Most 11-year-olds are focused on passing pre-algebra or trying to get the perfect date for their first school dance. Becoming the Verne Lundquist of the local high school football team is not normally one of a pre-teen’s day-to-day pursuits. But in the sixth grade, Jake Leber eagerly sat down to call his first football game.
Lack of volunteers to announce the Friday night games among the students of Mentor High School left the spot vacant one year. Leber’s father, the football team’s statistician, thought this would be the perfect opportunity for his talkative son to chatter about football in someone else’s ear other than his own. Leber fought through his voice cracks during his first announcing gig and did such a good job that he announced each home game for the rest of the season, and every home game until he graduated from Mentor High School seven years later.
When Leber moved to Athens, Ga. to attend the University of Georgia, he had not originally intended to pursue a career in sports journalism. In fact, he was a double major with broadcast journalism and international affairs until recently. But after some personal reflection, his true passions were hard to ignore. Some of Leber’s fondest childhood memories are of attending Cleveland Browns games with his father. Growing up in Mentor, Ohio, Leber learned to love sports, learned to love the Browns, Indians and Cavaliers through the wins and all-too-often losses.
When Leber sees the emotion poured into the game of college football by its fans, it tends to mesmerize him. He watches the fans of his now adopted college football team—the Georgia Bulldogs—and wonders how someone could get so upset over a 10-win season.
“I’m so used to losing,” Leber said. In his opinion, it could be much, much worse.
“You could be a Cleveland fan.”
Even if Leber left FirstEnergy Stadium with a loss on any given Sunday, he left with something positive as well. He developed a love for a team, for a game, that transitioned into a goal: to do play-by-play for a club other than the Mentor Cardinals. And get paid for it.