It’s hard to say who, through the many years of New Orleans Saints football, would be considered the organization’s face.
But there’s no doubt who the voice is: Jerry Romig.
Romig, who was the Saints’ public-address announcer for 44 years (from 1969 to 2013) and through 446 straight games in addition to other sporting events at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and Tulane Stadium, died Wednesday at home with his family near after an extended illness. He was 86.
Saints owner Tom Benson said in a statement when Romig retired two years ago that “Jerry’s voice is embedded in our game experience.”
“Jerry Romig was part of our team, part of our family,” Benson said Wednesday, according to the Saints. “One of my favorite days was putting a Super Bowl ring on his finger.”
Doug Thornton, executive vice president for SMG, which operates the Superdome, called Romig “an institution.”
Romig was so highly thought of that the Superdome house booth where he called so many games was renamed for him when he retired in 2013.
“We hold a special place in our hearts for him,” Thornton said. “It was important to us that his contributions to the facility be formally recognized, and that is why we chose to have the Superdome announcer’s booth named in his honor. He will always be part of this great facility’s legacy.”
Romig’s son, Mark, succeeded Jerry in the booth two years ago.
“Every time I go there, mom (Janice Romig, Jerry’s wife of 63 years) asks me if the sign is still there,” Mark said. “I say, ‘It’s still there.’ It was very special for the Saints to do that, and Doug Thornton and the SMG folks were a part of that. A lot of them grew up knowing only one voice and that was dad.”
That voice belted out such familiar phrases for Saints fans like “First doooowwwwn, Saints!” or “Cooooooolston” whenever receiver Marques Colston caught a pass.
It was a role in which Romig reveled.
When the Saints advanced to Super Bowl XLIV in 2010, Romig and his family made the trip to Miami for the game. Jay Romig, the oldest child of the family, said Jerry was wandering around South Beach with some of his grandchildren one day when they encountered several Saints fans.
“Some would stop him and ask him for the ‘First down, Saints!’ or ‘Cooooooolston’ call,” Jay said. “He got the biggest charge out of that. It was neat.”
Romig was New Orleans through and through, a native of the city who went through the good times and bad, including losing the family’s Lakeview home in Hurricane Katrina.
He was involved in many civic organizations, including the Allstate Sugar Bowl committee, where he served as president in 1987-88. Romig also called the annual Sugar Bowl game, beginning in 1973 with the famous Notre Dame-Alabama contest at Tulane Stadium that decided the national championship.
He was the PA voice for Tulane football and basketball games, the Bayou Classic and other sporting events.
During the 1990s, Romig called Tulane basketball home games. The university and O’Henry’s Restaurant partnered to give away cheese fries if the Green Wave scored a certain number of points.
When the team reached it, Romig would yell, “Cheeeesssee frieesss.”
“He patterned that one,” Mark Romig said. “He did several Super Bowls (in the Superdome) before the NFL carried their own announcer. He did the Bayou Classic for a number of years. If there has been a voice of the Superdome, it’s Jerry Romig.”
Romig graduated from Holy Cross High School and attended Loyola University. He started his long career in the media at 16, working as a freelance reporter for the Times-Picayune and eventually becoming a full-time sportswriter.
Following military service during the Korean War, he worked for the New Orleans States sports department, then accepted a position as a news writer-producer for WDSU-TV in 1955.
He spent 19 years at WDSU, becoming vice president and program director. He left the station in 1974 for a position with the Archdiocese of New Orleans and the Catholic Foundation.
He was the founding president and general manager of WLAE-TV and served in the dual role of director of development and president of the station for the first three years.
Romig went on to a position in 1990 with the Daughters of Charity, creating the office of development for Hotel Dieu Hospital, which became University Hospital under state management.
He worked for the state as director of communications for the entire state public hospital system and director of marketing and public relations for the Medical Center of Louisiana.
He retired from the state job in 2004 and joined the Peter A. Mayer public-relations company as senior counsel and retired in October 2008.
But it was his job as PA announcer at the Superdome where many came to know that nasally voice. He called a lot of bad Saints games in the early days.
“Those early years, God, they were terrible,” Romig said in 2013 when he retired. “Didn’t matter to the fans. The fans still loved ’em.”
There were some memorable events, including Saints kicker Tom Dempsey’s 63-yard game-winning field goal against the Detroit Lions in 1970 at Tulane Stadium. It was the longest field goal in NFL history until 2013, when Denver’s Matt Prater bettered it by 1 yard.
“My brother and I were sitting right next to him when Tom Dempsey kicked the field goal,” Mark Romig said. “He kept yelling, ‘It’s gooood. It’s gooood.’ A lot of people had already left the game.”
The final few years in the booth were some of the best. He called the Saints’ NFC Championship victory against the Minnesota Vikings in the Superdome that sent the franchise to the Super Bowl.
He also was on hand for the 2012 BCS Championship Game when Alabama defeated LSU 21-0.
It was after that game that Romig slipped and fell while leaving the Superdome. He suffered a severe back injury.
He called the 2012 football season, but the back pain was more than he could handle, so he passed his PA duties to Mark in August 2013 when he called his final contest, an exhibition game against Oakland.
The Superdome gig was a family affair, with Romig’s wife and children helping out.
Though being the voice of Superdome sporting events was his claim to fame, he and his wife’s involvement in foster care was something important to his family, Jay Romig said.
“Some (foster children) we’d keep two, three weeks,” Jay said. “But most in the three- to four-month range. We kept one little boy a year. It was great. (Jerry and Janice) did that for years. It meant a lot to both of them.”
Jerry Romig is survived by Janice, sons Mark and Jay and daughters Anne, Mary Beth and Ellen. Two other of his children, Jan Marie and Ruth Ellen, died earlier. He also had 11 grandchildren and one great grandchild.
WWL reported that funeral services will be Saturday at St. Agnes Church, 3310 Jefferson Highway. Visitation will be at 10 a.m., followed by service at noon.