“The Soundtrack in my head is you.”

For nearly 30 years, Steve Cotton has been the soundtrack for Marshall Athletics, but as he reflects on the journey, it's not the wins and losses that stand out – it’s the people he’s met along the way.
One of the greatest moments, was Herd football's upset at Notre Dame.
Dive Deeper The Voice of the Herd in his own words.

“The soundtrack in my head is you.”

On Saturday afternoons in the fall, college football fans know it’s gameday for their teams when they hear that familiar voice.

That voice on the radio paints a picture that makes the mind’s eye explore gameday in a way that no video or photo can accomplish. It provides comfort and excitement, letting listeners know it’s time for another season, another game, and another opportunity to cheer on their team.

“I’ve heard longtime play-by-play announcers described as a comfortable pair of slippers,” said Steve Cotton, the Voice of Marshall Thundering Herd athletics. “After you’re there, it’s the only thing you’ve known. You grew up with this person — they are your guy. I’ve always thought that was pretty special, so as I spent more and more time at Marshall University, I came to appreciate it.”

Cotton grew up on a potato farm in Kalkaska, Michigan, born into a family that didn’t pay much attention to sports but nailed the art of gift-giving.

“For my seventh birthday, I remember clearly that my family gave me a transistor radio,” Cotton said.

And that was the beginning of a love affair between Cotton and broadcasting. That radio, the powerful little machine beaming games from across the country into his bedroom, connected him to what would soon become his calling.

“I’m lying in bed, and I come across a Detroit Tigers game,” said Cotton. “Little did I know that their play-by-play announcer, Ernie Harwell, was an all-time great. I was fascinated, and I never looked back.”

Cotton has been associated with Marshall since coming to Huntington for graduate school, where he finished up his master’s degree in 1995. He took over as the lead play-by-play announcer in 1996, and the Voice of the Herd has never looked back.

“I would highly recommend to any radio announcer that you start like I did, when my first football game at Marshall was Randy Moss’s first football game at Marshall,” said Cotton.  “The first time I said, ‘Touchdown Herd,’ it was in the hands of Randy Moss.”

“The first time I said, ‘Touchdown Herd,’ it was in the hands of Randy Moss.”- Steve Cotton

At the end of the day, though, Cotton says it was never about being the voice of a team. His joy has come from opportunity — calling games and telling the stories of those participating. In fact, Cotton didn’t even realize his effect on his listeners until an interaction he had at a fundraising event, where a fan in attendance indicated that he wasn’t after a player’s signature – he was after the signature of the voice.

“I noticed a man standing off to the side with a football, and he said, ‘Mr. Cotton, I’d like for you to sign my football, please,’ ” said Cotton.

Upon examining the football closer, he only saw three names – legendary Marshall Coach Bob Pruett, Pro Football Hall of Fame member Randy Moss, and Marshall great Chad Pennington.

His immediate thought? I can’t sign this football.

“I asked if he had anything else I could sign,” said Cotton, “because those are three Hall of Famers, and if I put my name on there, it’s going to drop the value – it’s going to diminish this football.”

That’s when the individual told his version of the story that rings true for generations of Herd fans – no matter the game’s result. Cotton’s presence – his comfortable voice and rich storytelling style – was the soundtrack of some of his most cherished memories.

“He told me his greatest memories were traveling to Marshall games with his friends,” said Cotton, “and that these days, he couldn’t go to games anymore, and so when he thinks back on those times, the soundtrack in his head was me calling those games.”

As Cotton approaches nearly three decades behind the mic for the Herd, he agrees that while the score doesn’t always go your way, the people he’s met along the way generally do.

“Marshall is a unique place, and I pretty quickly knew this was a special place,” said Cotton. “The fans are great. They accepted me from the start. When all is said and done, you like winning, but it’s the people you went into battle with that you pull for as much as any game-winning shot or touchdown pass. You think about those people and the time you spent with them and the memories that were made along the way.”

And nearly 30 years in, it’s safe to say the comfy slippers are as warm and familiar as they’ve ever been – both for Cotton and the families who treasure the memories so well narrated by his voice.