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J. Thomas McNamara

   Aric Lee is about to embark on a new career that will challenge him like athletics does for the athletes he reports on each fall on Friday nights and Saturday afternoons during the playoffs and Tuesday and Friday nights during the winter prep basketball seasons.

    Lee is leaving Neuhoff media later this month to join Northwestern Mutual of which he is studying studiously for now to prepare him for the   challenges that lay ahead.
    He has been the play-by-play voice for prep football and basketball and Millikin games for Neuhoff Media, but he was so much more involved in the community than simply being the man behind the mic at athletic events.  He also hosted his sports shows and other news shows.
    Someone who knows a thing or two about community and who serves it well, Lori Kerans offered her reflections on Aric’s contributions to the “Real Men Wear Pink” campaign she and St. Mary’s Hospital created to increase breast cancer awareness.  Lee jumped in with both feet.
    “Aric Lee is truly one of the transformational leaders in sports, particularly high school athletics in Macon County and Central Illinois.  He became the ‘Pied Piper’ for student-athletes, sports fans, and our community, connecting through his radio show, calling games live on the air, and utilizing social media to transcend sharing stories and information.  Aric is the consummate professional, and seemingly knows every student-athlete in every sport!
     “I am particularly grateful for Aric picking up the baton for the ‘Real Men Wear Pink’ breast cancer awareness program.  When the idea was born in 2006 in a conference room at St. Mary’s hospital to showcase high school football programs as a part of the HSHS ‘Real Men Wear Pink’ program, the creators (Tom McNamara, Brian Byers, Val Jordan, Kevin Hinton and others) had no idea how impactful the program could be to the young men and the women (moms, grandmothers, teachers, friends, etc.).
     “But when Aric Lee got involved, and began to produce the ‘Real Men Wear Pink’ Football Awards program, the “magic” that only Aric can create happened.  Today, the RMWP program is a signature program making a difference in not only high school football, but in other sports, in the schools, and in our community.
     “We are so blessed to have Aric (and Katie) Lee in our community, making a difference in all they do; I trust Aric when he says he will continue to call high school and college athletic events, because we all need the positivity and energy of Aric Lee,” concluded Kerans.
    We often covered the same games and the one thing Aric did in setting up his season football schedule was he only scheduled the first five weeks so he would have flexibility to schedule the more meaningful games for weeks six through nine which allowed him to always bring the best of the best prep games to his Neuhoff Media audience.  He also asked if I would like to present one or more of the awards at the two prep sports awards he hosted each year, including the RMWP program and the ESPYs at the end of the school year.
  “It’s all about the relationships I was able to build with the coaches and the players,” reflected Lee on his prep sports broadcasting career that resulted in the Stephen Decatur graduate to be called a “homer by eight or nine schools” which he took as a compliment.  “Building these friendships is what’s most important.  “I’ve built some real cool friendships.”
    Whenever prep sports resume, Lee again will have the headset on to call the action unfolding in front of him, but what it will look like after post-COVID-19 is unknown at this time.
    Unfortunately, his 11th ESPY show was his last and nine high school football award programs will end, too, eight of which were under the “RMWP” umbrella unless the hospital wants to compensate him for his time doing the show which requires a lot of work because Lee was a professional.  He studiously requested the statistics for the players the coaches nominated, organized them and then mailed out the ballots to those voting and then tabulated the results which frustrated him at times because some coaches for whatever reason do not vote.
    Those shows were well-received and well-done.   
    Although he’s leaving the radio business to embark on a new financial advising career with Northwestern Mutual, Aric says he will still be calling high school and Millikin games for as long as “they’ll have me.”
    Aric, that will be a long time, quipping that he’d like to do it like the late Ron James did for as many years as he did as “the Coach.”
    I will have more on this developing story in a future print edition of the Decatur Tribune.

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