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Jerry Zullo was the voice of the Marching Aztecs for 45 years. Jerry Zullo was the voice of the Marching Aztecs for 45 years.
 


An Aztec Voice Gone Silent

Aztec football fans may not have recognized him by name or by sight, but Jerry Zullo’s voice was unforgettable.
By Tobin Vaughn
 

Any Aztec football fan knows the drill. 

Before the start of each home game, the band emerges from the tunnel beneath Qualcomm Stadium’s gigantic Jumbotron, gathers along the field’s eastern edge and at the appointed moment storms onto the field where the performers take their places.

A fanfare ensues as the announcer introduces color guard, dance and music instructors “…and the San Diego State University Marching Aztecs!” With that goose-bump-inducing cue, the entire ensemble launches into “The Fight Song” as drums pound, flags fly and batons twirl.

This season will be different. 

The band, the dancers and the color guard will all be there, but the voice — some might say the heart — of the Marching Aztecs is gone. After 45 seasons announcing the band at SDSU football games, Jerry Zullo (’69), the voice of the Marching Aztecs, died August 26, a little more than a week before the first game of the 2015 season.

His favorite gig

Coming as it does just before the Sky Show season opener, his loss hits the Marching Aztecs exceptionally hard.

SDSU’s director of athletic bands, Bryan Ransom (’93) has known Zullo since arriving on campus as an undergrad in 1988 when the 18-year veteran announcer was already considered a legend among band members.

“He was always so warm, thoughtful, and kind to students and staff of the Marching Aztecs alike,” Ransom remembered. “And the voice! There is just no mistaking that voice. Forty-five years. Incredible.”

Ransom also worked with Zullo for the past 25 years as part of the San Diego Chargers entertainment team. Zullo had started announcing pregame and halftime for the Chargers in 1985 and Ransom remembers him as a consummate professional.

“Jerry had several jobs outside of his voiceover and announcing gigs, but was always upfront, to me at least, about his ‘favorite gig’ — game day announcing for the Marching Aztecs,” Ransom said. “We were so fortunate to have him as an integral part of our shows and a part of our family.”

Hooked on the Marching Aztecs

But as much as they loved him, Zullo loved the Marching Aztecs. When asked several weeks before the football season opener whether he would return for his 46th year, Zullo replied, “I’ll keep coming back as long as they’ll have me.”

A saxophone player in his high school pep band, Zullo always liked band music. He once said he got hooked on the Marching Aztecs well before he was a student at SDSU.

“I first saw the Marching Aztecs when I was in high school,” he once recounted. “I went to football games in Aztec Bowl and loved watching them.  I love marching bands.  I like the sound, the way they march, the formations — the whole thing.”

A fantastic time

And Zullo was a loyal Aztec. One of the founders of KCR, the campus student radio station, he worked for several years in broadcasting including a stint as news director at KPBS Radio.

A lifetime member of the SDSU Alumni Association, he was a frequent volunteer for the organization despite a major mix-up at the end of his college career. Zullo completed his course work for his degree in 1969, but a transcript discrepancy prevented him from receiving his diploma until 2009 when he participated in that year’s commencement ceremony.

SDSU Assistant Vice President of Alumni Engagement Jim Herrick remembers hearing about his predicament and working to help get Zullo his diploma 40 years after the fact. “Here was a great guy who had earned his degree and because of an uncorrected technicality was denied graduation, but was never angry or bitter,” said Herrick.

“I’ve never had a bad feeling about San Diego State,” Zullo once said. “It’s a great university.  I had a great college experience.  I got an education.  I learned things.  It was just a fantastic time.”
That’s just the way he was.

Jerry touched so many, not just with his amazing voice and delivery, but his kindness and his smile,” said Ransom. “He will be sorely missed, but never forgotten.” 

A moment of silence to remember Jerry Zullo is planned prior to the national anthem at the Aztecs’ season-opening football game against USD.  The Marching Aztecs are planning to wear white ribbons bearing the initials JZ as a tribute to their late announcer.