The voice of high school football in Central Virginia names the best players he's ever seen.

Posted at 12:37 PM, Nov 10, 2022

RICHMOND, Va. -- Friday nights in the fall belong to high school football. For the past three decades, the best seat in the house for the biggest games in Central Virginia has belonged to Gary Hess.

Hess was one of several voices for the game in 1993 when AM 910 began its coverage of high school football.

"It was kind of a rotation. I only did two or three games during the season," Hess said. "But then in the playoffs, the way the schedule worked out, I did several playoff games. In 1994, I did seven or eight of the 10 regular season weeks, all the playoffs culminating with Patrick Henry's state championship win in 1994. Then from 1995 on, it was all me."

Gary Hess

The voice of high school football has more than earned the respect that comes with being entrusted with the game for the past 30 years. Even in the age of social media, podcasts, and YouTube, having a game live on the radio is still a big deal.

"I can text a Chris Rollison at Hermitage and I can say, 'Hey, we're coming Friday night.' He knows who's going to be there. He knows what we need. He knows where we need to be and that's a nice thing to have those kinds of relationships."

Hess began calling games with the late Al Rinaldi as his analyst.

Starting in 2009, former Hampton and Virginia Union assistant coach Gary Criswell took over.

"It's not the will to succeed, it's the ability and the desire to prepare and he does that," Criswell said. "I'm the complete opposite. His real job starts where he is off the air correcting me in what I did wrong in the previous live segment."

During his 30 years behind the mic, Hess has seen Central Virginia's best players.

"Michael Robinson comes to mind because of all the different things he can do," Hess said. "But when it comes to high school and players, I know it's a recency bias but I look at Brendon Clarke. When you look at what Brendon Clarke did in high school and how polished he was at quarterback, that really, really jumps out at me. And then the other name that jumps out at me is Rayshard Ashby. As a high school linebacker for L.C. Bird, that dude, sideline to sideline, he could cover, he could rush. If he got to you, you were on the ground."

Michael Robinson
Seattle Seahawks fullback Michael Robinson (26) in the first half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012, in Detroit.

Some of those players have come back to coach their alma maters.

The reasons may be slightly different, but they are still thrilled to have Hess at their games.

"It's huge for these kids. And they love hearing who the 910 player of the game is," Hanover High School head coach Sam Rogers said. "It's big and we're really appreciative for what they do week in and week out."

"As a coach now, I enjoy it even more because I see at the end of the day what they're doing is because they truly love the game of high school football and promoting our athletes," Thomas Dale High head coach Kevin Tucker said.

"People come to me all the time and say you're the voice of high school football in Richmond and I'm like, how did that even happen?" Hess said. "I give a lot of credit to Mike O'Toole for realizing that would work in this market. I never would have dreamed 30 years later it would have happened."

"There's something unique about Friday night high school football. And I love being a part of it," Hess said.

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