One of Will Rogers' most oft-quoted thoughts says you can tell a lot about a man through the friends he makes and the company he keeps.
If that is indeed a standard by which to judge the legacy a man leaves when he departs this Earth, then Pete Taylor will be very hard to replace.
After 33 years the voice of the Cyclones was silenced this week. I had the privilege…no…make that the honor to preside over nearly three hours of testimony to Pete's impact on the ISU sports community and the sports community at-large on my radio show the day Pete passed.
I wasn't sure beforehand if I was worthy of such a distinction. After it was over, I knew I wasn't.
The broadcast wasn't so much a eulogy as it was a tribute to the many lives Pete touched both in person and on the airwaves. It wasn't overly maudlin, either. It struck the right tone of somber reverence for a man most fans considered a trusted friend even though they only knew him through his voice.
The callers ran the gamut of people Pete reached with his voice and his spirit. It didn't matter whether it was one of the multitude of fans that lived and died with the Cyclones by the inflection of Pete's voice and the words he spoke on the radio. Or those who stopped Pete at a grocery store, a cocktail party or on the golf course seeking an audience and he was more than gracious with his time.
Some of the folks who called into the show were just fans with everyday lives like many of you. Others represented movers and shakers in our community like former Drake great Dolph Pulliam, KCCI's Heidi Soliday, ISU football coach Dan McCarney, ISU athletic director Bruce Van De Velde, and Iowa Cubs general manager Sam Bernabe.
That cross-section of people tells you two things about Pete. First, that he was comfortable in his own skin. Second, that he made everybody around him comfortable as well.
If you knew Pete at all then you knew he could work an audience no matter what the occasion. He was the same guy you talked to off-the-record or on the golf course as he was emceeing a large Cyclone Club function or addressing donors. He was equally dignified and friendly. The only thing that Pete changed depending on the audience was the color of his language.
He was an every-man's man. Just about everyone related to him in some way, and that's what made him so special to fans.
As a broadcaster, what always impressed me the most about Pete was his ability to walk the tightrope between telling it like it is while still being true to his school.
Pete loved Iowa State unconditionally, but when the team was struggling – or when the officials were yet again robbing the Cyclones blind – you always heard it in Pete's voice first. That's the Pete the fans identified with.
But there's another Pete that not too many of the fans got to know too well. That was Pete the goodwill ambassador both inside and outside the athletic department. As KJJC's Jeff Holdorf said to me last week, Pete was "the glue" inside the Jacobson Building. Coaches, players, administrators came and went. But Pete was the one constant. He was Mr. Cyclone.
He was the loyal soldier and the silent majority all rolled into one. He was more of a consiglieri than a Godfather. Behind the scenes, nearly everyone associated with ISU athletics sought his sage counsel at least once. He was a consensus builder who built bridges across differences and agendas. Coaches from Dan McCarney to Tim Floyd to Larry Eustachy – among many others – considered him a confidant and a friend.
I wouldn't go so far as to call Pete a friend, and I probably think I knew him better than I actually did. Nonetheless, to me he was always friendly even though I knew at times an old pro like Pete didn't approve of or appreciate the way I conducted my little corner of the broadcasting universe. However, Pete was always somebody I trusted. Whether it be as a source for information or a source of wisdom.
When Bill Seals and I considered starting Cyclone Nation Magazine the first person inside ISU we sought an audience with was Pete. That's because we knew Pete knew the pulse of the ISU fan and the athletic department. We knew Pete would give it to us straight and flat-out tell us if we were wasting our time.
Whenever I wanted to verify a crazy rumor, Pete was one of the first sources I would approach. Again, because I knew he was a straight shooter.
I never told Pete this to his face, but I respected the heck out of him. Both on and off the air. I suppose I never mentioned it because I feared I would sound like some goofy kid or a groupie when I wanted to be treated like a mature contemporary. I let my lack of humility get in the way, and if Pete was anything he was humble. It's too bad I didn't learn that lesson from him until it was too late.
I think I also took Pete for granted, but in a good way. He was just such a reassuring figure that you envisioned he would always be there. Many of you probably feel the same way now.
With Pete passing on at the age of 57, and a very young-looking 57 I might add, we'll always be left with the memory of tan, fit Pete Taylor still at the top of his game. Still blessed with the innate ability to make a game on the radio seem like theater of the mind. We'll always be left wanting more.
But at least Pete got the chance to call ISU's recent athletic renaissance. After so many lean years, Pete got to see the Cyclones win a bowl game for the first time in school-history, dominate in-state rival Iowa, and win consecutive Big 12 men's basketball championships. Plus, in Pete's final year behind the microphone he got to call two victories over the Hawkeyes in Iowa City.
As someone who got the chance to see firsthand the pride in Pete's eyes after the Insight.com Bowl victory three years ago, trust me when I tell you that being on the frontlines of ISU's athletic resurgence meant a lot to him. Just as it still does to all of you.
It's probably impossible to overstate Pete's passing and its impact on Cyclone fans everywhere as well as Iowa State. Mr. Cyclone will be sorely missed.
Good night, Pete.
(Steve Deace can be heard each Monday-Friday from 4-7 p.m. in Central Iowa on 1460-KXNO, the flagship of the Cyclone Radio Network)