Rathbun Always Close to the Action

ATHENS – In sports media since he was 12, Bob Rathbun has gotten used to being in the middle of the action.

A native of Salisbury, NC, Rathburn made his way to the Atlanta area after decades of covering sports through the Mid-Atlantic. He and fellow Salisbury native Ron Morris, who is the lead columnist at The State in South Carolina, covered high school sports for legendary editor Horace Billings at the Salisbury Post.

"I remember that Horace Billings would commute to cover the Masters in Augusta every day," Rathbun said with a laugh. "He didn't want to ask the paper to pay for a hotel because he was worried that they would not let him cover the it."

Rathburn was watching – he noted the type of determination that Billings had to make the eight-hour roundtrip drive to Augusta and back each day.

With that in mind he set off on his career in sports. Along the way he's brushed shoulders with many in the Georgia community.

"My high school was in the North Carolina state playoffs for basketball," Rathburn remembers. "And we were playing the Washington Pam Pack. They had this guy named Dominique Wilkins on their team."

"Pam Pack," Rathburn interrupted himself, "is probably the greatest nickname in high school athletics."

"But Dominique could have won the game by himself," he remembered. "All of his teammates were cousins of his – that was the starting lineup. They were so good."

Rathburn now works with the Georgia legend on Atlanta Hawks broadcasts on Fox Sports.

"I've actually called his games while he was in high school, at Georgia and in the NBA," Rathburn said. "This will be our third year together. Nique always talks about Georgia. He is very close to Mark Fox. He came to one of our games, and it was like a homecoming. Wilkins is a legend, not just with the Hawks, but with Georgia, too. Things just trigger his memory. It is a source of great entertainment for me."

The Emmy Award-winning broadcaster will call Georgia's pivotal game at Mississippi State on Fox Sports South Saturday night at 7 PM. Rathburn says the Bulldogs of Athens are well known around the South, and he remembers the time when he started paying attention to them.

"When the Braves come to the South, the focus on all things Georgia including the Bulldogs," Rathburn said. "Georgia football has always been a great brand in the South."

He said that he's gotten to know Georgia head man Mark Richt over the years because motivational speaking both do.

"Both Mark and I are big into leadership," he said. "One of our mentors is John Maxwell, who lives in Atlanta. He's been instrumental in Mark's life. In speaking for John I sort of got to know Mark."

"To be able to get to know (John Maxwell) on a personal level has been pretty neat. Sometimes you read books and you admire somebody's work and it's not very often you can meet that guy. To me, I can describe him as a guy who has a lot of information on leadership and other subjects. He can't wait to help others and share it. He just wants help. He just sincerely wants to help people. He just wants to help period," Richt said of Maxwell.

Rathburn said he's eager to show off Fox Sports South's coverage of the Dawgs.

"Our network, Fox Sports South, is the biggest regional sports network in the country. For us to get an SEC football package was huge," he said. "We always had a game here and there, like the Central Michigan game, but to have a weekly SEC game is huge. It is big when we get Georgia, Alabama and everyone in the SEC. It is a big deal. It is just a bigger deal for the Georgia fans for us this week because their fans will get to sample our network."

Fox Sports South broadcast one of the most memorable moments in recent Georgia history when running back Knowshon Moreno went airborne in 2008. Rathburn had the call.

"Moreno… nice cut back… LOOK AT HIM JUMP THE DEFENDER… OH BABY! 29 yards for Moreno, and he didn't use a trampoline."

"That one was pretty good," he said thinking back. "You see players leap over defenders… that happens, but usually the guy is going for his legs. This cat is standing erect. He had no shot. It was amazing."

Rathburn added that as a broadcaster you have to let yourself call the play in the moment – let your talent take over.

"You kind of pinch yourself… what guys can do is so amazing," he said. "Your instincts take over, and you make the call. When the big plays happen… that's when you have to be at your best. The best play calls are the ones that just come out of your mouths."

Big plays have been difficult to come by for Georgia so far this season. With an 0-2 record in the SEC for the first time since 1993, Rathburn says both Georgia and State will be itching for a win.

"This is a season saver right here," he said. "You just can't go 0-3. We know someone will be 0-3. But the mindset is that you just can't loose this game. I think you are going to see two pretty even teams, and Georgia is going to be on road."

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