Growing up, Philadelphia native Merrill Reese knew he wanted to be a broadcaster. A sportscaster, to be specific.
While attending Temple University, Reese learned his craft at the college’s radio station, WRTI, where he did play-by-play for school sporting events and spun records on his weekly music show. After earning his bachelor’s degree in communications and broadcasting, Reese embarked on a radio career that would take him to the small Pennsylvania towns of Pottstown and Levittown before he eventually landed a job as a newscaster and sportscaster at WHAT and WWDB in Philadelphia.
After a few years, Reese moved to WIP, where he worked as a summer replacement and fill-in sportscaster and eventually began doing pre-game and post-game shows for the Philadelphia Eagles. From there, he became the color commentator during Eagles games, and took over the play-by-play duties during the 1977 season.
Over the course of the past four decades, Merrill Reese has been the voice of the Philadelphia Eagles, lending his iconic voice to some of the greatest moments in franchise history, and along the way establishing himself as one of the most accomplished sportscasters in history. He has won numerous Best Sportscaster awards and has been inducted into both the Temple University Communications Hall of Fame and the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame.
In 1998, Reese published his autobiography, It’s Gooooood, and in 2010, he published the highly-acclaimed Sportscasting: Turning Your Passion Into a Profession. To learn more about Reese and his work, visit merrillreese.com or follow him on Facebook.
When you initially decided that you wanted to be a sportscaster, who were your biggest influences? Stylistically, was there anyone you attempted to emulate?
I grew up listening to sports on the radio. I dreamed of being a NFL quarterback, but at 5′ 8″ and 150 pounds, that wasn’t going to happen. As a kid, I did many TV commercials. With my background in broadcasting and love of sports, sportscasting was a natural goal. My favorite local broadcaster was Bill Campbell… on the national scene it was Ray Scott. I never emulated anyone stylistically but I’m sure subconsciously broadcasters that you admire have an influence on your approach.
Back when you were trying to find a foothold in towns like Pottstown and Levittown, was there ever a point when you considered giving up on your radio dreams?
In the early years, there were times when I wondered if I would ever reach a major market, but those thoughts evaporated quickly and I refocused on my target.
How do you prepare for an Eagles broadcast these days? Have your methods of preparation changed since your early years?
I’m at practice every day speaking with players and coaches. Each night I study tapes of the opponent’s previous games and read reports and columns. I also digest all NFL news. I memorize uniform numbers. The preparation is unending. Accessing information and game tape on the internet is the biggest change.
Which Philadelphia Eagles games have been the most memorable of your broadcasting career?
The most memorable games were “the Miracle of the Meadowlands” in 1978, the NFC Championship win over Dallas on January 11, 1981, and “Miracle II” at Giants Stadium on December 19th, 2010.
Which Eagles players have you most enjoyed watching over the years?
Too many players to name. The greatest player was Reggie White… the most exciting was Randall Cunningham. The most successful quarterback was Donovan McNabb.
In your opinion, was Chip Kelly given enough of an opportunity to build a winning team in Philadelphia? What does he need to do to be successful in San Francisco?
The Eagles were trending downward. A change was warranted.
What are you most looking forward to with the Doug Pederson era in Philadelphia?
I believe Sam Bradford will benefit from an improved offensive line and an upgraded wide receiver corps.
From your perspective, what sets Eagles fans apart from other fanbases across the NFL?
Eagles fans are the most passionate in the NFL. They boo but they’re at the game every week regardless of how the season is going.
During the NFL offseason, what does a typical day for you look like?
I’m managing partner at WBCB radio in Levittown, PA. I’m at the station every day. I also do a lot of speaking appearances, charity and community work, commercials, and in my spare time, play a lot of golf.
Are there any contemporary sportscasters that you particularly admire?
There are many wonderful broadcasters. Among my personal favorites are Jim Nantz, Al Michaels, Verne Lundquist, and Mike Tirico. I’m sure I left some out.
How do you think the Eagles will do in 2016?
They’re a better team now than they were at the end of last season. I never predict records.