Monty Rowell ducked against a rail along the stands in the corner or Estes Stadium after a pregame show.
The normally composed sideline reporter for the University of Central Arkansas radio network was losing it.
"I was a basket case," he said later. "Everything was going fine earlier that day and I just lost it."
An athletic trainer approached him. "Just allergies," he said coughing.
After New Hampshire had upset the University of Central Arkansas in the second round of the NCAA FCS playoffs that December afternoon, the jolt from earlier in the day again hit Rowell between the eyes _ and ears.
"Got to get it together," he recalled thinking. "[UCA broadcasters] Justin (Acri) and Chris (Kane) are going to come to me quick. How am I going to tell them?"
UCA's football season ended that afternoon. Also in the chill of early evening, Rowell realized his radio career was over.
This was the soothing, reassuring voice of UCA athletics for more than four decades, beginning in 1978 as a student. He had been a part of UCA athletics — doing play-by-play, color, engineering, teaching and most recently sideline reporting for football in chronicling the Bears from one end of the country to another through the triumphs and heartbreaks of days in the NAIA, NCAA Division II and Division I. He had popularized phrases such as "the hay is in the barn" or "the Bears are in a world of hurt right now" or "I've got my trained eyes on it and they seem to be two inches short of a first down."
On that December day, Justin and Chris switched to Rowell for his postgame thoughts in the mass of people on the field.
"I was a basket case again, but I pulled it together," Rowell said.
After the usual postgame banter, Acri said, "Well, Monty, I guess we'll see you next year."
"Uh, I don't think so," Rowell said, then suddenly announced his retirement from broadcasting. "I felt bad because I know in broadcasting nobody likes to be blindsided and I blindsided them. I felt badly. But I didn't know any other way."
Only his wife and a couple of other people knew the secret. "I didn't even tell my mother until a week earlier," he said.
The decision was not spur of the moment. "It was a long time in the making," he said.
Decision time and the hesitancy
Last April, toward the end of school, Rowell said he decided one more year was enough in broadcasting.
"I decided to do it one more year to get it out of my system," he said. "But it was time. This was it. I was 99.9 percent sure. Then, last summer I began waffling like you couldn't believe.
"But I knew it because I normally start checking out my equipment in May or early June. This year, I pulled the equipment out of the case 10 days before the Kansas State game (the season opener).
"Then, I told my wife that the reason I might want to go longer is so I can take her along to Hawaii when UCA plays there in two years. She said, 'Hold on. If that's the reason you want to continue then I can make the decision right now. I don't care about that.'
"And honestly, I don't know if I had the mindset to do it another two years."
The affirmation hit hit again early in the season.
"One Saturday morning, I doing stuff in the yard, and I realized, 'gosh, I've got to be at the stadium at 2 to set up."
In his later years, he has become an avid NASCAR fan.
"I really wanted to go to Talladega last year," he said. "I looked at the schedule and it was the week of the SFA game. Just couldn't do it. But I spent awhile looking at how I might could get from Conway to Talladega after the game. My mind was on everything from what I was doing on the field."
"People don't understand what goes into this job," he said. "They think you flip a switch 30 minutes before airtime, the equipment works, you go on the air and when the game is over, you're done. It's not like that. In football I would also try to get to the stadium four hours before airtime and you stay awhile putting up equipment."
During his career, he has been part of broadcast at Naismith Arena in Kansas and Rupp Arena in Kentucky. He's been to Las Vegas, Arizona State and Hawaii and east to west and north and south with the UCA football and basketball teams.
"I have no idea the miles, but it is a lot," he said. "I remember when we first got into Division I and played at St. Bonaventure (New York) and UConn in Hartford, I was on the road 10 straight days. I remember doing a football game with UCA and SFA one Saturday in Nacogdoches, driving to Houston that night, then flying out early the next day and calling the UCA-Northwestern basketball game at 1 p.m. that Sunday."
"I remember Randy Huffstickler and Ron Mallett and some of those great teams with Ken Stephens, Harold Horton and Mike Isom," he said. "I remember UCA winning that national championship in Wilberforce, Ohio, in 1991 when the day turned from sunshine to blinding snow. I remember Nathan Brown getting into an unbelievable zone against Texas State and throwing seven touchdown passes.
"Just last season, I was walking to the floor of the stadium after we beat Sam Houston State and seeing Brown (then offensive coordinator) and Greg Stewart (defensive coordinator) on the ground just totally exhausted. I remember Nathan saying to me, "This win is for you and for everyone else who has followed this program these many years.' I got to thinking that was one of the nicest things anyone had ever said to me. That hit home so much."
He remains in his post as associate director of the UCA Student Center, a job he loves in mingling with students and setting up for meetings and conferences. He plans on spending more time on his boat at Greers Ferry Lake and possibly get to Talladega. He'll follow UCA athletics like a regular fan — on his terms.
"As I have worked at the student center, I didn't realize how bad I needed a change," he said. "People told me I would know when it was time — and it was time to move on."