It all happened because someone didn't come to work. For the last 25 years, KSL spotter Doug Martin has been showing up ever since.
Since 1985, Martin has been working for the BYU football game radio broadcast team as a spotter — the guy who helps the play-by-play announcer identify players on the field as an extra set of eyes behind-the-scenes. The reasons he does it is simple: "I am a big-time BYU fan and what can be better than getting to go to all the games. I don't have to sit in the rain — and they feed me," Martin said.
Martin got the job on a bit of a fluke. As a photographer for the school while he was attending as a student, Martin got in the habit of traveling to away games. He continued that tradition after graduation, but one of the things he missed was listening to KSL Radio play-by-play announcer Paul James at visiting stadiums. He ran into some of the broadcast team on the plane back from a game, and they talked about how, with some simple equipment, Martin could pick up the signal even while on the road. He did that, and continued to use the equipment while at home as well.
During the second game of the 1985 season, BYU was hosting UCLA, and one of the things that was fun about Martin's equipment was he could hear the broadcast team speaking while the regular audience was away on commercial breaks. During one such break, he heard James say to his then-sideline reporter, the late Doug Miller, that he could use some help identifying people because his spotter hadn't shown up for work that day. Martin, who had — and still has — season tickets with seats located just below the press box, jumped up and ran up to the booth and said, "Here I am."
The rest is history.
Martin's job is thankless. He doesn't do it for fame. In fact, he said that during his 25 years, he has only been on the air once — in 1992, when the Cougars traveled to play at Notre Dame. James had him go on the air to try to describe what he was feeling and the atmosphere of the stoic venue.
Martin worked with James for the first 16 years. And though he said he misses James, Martin admits it has been a real pleasure working with James' replacement, Greg Wrubell, for the last nine years as well.
"They are different in how they do it," said Martin, who said his main job is to keep binoculars glued to his eyes and point to a spotting board that has the two-deep roster numbers for both team's offenses and defenses. "I really respect what they do. For the fans listening, they have no idea what really goes on in the booth. I know I didn't."
Wrubell said that Martin has been a great asset to the broadcast team.
"He has been great to work with," said Wrubell. "His job is to make sure I know who a player is if I can't see it. For example, at the Oklahoma game, I saw Max Hall throw a touchdown, but I couldn't see to whom. I looked down at my board, and Doug is pointing to McKay Jacobson. In my call, I don't have to pause or anything, I can just say, 'Hall throws to the end zone and it is caught for a touchdown, McKay Jacobson.'"
Martin said he has many, many fond memories from his experience with the team. From a cricket invasion in Ft. Worth, Texas, to a major stadium fire while visiting Georgia Tech to being singled out as a "colored" man by mistake instead of a "color commentator" — even though he really doesn't do either job — while visiting Hawaii.
"I love doing it," he said. "I like to be in the middle of the action — always have. So for them to allow me to do something like this is a dream come true for me. I want to keep doing it as long as they'll have me. As long as I am capable of doing it, I want to be a part of the broadcast team."
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company