The Sam Houston State community lost one of its most beloved members over the weekend.
Longtime Bearkat broadcaster Leroy Wilkinson passed away Saturday, sparking an outpouring of love from those that crossed paths with the man that spent three decades calling SHSU games on radio dial.
“Leroy Wilkinson was full of love, passion and had a servants heart,” Sam Houston State head baseball coach Matt Deggs wrote on Twitter. “The Good Lord called home one of the best last night. I bet they’re celebrating in Heaven right now! Thanks for your friendship buddy. I love you Leroy.”
“RIP Leroy,” tweeted Kats head football coach K.C. Keeler. “The Bearkats are better 4 knowing u & having u in our lives. Kooter & Leroy on the radio will go down as Bearkat legends!”
“Leroy Wilkinson was always someone who made me feel better,” chimed in Sam Houston State President Dana Hoyt. “Always a true Bearkat!”
Wilkinson — who also called Huntsville High School football games — first made a name for himself on Sam Houston State’s campus as a member of the Bearkat baseball team that won the 1963 NAIA national championship. Years later, he joined play-by-play voice Kooter Roberson in the broadcast booth as the Kats’ radio color commentator on KSAM 101.7 — a role he would fill for 30 years until his 2017 retirement.
“Leroy and I attended the same church, and I went over to his house one Sunday afternoon to visit with him and his wife, Lyndol,” Roberson recalled. “I presented the idea to him, and he wasn't crazy about it at all at first. But, Lyndol thought it was a good idea, so she and I talked him into saying yes.”
Wilkinson was a Sam Houston State mainstay for nearly 50 years, and received the SH Alumni Association Service Award in 1999 for his work in the booth and service to the school.
"I was blessed to meet him 37 years ago when I first got here," Sam Houston State athletics director Bobby Williams said. "He was one of those Sam Houston State alumni that was positive and just embraced everyone. He was also a major fundraiser, and was always out there in the community trying to help us. ... It's a tough loss for everyone.
"I'll remember how he was always there. He'd always come in the office and speak to everyone. Always knew the right time to text or call you, encourage you, congratulate you, all those types of things. He was just a really great person and a great representative of us all."
Even after his passing, Wilkinson’s trademark high pitch and East Texas drawl remain at the center of some of the greatest athletic moments in Sam Houston State history.
Roberson notes that because the two shared so many memories in the booth, “it’s hard to pin down one” favorite moment. However, the Bearkats’ 20-point fourth-quarter comeback to stun Eastern Washington on the road in the 2004 Division I-AA playoffs, as well as the team’s thrilling 2011 home win over Montana to reach the FCS title game, are certainly at the top.
“The more exciting the game, the more exciting the play, the more exciting the situation, the higher his pitch got,” Roberson said. “He's so full of Bearkat, he'd just get excited.”