After 40 years, Merrill Reese still wakes up nervous on game days.
"Once I get on the air, it just goes away," Reese said. "I just float."
It's happened every Eagles game for four decades, during which Reese has become one of Philadelphia's most recognizable voices and the sound track of football in the region.
At halftime of Monday's game against the Green Bay Packers, Reese will take a break from the broadcast at halftime and head down from the press box to the turf of Lincoln Financial Field to be enshrined in the Eagles Hall of Fame. After announcing the activities of all the iconic players and coaches for 40 years, Reese now joins them.
"It's the greatest honor I've ever received," Reese said, "but what I've been thinking about is not that but getting ready to broadcast a game against the Green Bay Packers."
Reese is the longest-tenured play-by-play announcer in the NFL. He first called an Eagles game in 1977, and the four decades since have been a "blur." He said he feels just as fresh and excited about his job now at 74 as he did at 35.
Reese does not think in terms of his favorite calls but rather his favorite moments. He pointed to Wilbert Montgomery's run in the 1981 championship game, the two fourth-and-1 stops of the Cowboys in 1995, and the "Miracle at the Meadowlands." But his most memorable moment was the second Meadowlands miracle in 2010, when the Eagles scored 28 fourth-quarter points and DeSean Jackson returned a punt for the winning touchdown as the clock expired in a 38-31 victory over the Giants.
"I still see him dancing around at the 1-yard line," Reese said.
Hours after each game, Reese is already thinking about the next week. He spends two hours each night in his home office preparing for the game. His wife, Cindy, holds flash cards with numbers to quiz Reese on opposing players. He watches game film, and he said that he has become a better broadcaster throughout the years, by better understanding how to watch the game. He's not so focused on the quarterback anymore, instead watching the entire field.
"The easiest part for me is the memorization of uniform numbers," Reese said. "I've gotten that down to the fact that I can memorize a roster in about 20 minutes because I kind of have a photographic memory."
Even though it's been 40 years, Reese has no plans to retire. He stays in shape and said he cannot tell the difference in his voice when listening to calls from previous years. He hopes to do it "forever," because as inviting as the golf course might be for Reese, it doesn't compare to the broadcast booth.
"I'd rather broadcast an Eagles game than any single thing I do in the world," Reese said. "I just love it so much."