On September 8 at 12:58 p.m., 53 Panthers players stared out over the field, listening to the final notes of the national anthem.
They were focused, prepared, amped up.
High above the field was another who’d experienced those emotions hundreds of times. He was going through his own mental preparation, dealing with his own nerves and getting excited.
“I don’t want to use the term nerves, but the anticipation was high,” Jake Delhomme said. “I couldn’t wait. I was foaming at the mouth. It was almost like I was waiting to take a snap from the center, which obviously I knew I wasn’t. It was so exciting.”
The former Panthers quarterback and future Hall of Honor inductee made his debut as the Panthers radio analyst in Week 1 against the Rams.
“It was hard to put into words, but it was really exciting. I felt like I was doing it my whole life when I got up there,” Delhomme said. “Just looking at the stadium and sidelines and field, it just felt like I’d kind of been there already.”
The Panthers announced earlier this summer that Delhomme and fellow Hall of Honor inductee Jordan Gross would be entering the radio booth this year as the Panthers analysts. Delhomme will be on the call for all of Carolina’s home games as well as road games at Houston and New Orleans.
The former quarterback retired in 2011 after playing with Cleveland and Houston after his Panthers days ended in 2009. Since then, he’s been working at his horse farm in Louisiana. He’s been a regular on local radio shows in Charlotte, but this year marks his first experience as a live game analyst.
Delhomme began preparing this summer with play-by-play announcer Mick Mixon.
“I talked with Mick. We talked in the spring and early summer,” Delhomme said. “When I went to training camp, I spent a good bit of time with him there. Probably asking too many questions, but I think you over-prepare sometimes. I just think it can’t hurt if you over-prepare. I asked him the do’s and the don’ts; what he likes and doesn’t like. He makes it so easy. The words just flow so smoothly for him.”
While making his first foray into live broadcasting, Delhomme is no stranger to the sounds and structure of NFL games. He already had a general philosophy about the role of the color analyst and how they should approach each game.
“I don’t want to overstep my bounds. I truly believe that less is more,” Delhomme said. “I think people feel like they need to fill air and say a bunch of words that don’t make any sense. The game is going to tell the story. Let it play out.
“There were some times where I was sitting in the booth and Mick was setting up the play for you, and I’d touch him and point to where I know they’re going to throw the football. I can just tell based on the formations and motions. I’m not going to always point that out on air because that can overstep the bounds of the play-by-play guy. I’m just not really a fan of that.”
The one thing we all knew we were going to get from Delhomme in the broadcast is emotion.
Known as one of Carolina’s uninhibited emotional leaders during his tenure, which included three playoff runs and a Super Bowl appearance, Delhomme saw his share of ups and downs as a player. And the Panthers have already been on a bit of roller coaster ride to start the 2019 season.
“There was definitely some emotion there,” he said. “Especially on that fourth down play on the goal line last Thursday night. That was a punch in the gut. I know what it’s like to win and lose a game in the NFL. There’s nothing greater and there’s nothing worse. And there really is no in between. I can feel that sometimes, and it might come through in my voice. And I think that’s OK.”
So after two home games, what’s been the critical response? Delhomme feels pretty good so far because he knows he has an unfiltered audience.
“I have a bunch of friends and ex-Panthers and I promise they aren’t afraid to tell you where I did wrong,” Delhomme said. “They would love nothing more than to point it out. So I’m proud to say after two games that I really haven’t had that. I view that as a positive.”
Delhomme will cede his spot in the booth to Gross this weekend in Arizona as the former left tackle makes his radio debut. The two have already been chopping it up on their new Panthers podcast, Jordan and Jake.
Jake’s preview of Jordan’s performance?
“Let’s be honest. I hope he’s terrible,” Delhomme said deadpan. “I’m not going to sugarcoat it. I hope he struggles with the English language. I get teased a lot because of the Louisiana accent. So I hope he does a terrible job.”
Delhomme could only keep the charade going so long before he cracked, espousing how Gross has a great understanding of the game as a whole and will bring great perspective to listeners.
We’ll see how easy that Idaho accent is on the ears this Sunday.