on every play for Hoard. Sounds easy, right? Well not necessarily.

While it's easy to see who made the open field tackle, many plays have several defenders in on the play and its Rapton's job to let Hoard know who was first in on the stop or who forced the fumble. A task made rather difficult on rushes up the middle into a mass of humanity.

"When I first came in here, my very first game, I came out just thinking ‘oh, it's just a spotting job, I'll spot the ball, no big deal.' Well, as I started to do it you can get mixed up easily," Rapton said.

But like anything else, Rapton says there are tricks of the trade you pick up to make the job a little easier.

"You learn the players, you learn the positions. If the ball is run to the right side you know who the right side linemen are on that play," Rapton said. "So even if all you catch is, say, the number five at the end of their jersey number you know it's No. 95 Derek Wolfe. You learn little shortcuts and once you do it a little more you learn to do it that way and it makes for a smoother broadcast."

Like announcers, probably the most important part of Rapton's job is the pregame preparations which includes studying an opponents' two-deep depth chart and talking to the other team's broadcasters about any potential lineup changes.

"My personal thing is I like to go through the stats and see who the leading tacklers are for Cincinnati, and know who the leading defensive lineman is in tackles or in first hits or who the linebacker is who leads in tackles," Rapton said. "Just know who's probably going to be making that big hit."

Hoard, Cincinnati radio and T.V. announcer for the past 11 years, says the role of a spotter is imperative for his job.

"It's huge, because really as the play-by-play guy the one thing you can really follow is who has the ball. If someone makes a wide open tackle in space and they're trying to get past one guy, then usually I'm ok," Hoard said. "But when they run into packs of three or four it's hard when you're concentrating on who has the ball to identify who is making the tackle. So to have somebody who can recognize that quickly and point it out is a tremendous help."

Rapton is in his second year spotting for UC football games, taking over for Jim Kelly's son, Dave, who is now working at ESPN. Rapton, who works with Kelly at Aramark, was offered the opportunity shortly after Dave Kelly moved on.

"I was just in my office one day and Jim Kelly came in and was telling me about his son getting picked up by ESPN to work for them," Rapton said. "He realized that I was a big college football fan and that I was a graduate of the University of Cincinnati and said ‘Hey I wanted to know if you would be interested in being my spotter?' I said absolutely, I jumped all over that."

A lifelong college football fan, Rapton had always wanted to play some part in college football, but wasn't sure just what that part would be.

"Coming out of high school I was too small and too slow to play college football, which was my dream," Rapton said. "And once I got to college I didn't choose sports management as my major, I chose business so I couldn't get into managing or coaching and I couldn't get in as a player so when I got this opportunity from Jim Kelly I said absolutely."

Prior to becoming a spotter for the Bearcats, Rapton said he had no experience with spotting or in the media in general. The only experience he had was simply from watching games all of his life with his Dad and brother.

While enjoying his opportunity as a spotter, Rapton is hoping to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor and maybe parlay the chance into an on-air gig.

"I would love to be on the air that is my dream. Radio or T.V., it doesn't really matter, but I tend to favor T.V. because I'm so good looking," Rapton said while laughing. "Dan Hoard and Jim Kelly are two of the best in the business and have really helped mentor me in my pursuit of getting on the air. I couldn't have two better people to learn from."

However, even if Rapton is able to realize his dream in a different city, he says that the city Cincinnati and UC will always have a special place in his heart.

"I got my degree from this university. I've been living in this city for 11 years now, it made me a man, I essentially grew up here," Rapton said.

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