For so many years, Steve Gilbert spent every Friday of the fall at a football stadium wearing a headset.
On the first Friday of this fall season, the retired Columbian football coach spent the evening at a football stadium, wearing a headset.
The job has changed. So has the specific setting - the soon-to-be Hall of Famer went from the sideline to the booth.
Gilbert, who coached Columbian for 17 years before stepping down after last season, provided color commentary Friday night for the Elmwood-Hopewell-Loudon game, working with play-by-play man Frank Barber on Senecacountyradio.com.
For Gilbert, being in a similar place didn't make it a similar experience.
"It was really different, even pregame," Gilbert said. "I walked around and talked to the head coaches. The big thing is I wasn't nervous."
Gilbert is not new to broadcasting. For several years, he did Tiffin University and Heidelberg games with Barber. Gilbert was more than willing to renew the partnership.
"Frank gave me a call. I said, 'If I can work with you, I'm in,'" Gilbert said. "I have so much respect for Frank. There's nobody more pro-Tiffin."
And few people are more knowledgeable about local sports and the people who coach them than Barber.
Before last season, I had never really interviewed Gilbert and needed advice on how to approach him after games. Barber told me, "Start by asking him what he thought the keys to the game were."
It was a good first question, and I used it. When I asked, the coach would break down the game with a coach's clarity, but without being too technical.
It's a trait that not only makes a good interview, but also a good analyst.
Gilbert and Barber called what was the best area game of the night Friday. The Chieftains won, 35-21.
"It was a fun game to call," Gilbert said. "It was a different thought process, but you still felt involved."
The former coach said while he enjoyed doing the call, he missed certain things about coaching week one. Specifically, he missed being at TC on the first Friday.
"I missed that excitement and atmosphere [at the school]," he said.
Gilbert acknowledged that while he was calling the Chieftains' game, he was interested in how his old team was faring against Whitmer.
"In the back of my mind, I kept thinking, 'how's Columbian going?'" Gilbert said. "I was doing one game but thinking about another one."
TC fell to Whitmer, 35-6, but Gilbert said he was sure of one thing..
"Our kids were never intimidated," he said. "I knew that wouldn't happen."
Gilbert said he will call some Columbian games later this season. As for coaching, he said there are some benefits to stepping down. One is having more time to see his son, Kyle, play football in his senior year at Ohio Northern.
"We watched Kyle scrimmage Adrian," Gilbert said. "If I wasn't a coach I wouldn't be able to do that."
Rest assured, Gilbert has left coaching. Not football.
Zach Baker is the associate sports editor at the Advertiser-Tribune.
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