Mike Mote has never seen a college football game. That has never stopped him from "feeling the game" as a broadcaster.
Mote, who has been blind since birth, loves everything about his job as a studio host of Southern Mississippi football at the Leerfield/IMG College office in downtown Winston-Salem. He loves the challenge of doing his job, which he really calls a “cool hobby,” even though he can’t see.
Technology is certainly on his side, but what he really does that others might take for granted is how well he listens to the game.
“Radio has been a way of life for me since I was a child,” said Mote, 46, who has worked in the Winston-Salem offices for the past 2½ years. “I can get so much out of hearing a broadcast and learning everything I need to know to do my job properly.”
A backyard antenna
Mote and his brother, Gordon, who also has been blind since birth and is a musician, grew up in rural Alabama.
Mike says their father built an 80-foot antenna in their backyard so the brothers could have their own station. It wasn’t exactly legal, but it allowed Mike and Gordon to get involved in radio.
“It was illegal, there’s no doubt,” Mike said about the antenna that sent a signal with a radius of around two miles. “But that was our introduction, and we just kind of winged it and got to know what it was like to be on the radio. My brother and I listened to the radio a lot growing up so we thought it would be cool to have our own station.
"I’m guessing the FCC can’t go after us now.”
Mote said he doesn’t remember if their station had call letters, he just knew it was a lot of fun. He went on to major in radio and communications at Jacksonville State, and his love for sports got him in the front door.
“I came to a realization that they were going to pay me to watch sports,” Mote said. “I really loved it, and I still do. I’m grateful to be able to do this and the bottom line is this is fun for me.”
A long day
Mote is in his first season of being part of the Southern Mississippi radio broadcasts. Recently, he was in the studio helping broadcast the Golden Eagles' game against the Alabama Crimson Tide. The game wound up being a blowout — Alabama won 49-7 — but Mote informed listeners with scores from around the country, provided highlights of the game at halftime, and did a post-game wrap-up of the Crimson Tide's win.
Mote is no stranger to the job, having worked for several schools over the last 15 years or so. He loves the fast-paced excitement each Saturday brings, and he’s constantly staying on top of what is going on with the Southern Miss program.
For the noon game last weekend, he arrived at the IMG office at 9:30 a.m. to work on some taped pre-game analysis. He didn't get home until around 7 p.m.
He uses public transportation to get to his part-time job at IMG and his full-time job at IBF Solutions. It’s there where he became as passionate about finding jobs for the blind as he is about his work in radio all these years.
“IFP is my full-time employment and I’ve been with them for nearly seven years,” Mote said. “It’s the largest employer of blind people or visually-impaired people in the country. We have three locations throughout the country, and here in Winston-Salem, we have about 500 employees and my role is as manager of workforce services, and we are a staffing agency to find folks jobs.”
Mote said it’s important to find those jobs for the blind.
“About 70% of the blind population is without a job, and we’re trying to change that,” Mote said.
'Radio, for him, is his eyes'
It would seem being blind would be a disadvantage for Mote, but Cabell Philpott, the audio network manager of Learfield/IMG College, says it’s the opposite.
“The whole thing with Mike is fascinating with what he can do,” Philpott said. “Not only is he great at on-air, he’s got a great personality and really fits in well.”
Philpott, who has been with Learfield/IMG College for 14 years, says the radio background is a big factor in why Mote is so good at what he does.
“Because Mike’s blind, he can’t run a board, but we’ve actually tried,” Philpott said. “We were almost there where he could do it, but just didn’t feel comfortable. He would have to move sound around on the computer screen and it just wasn’t working with the program that he uses, but we might address it later.”
Mote works with a producer during the games he works. The Winston-Salem office for Learfield/IMG College is home to several shows from games being played around the country. On any given Saturday, close to 40 games are produced for radio.
Philpott said it can be a little hectic, but the dedicated individuals such as Mote make it all work.
“Radio, for him, is his eyes,” Philpott said. “I’m sure folks that listen to him on a regular basis have no idea that he’s blind.”