Famed Tennessee announcer John Ward.

Former University of Tennessee Volunteers radio voice John Ward has passed away at the age of 87 following a lengthy battle with illness. Ward called 31 football seasons and 34 basketball seasons at the school, retiring from football duties after the Volunteers’ 1998 national championship and from basketball duties after the following season. IMG’s Vol Network announced his passing with a statement Wednesday:

Ward was a consistent and vital presence around Tennessee athletics for decades, as ESPN’s Chris Low notes:

For parts of four decades, Ward was the radio liaison between the Vols and their rabid Big Orange Nation, and he captivated fans with his unmistakable crisp voice and signature calls — from “Give him six” after a Tennessee touchdown to “Bottom” when the Vols made a big shot in basketball. His final football season behind the microphone was Tennessee’s 1998 national championship campaign, and he retired for good following the ensuing basketball season.

Ward never missed a game in more than 350 consecutive broadcasts. Country music superstar Kenny Chesney, who grew up in East Tennessee, recorded a tribute to Ward, “Touchdown Tennessee,” soon after Ward retired.

…Former Tennessee president Joe Johnson once joked that he would rather have to replace then-athletic director Doug Dickey, then-football coach Phillip Fulmer and then-women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt all at once than to have to replace Ward.

Here’s a compilation of some of Ward’s most famed calls:

Media figures, athletes and fans all took to Twitter Wednesday to pay tribute to Ward:

Our thoughts are with Ward’s family and friends.

[ESPN; photo from Ryan McGee on Twitter]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.