A Story for Stan

Memories fade as you get older. But you cling to them anyway, those snapshots in time that helped shape who you are, where you’ve been and where you’re going.

Ole Miss has always been such a significant part of my life. Stan Sandroni was synonymous with Ole Miss.

Stan passed away Wednesday night of a heart attack. The last time I spoke with him, he was standing along the sideline of the Vanderbilt game, toting his mic and headset. As the long-time sideline reporter for the Ole Miss Radio Network, he was right where he belonged. Ole Miss was his passion.

No one loved Ole Miss more.

Allow me to tell you a story. In New Albany, Miss., you have to make a choice early in life. Ole Miss or Mississippi State. One or the other. Option three doesn’t exist.

There was no room for debate in my family. My father made it be known very early in the lives of his three sons they were to root for the Rebels. And so it was. Period. Dad told me once he would pay for any college I attended, so long as it was Ole Miss and not Mississippi State. He was joking, kind of, about the Ole Miss part. He was deathly serious about Mississippi State.

I remember me and my brothers dangling our legs from the railing of the north end zone when we were little, watching as our childhood idol, former New Albany quarterback-turned-Ole Miss fullback Eli Anding, made our hometown proud.

Meet the Rebels was a family event. We’d sprint onto the field to meet Dou Innocent and Kris Mangum and Stewart Patridge and John Avery and Ta’Boris Fisher and Nate Wayne and Ronnie Heard, later cherishing our fully-signed autographed football during the 30-minute car ride home, still sweating from those blistering hot August afternoons.

In those days, out-of-market games meant Saturday afternoons glued to the nearest radio we could find. David Kellum on the call. Stan Sandroni on the sideline.

On Sept. 25, 1999, there was a festival of some sort being held downtown. The details are foggy now, but so much as it’s an exaggeration, the entire town was there. I was in and out of friends’ houses, getting bits and pieces of Ole Miss – Auburn, the first game between the schools following the unceremonious departure of Tommy Tuberville from his pine box.

Only a few times in my sports life have I wanted a win so badly. You can imagine my excitement when Romaro Miller connected with Cory Peterson for a touchdown pass in overtime for a 24-17 Ole Miss win. I ran around the block in celebration. Cheers broke out in front of the courthouse. Seriously. Now 28, a framed print of the catch hangs in my home, a reminder of the moment. And what a moment. What a game.

After circling the block a time or two, I came back to the radio. There was Stan, providing the color of what had just happened, his voice strained from the stress of some four quarters and change of yelling.

Kellum went to Stan as the players celebrated on the field. Deep snapper Bobby Killion had raced to the locker room and brought out victory cigars – a nice dig at Tuberville, known to fire one up after a win.

Stan was in the middle of everything. He had to stop a time or two or six to celebrate with a given player racing by. Stan let me in. He brought me along with him, sharing in the experience.

You would be hard-pressed to find someone who knew Stan better than Chuck Rounsaville. Through Chuck, who hired me to work for the Spirit six years ago, I got to know Stan well. I met him for the first time while filling in for Chuck one random Monday on the Rebel Yell Hotline. He encouraged me to jump right in, setting me up with my take on whatever Ole Miss topic we were discussing at the time. The small-town kid talking Ole Miss with the man who was, to him, a titan of Ole Miss football.

It’s unacceptable that he’s gone.

A voice of my childhood has been silenced. Death gets all of us. Live your life. Hug your loved ones. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Be thankful for another day. Love too much. Don’t stress the little things – a bit of advice I’m committing myself to starting today.

Stan’s celebrating somewhere, a victory cigar in hand.

One day, as he did so many times before, he’ll bring me along with him.

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