SAN ANGELO — Imagine it’s a Friday night in the middle of October. The weather is brisk and the smell of autumn floats through the San Angelo air. The town bleeds “Angry Orange” with flags and signs, which only means one thing. Today, the Central Bobcats’ football team plays at home.
You take a seat at San Angelo Stadium as a distinctive voice echos through the sold out venue: “Welcome to San Angelo Stadium for this performance as the Central Bobcats take on the…”
The man with the puncturing voice behind the microphone is public address announcer Sonny Cleere. He’s been the “Voice of Bobcat Nation” for 38 years, but that chapter of his life has reached the final sentence.
Cleere is stepping away from the booth after three decades of calling upsets, dominant performances, heart breakers and track meets. The longtime announcer is now turning his attention to a much bigger cause.
Helping the community, and in particular with the “Hunt for Heroes” initiative.
“This next Monday [Sept. 23] we start with our ‘Hunt for Heroes’ and that’s a pretty big project,” Cleere said. “It takes time and I just couldn’t do it all.”
Hunt for Heroes is an annual event in which the group brings in and hunts with 25 wounded veterans over a five-day span. Hunt for Heroes provides the veterans with outfits and rifles at no cost.
“Talk about meeting some interesting people… we outfit them completely with everything you need to hunt with,” Cleere said. “I’m involved with a lot of things [around the community] but my favorite thing is probably the Hunt for Heroes and it takes precedence over everything else.”
“We’re involved in everything,” Cleere added. “It’s a part of my life. “It’s the way I’ve always been and it’s the way I was always raised and I still stay that way.”
The press box at San Angelo Stadium will always be a second home to Cleere and he’s built a scrapbook of memories throughout his time as the Bobcats’ voice. At the centerfold, however, is a game that ironically describes Cleere’s character.
Central battled Arlington Bowie in the Bi- district round of the playoffs in 2014. Despite trailing by 21 points entering the fourth quarter, the Bobcats stormed back to take the win in double overtime 55-52.
Senior quarterback Bryden Hucks stole the show for Central on the offensive end. Hucks completed 19 of 42 passes for 238 yards and two touchdowns and also carried the ball 30 times for 166 yards and six more scores. The senior was responsible for 36 of the Bobcats’ 55 points that night.
“That is the most outstanding, exciting football game I’ve ever seen in high school, college or pro… incredible,” Cleere said. “We have a very active crowd [at Central] but no one left that game. I guarantee you that.”
The momentum of that win carried Central to the Regional round of the playoffs before falling to undefeated Southlake Carroll 35-10. The Bobcats finished with an 11-2 overall record (5-0 in district) that year and held a No. 25 ranking in the state of Texas.
It’s an end of an era for Central, and although Cleere is turning his microphone off and his voice is fading to history, he has one last message for past, present and future Central student-athletes.
“My advice to any athlete football, track whatever it is… is you’re not trying to be the best person in the world. You’re not trying to do that. You’re trying to be the best person you can be. If each athlete, each football player, buys into that philosophy that ‘I’m trying to be the best that I can be… not the best that anyone else can be’ you will be a winner from then on.”
Cleere says that even though he’s walking away from something he’s known for so long, he will stay active within the Central Bobcats’ community and will always be a supporter.
Lake View Chiefs’ announcer John Flint will fill Cleere’s seat in the press box this season and announce both Lake View and Central games at San Angelo Stadium.