HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — You will hear plenty of sounds at a West Ottawa Football game, but you will only hear one voice.
“I’ll do this as long as they let me come up here, and ride the elevator,” said Karl Von Ins, who has been the only voice of the Panthers in program history.
“I started in 1966, we started a JV team and they played on the field, and nobody said anything,” Von Ins recalled. “I went to the athletic director. I asked, ‘Can I go announce who’s carrying the ball and who’s making the tackles and so on?’ He says, ‘Yes, but we can’t pay you,” and I said, “I didn’t ask to be paid!”
But it’s not about money. A teacher for 56 years, Von Ins gets his payment in being around the kids.
“It keeps me in contact with them. The young kids say things that aren’t always smart but they’re funny, but it’s just fun to be with them. But they say, ‘it’s not a job, it’s something you do,’” said Von Ins.
He’s been having fun in the booth for a while, documenting decades of Panther football.
“I see a lot of kids —adults now — whose children are playing and as I’m walking up, I hear, ‘Hey Mr. Von Ins,’ and they’re in their 70s, they’re still calling me Mr.,” he said. “I say, ‘My name is Karl,’ ‘Well, you’ll always be Mr. to me.’”
With three generations of Panthers getting their greatest moments on the field spoken by Mr. Von Ins, some wonder when he will hang it up.
“Someone says, ‘when are you going to quit?’ And I say, ‘If I’m not there, you’ll know I’m either dead or in the hospital!’” said Von Ins.
Even if a day comes where the announcer can’t make it, a bit of him will always be there.
“I got a phone call, Bill Kennedy called and said, ‘We’d like you to go over the sound system and the clock.’ We got there and there it’s called Karl Von Ins Announcer Booth and that’s when I knew,” he recalled.
As long as there’s been football at West Ottawa, there’s been Von Ins. And the new stadium will make sure a piece of him will always be there.
“As long as they keep that sign up!” Von Ins jokes.