- Associated Press - Sunday, July 31, 2016

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (AP) - Country roads took West Virginia boy Tom Taylor to a home in Northeast Tennessee, eventually leading to a shortened flight that gave new birth through near death.

And through it all, Taylor never lost his way with words.

Born in Charleston, West Virginia, in 1958, Taylor went on to graduate from Marshall University - but not before working as a part-time disc jockey and calling ballgames on the radio for Boyd County High School in Catlettsburg, Kentucky.

It was quite a different career from the bricklaying business where Taylor envisioned himself.

“My father said get an education and you can be a bricklayer later,” said Taylor, who is 58 years old and lives in Johnson City.



Taylor’s first post-education radio gig was in Ocala, Florida, and it presented an opportunity to get a glimpse of a rising star.

“I had been there about a year, and a guy came into the studio,” said Taylor. “He was an up-and-comer, trying to get a break.”

It was 1981, and the performer was attempting to persuade the station to play his music.

“He played the song, and I instantly knew it was going to be a hit,” said Taylor.

The song was “It Turns Me Inside Out,” and the singer was Lee Greenwood.

But Taylor’s passion wouldn’t allow him to be confined to a studio, spinning vinyl. His heart was drawn to painting a constantly changing picture of games in action: play-by-play announcing.

Because his dad back in West Virginia was ill, Taylor wanted to get closer to home. He made an alphabetical list of colleges, and began seeking employment with a broadcast team.

“I began with ‘A’ and started calling,” said Taylor. “The answer was the same: No, no, no. And then I got to ‘E.’ Barry Dowd was the athletic director at East Tennessee State University, and he said they didn’t need a play-by-play guy, but I could be part of the broadcast team.”

Taylor sent an audition tape, interviewed with Dowd, and was hired. Of course, he didn’t know at the time but it was a life-altering move in more ways than one. Taylor was on the plane carrying the ETSU basketball team that crashed in December 1984.

“We flew from Johnson City to Birmingham (Alabama), and the team played UAB,” said Taylor. “We got up the next day with the intention of flying to Oxford (Mississippi) to play Ole Miss.”

The flight to Birmingham was the first in Taylor’s life. The second flight turned scary.

“The plane caught on fire,” said Taylor. “I was clueless. I didn’t know what to expect, but obviously I knew something was wrong.”

The plane - carrying players, coaches, reporters and alumni - crashed in Jasper, Alabama, and nobody was seriously injured. But Taylor was seriously changed.

“It changed my life totally from a spiritual standpoint,” he said. “It made me think I better get serious. It was a wakeup call for my walk with the Lord.”

Taylor would fly again, the next time coming in 1990 when he was a broadcaster for The Citadel. The Bulldogs’ baseball team reached the College World Series, and Taylor flew to Omaha, Nebraska.

“Anytime you go through a crash, I think you have apprehension about flying,” said Taylor. “It was in the back of my mind, but you’ve got to think positive.”

Taylor was with The Citadel for only one season. He decided to return to Northeast Tennessee, setting up a long run as a high school play-by-play guy for Science Hill, Dobyns-Bennett and Sullivan South high schools.

These days, Taylor is charting a new course with the Tom Taylor Sports Show, an internet-based sports talk program.

“It has been a dream,” said Taylor. “It’s the wave of the future. It’s a medium that isn’t going away.

“With the flexibility it allows me, I’m broadcasting on location at places like Food City, Chick Fil-A, Champion Chevrolet, American Import and Bristol Motor Speedway.”

The show airs live weekdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at tomtaylorsports.com.

“The beauty is that after the show airs, you can still listen and/or watch the show 24/7 through your podcast app or at tomtaylorsports.com,” Taylor said.

The show started, humbly enough, in Taylor’s own home. He converted a bedroom into a studio and things have been growing ever since.

As for his family life, Taylor has three daughters and two granddaughters.

“I’ve been tremendously blessed,” he said.

And he’s been successful, winning sportscaster of the year three times in Tennessee, and three times in Virginia.

“Those things are nice, but the most important thing is my walk with the Lord,” said Taylor. “Without Him, I am nothing. My relationship with the Lord is above every award, and everything else I’ve done.

“I don’t know what the Lord has in store for me in the future, but He’s driving my bus.”

___

Information from: Johnson City Press, https://www.johnsoncitypress.com

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