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Tom Helmer becomes the full-time voice of EMU as Matt Shepard steps away from the booth

YPSILANTI, Mich. (EMUEagles.com) — The Eastern Michigan University Department of Athletics and WEMU (89.1 FM) announced today, Aug. 31, its broadcast team for the 2022-23 athletic season.

Already the radio play-by-play voice of EMU men's and women's basketball, Tom Helmer takes over as the full-time voice of the football program after calling a portion of the season since 2019. The opening was created after Matt Shepard made the decision earlier this summer to step aside from his EMU duties to spend more time with his family.

The 2022 campaign will be the 23rd year for Rob Rubick as EMU's primary football analyst. Following a seven-year career as a tight end with the Detroit Lions, Rubick has established himself as a superb analyst, providing detailed and pertinent commentary from an insider's perspective.

Former Eagle offensive lineman Brian Guimon will fill in for Rubick during Eastern's opening week contest against Eastern Kentucky University, Sept. 2. Guimon played for the program in 2004-05 and currently works as a healthcare executive.

"Tom Helmer upholds the standards of broadcast excellence set by John Fountain and carried on by Matt Shepard for so many years," said Molly Motherwell, the General Manager of WEMU. "Matt has been a key member of #teamwemu for decades. We'll miss him but I know that he's as happy as we are that EMU football broadcasts are in good hands. Maintaining professional broadcast excellence is hugely important to WEMU and we know the quality of the game broadcasts will not miss a beat with Tom on the play-by-play call. We're lucky to have him."

Helmer, a multiple-time Emmy award winner, becomes just the second person in EMU Athletics history to earn the full-time nod as the "Voice of EMU Athletics," covering all three major sports (football, men's, and women's basketball) at the same time. The first was legendary broadcaster and E-Club Hall of Famer, John Fountain, who called EMU games for 44 years.

A native of Saline, Mich., Helmer first joined the football broadcast crew during the 2019 campaign before adding basketball responsibilities for the 2020-21 season. A versatile announcer, he has worked the sidelines for FOX NFL Sunday, called play-by-play for both the Colorado Rockies and Boston Red Sox, and hosted various studio shows.

Helmer began his career in Los Angeles, Calif. as a producer for nightly sports reports, and has served in a multitude of roles throughout his career. He was a play-by-play voice for Fox Sports calling both Big 12 Conference and Pacific 12 Conference games. Helmer has also been on the call for NCAA Division I men's and women's contests, Arena League Football games, and hosted the nationally televised Fox Sports Net Baseball Report, BCS Breakdown, and the BCS Ratings show.

Helmer won multiple Emmy Awards for Fox Sports Rocky Mountain and also one for KCAL-TV leading up to the 1994 World Cup.

"I truly feel blessed that Eastern Michigan trusts me enough to fill this role," Helmer added. "Matt has been a tremendous asset to the University and a great friend to me. He leaves some huge shoes to fill and we are going to miss him around campus. I'm thrilled I'll get to continue working with Rob. He's become a very good friend as well along with being one of the most entertaining and informative analyst I've ever worked with. I also want to thank Molly Motherwell and Greg Steiner for this incredible opportunity. None of this would have been possible had they not believed in me."

For the past 20 falls, a familiar voice has been synonymous with Eastern Michigan football. A multiple-time Michigan Sportscaster of the Year and the current voice of the Detroit Tigers on Bally's Sports Detroit, Shepard first handled EMU football play-by-play duties during the 1999 season. He returned to the microphone in 2002 and held the post until just recently.

Labeled the "busiest voice in Michigan sports," Shepard was the 2018 recipient of the Detroit Sports Media's Ty Tyson Award for Excellence in Sports Broadcasting. Born in Farmington Hills, Shepard is a two-time Emmy Award winner and two-time MSBA Michigan Sportscaster of the Year, on WDFN, Bally Sports Detroit, Big Ten Network, and the Detroit Lions Television Network covering professional, collegiate and high school sports in Michigan and elsewhere since the 1990s.

A nearly lifelong Michigan resident, Shepard graduated from North Farmington High. He played baseball at North Farmington and was a baseball team walk-on at Eastern Michigan before transferring to Central Michigan University for his junior and senior college years.

"The decision did not come easily," mentioned Shepard. "It was a really hard decision for me because I truly love the people there, but there's a time in everybody's career in broadcasting where you have to throttle back a little bit. My wife has been extremely supportive, but she's made a ton of sacrifices for me. Then with our youngest now going off to college, we thought it would be a really good time for us to get a chance to travel a little bit in the off-season. I haven't attended a college football game as a fan in more than 20 years, and it's going to be hard for me not to want to drive to Ypsilanti and go in the booth and have great conversations with people I care deeply about."

Shepard recently sat down with Greg Steiner for an interview that will run at halftime of Friday's broadcast to further discuss his decision and reflect on this time at Eastern Michigan. WEMU and the Eastern Insider Podcast will also have replays of the interview for those unable to catch it live.

Rubick was initially a football walk-on at Grand Valley State University before he became a starter at tight end during his freshman year. A native of Newberry, Mich., he played on the Lakers' 1978 and 1981 GLIAC championship teams and in the 1978 NAIA Division I Football Championship Playoffs. He was the Laker career reception leader, catching 80 passes for 1,455 yards and six TDs. Rubick was named to the 1981 All-GLIAC Football Team. A 12th-round draft pick in 1981, he went on to play seven years in the National Football League with the Lions.

Rubick's broadcasting resume includes analyst work for the Detroit Lions, Grand Valley State University, Detroit Fury, Mid-American Conference, and MHSAA game broadcasts. Rubick received a master's degree in education from EMU.

"Matt is going to be truly missed," Rubick mentioned. "He is a great broadcaster and a tremendous friend for more than 25 years, so gamedays are going to be different without him. That said, I've had the opportunity to work with Tom the past few seasons and he is as good of a broadcaster as you will find throughout the country. I'm extremely fortunate to get to work with him and I promise that our broadcasts will continue to remain one of the best and most entertaining in the nation."

John Petelka returns to the broadcast as the producer/engineer in the studio at King Hall, while Steiner will be on-site during both football and basketball broadcasts serving as the engineer and contributing throughout the game.

WEMU will continue to serve as the FM flagship and originating station for EMU football and basketball broadcasts. In 2022-23, WEMU will broadcast more than 55 live games, as well as interviews and stories during WEMU's news programs.

Listeners in eight counties can catch Eagles' games on 89.1 FM. As a public radio station with a large broad-based audience, WEMU's signal extends from Washtenaw County to the Detroit metropolitan and Toledo, Ohio markets. The broadcasts are also streamed live on WEMU.org, the Varsity Network, and WEMU's free Android and iPhone applications.