By Rubin E. Grant
John Parker Wilson has been around football for more than 20 years, but the last thing he expected this fall was to be part of the Alabama radio broadcast team.
“It definitely wasn’t on my radar,” Wilson said.
But when color commentator Phil Savage left the radio team in July, the Alabama athletic department tabbed Wilson, who was the Crimson Tide’s quarterback from 2005 to 2008, to join Eli Gold in the booth.
Savage had been Gold’s sidekick since 2009, when he filled the role previously held by Hall of Famer Ken Stabler. Savage left to take the general manager job for the Phoenix franchise of the new AAF professional league.
Wilson had to audition and interview for the job before he was hired as Savage’s replacement.
“I had no (broadcast) experience, but 20-plus years in football prepared me for it,” Wilson said.
After a stellar career at Hoover High School, Wilson was a three-year starter for the Tide, spanning the Mike Shula and Nick Saban coaching eras. He threw for 7,924 yards in his four seasons with the Tide. He also spent five years in the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons, Jacksonville Jaguars and Pittsburgh Steelers.
Wilson didn’t rely solely on his knowledge of the game for his new position. He sought out advice. “I talked to as many people as I could to get ready for the season,” he said.
One of the people Wilson talked to was former Tide quarterback Greg McElroy.
“Greg helped me a lot,” Wilson said. “He’s at ESPN, doing TV. But I never knew before that TV and radio (broadcasting) is completely different.”
Wilson now has three games under his broadcast belt.
“It’s definitely different from being on the field,” he said. “I had no idea what to expect. I’m getting more comfortable. It’s been a lot of fun, especially with the team winning.
“Being Saban’s first quarterback at Alabama and knowing his thought process on game day and during the week has helped me. Plus, I stayed pretty involved with the program after I graduated. Two years ago in camp, I was the scout team quarterback. I think my experience of being on the field and in the huddle is something I can pass on to the listeners.”
Wilson enjoys working with Gold, who is in his 30th season as the voice of the Crimson Tide.
“Eli is great,” Wilson said. “Having somebody like that makes my job easier. He’s such a professional, a legend and a great learning resource.”
Words of Wisdom
Gold is happy to team with Wilson.
“John Parker and I have been friends for years,” Gold said. “He’s a wonderful young man.
“You don’t have to worry about him knowing X’s and O’s because he’s been a quarterback in college and in the NFL. He can take the listener inside the helmet because he’s been there and done that.”
Wilson continues to learn about the nuances of radio broadcasting.
“He has a habit of always adjusting his microphone and I have to tell him he has to turn off the cough switch because of the sound it makes,” Gold said. “He also likes to take his headset off during commercials and I have to remind him that’s when we talk among ourselves for 1½ to two minutes, which is vital for us. It’s tough for him to hear me with all the crowd noise.
“It’s the little broadcast stuff we are working on to make him more comfortable. But he’s doing well.”
Wilson, 33, lives in Mountain Brook with his wife, Tyler, and their young son, Parks. He also works as a financial adviser for Morgan Stanley.