(Photo by Christine Terpening: Long time announcer, Jeff Weiler, has served MVS for over 25 years.)
Imagine. It’s Friday night in The Valley…Maple Valley. There’s a crisp chill in the air. A bright harvest moon shines a spotlight on a team of boys, and the occasional gritty girl, that are amped up to live their football dreams. They are living in the moment and the electricity is felt in every fan on both sides of the field. To round out the thrill of the ambiance, a voice with a football drawl like no other rings through the air. A voice that adds a momentous kick to Maple Valley Football.
Jeff Weiler, otherwise known as The Voice of Maple Valley, has laid down the mic after more than a quarter century of announcing. The small, consolidated school has been proud of their big talent that has showcased athletes as though they were D1 college athletes, because in Weiler’s eyes, they were just as important. “Retiring from announcing is a bittersweet thing and I will miss the kids,” said Weiler. He relays in words and emotion that the outpouring of love from the community has been ‘heartfelt.’ “It’s never been about me.It’s always been my love of the kids,” he humbly expressed.
A 1981 graduate of Maple Valley, Weiler was quite the baseball player. “I had the privilege to play baseball for the great coach, Larry Lenz,” he said proudly. Weiler’s senior year earned him first team all-conference and first team all-county for his third base prowess.
Weiler’s announcing career came about by pure chance. It was 1998 as he settled into the bleachers to cheer on his stepson, Chris Loveall, as he played youth football. “He’s where it all began,” as Weiler fondly recalls. Rob Goris, the head of youth football at the time, approached him and said ‘Jeff, I don’t have an announcer today. Do you think you could help us out?’ Not having the heart to say no, Weiler announced his first football game. He stayed the entire day and announced every game after. In fact, Weiler announced the rest of the season. “The next couple years that followed I was announcing everything out here at the high school and it’s been that way ever since,” he said proudly.
Weiler’s voice has graced more than just Maple Valley Football. He has traveled with the MV band to competitions, called baseball, basketball, competitive cheer, band, and soccer a time or two when they were in a pinch and emcees the Vermontville Maple Syrup Festival.
Weiler’s most memorable moments were from lending his talents during his own children’s extracurriculars. His daughters Jenna was drum major in her band years and Iva a four-year competitive cheer athlete. “Cheer was just getting started when Iva was in high school. I’ve announced a whole bunch of competitive cheer…and that’s with not knowing a thing about it. I did just fine,” he recalls with a laugh.
Weiler recalls a poignant moment while announcing his son Brock’s varsity football game. In 2015, Brock Weiler rushed for 1,000 yards becoming only the 5th running back in Maple Valley history to do so. Holding back a tear, Weiler said “It happened here at home. We kind of knew it was going to. Had it been anybody’s kid but mine I would have made a far bigger deal out of it than I did. I owe Brock for that. But that was a big thrill. One of the great thrills of my life.”
When asked if he ever considered being a professional announcer, he emphatically says no. He did announce a college baseball game at Cornerstone and some basketball games at Olivet College. Weiler said, “I had a few big thrills. A couple years ago I got to announce at C.O. Brown Stadium in Battle Creek for the big boys of Class A High School Semifinals and Championship games right in a row. I was over there in that fancy stadium, I’ll be damned, got ready for the national anthem on the first game and it wouldn’t come on and there were a thousand people there and I sang it. And then later the lady that runs the stadium said ‘I don’t know how you just did that but just to warn you, you have to do it two more times today’ and I did,” Weiler laughed. Though he is not known for his singing ability and does not profess so, he says, “I can fake my way through it.” The fact remains, Jeff Weiler is good in a pinch.
Maple Valley Athletic Director Landon Wilkes said it best of Weiler’s tenure, “The impact Jeff has had on Maple Valley is truly amazing. He brings the game to life in a sense. Many people including myself have appreciated all that Jeff has brought to the table. As an AD to get compliments on Jeff The Voice is something I will always cherish. I want to say every team he has announced for, at some point, mentions to me that they appreciate the job he does.”
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Weiler is that he calls an honest game. He treats every athlete, both home and visitors, with the same respect and attention. “I would like to stress that I take pride that nowhere in America does the visiting team get a fair shake from the announcer other than at Maple Valley. I take a lot of pride in that,” said Weiler.
Wilkes adds, “I cannot say enough for how grateful we all are for the announcing we have been fortunate to have had for over 26 years. As Jeff, himself, said he has attempted to use the mic to instill in these great kids that we always love and salute our veterans, our active military, our flag and our country. His pride for Maple Valley and being a Lion runs deep and I cannot thank him enough for the countless hours he has given for Maple Valley Athletics.”
Knowing his love of the kids and the game, it’s hard to believe that Weiler is retiring. “I’m an old Lion ya know,” he grimaces. Going out on top while he is still healthy allows for him to explore other aspects of a good life.
Weiler declined the idea that he will suffer from FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) “No, I’m at peace with it. I’ll miss the kids and interaction with them. When you do it as long as I have, especially in basketball, right down close to the court, I’ve made a lot of relationships with visiting players,” he said, “I’ve made relationships with several visiting players that send me a text once in a while which is why I do this. Visiting coaches, I’ve gotten real close with. It’s been a joy.”
Have Maple Valley athletics seen the last of Jeff Weiler? Absolutely not. Weiler assures,” I have never told Maple Valley no. I’ll do anything they ever ask of me. If they ever need me, I’ll be there for them if they’re in a pinch.”
Wilkes has his work cut out for him to find a replacement and says, “As for a plan that will be a work in progress. Of course, the goal is to find someone to cover all the sports that Jeff did, but the reality is that will be tough. So it will probably be several people stepping in and helping out. Again, they are big shoes to fill.”
With final thoughts, Weiler leaves this advice to students and athletes– “Always be positive.You can do anything in this life. You can be anything.”
Weiler will surely be missed and says, “I’ll miss it, but I’m at peace with it.”