By DANNY P. SMITH
One night prior to a Mississippi State men's basketball game against Vanderbilt, a young boy approached radio broadcaster Jack Cristil for an autograph.
Cristil was busy getting his notes together to describe yet another athletic event for the Bulldogs, but it didn't stop him from taking the time to acknowledge the small fan who appreciated his work.
All the boy had to give Cristil was a small piece of paper, but the broadcaster used the space for this message: To Danny Smith, best wishes, Jack Cristil, Voice of the Bulldogs.
After that last statement, you have probably guessed that the experience shared was my own.
Cristil will never know what that small gesture of putting his name, along with an encouraging word, on a small piece of paper meant to me.
From that moment on, following Mississippi State athletics on the radio with Cristil calling the action was high on my list or priorities.
Not only did Cristil introduce me to Bulldog football and basketball, but I developed an appreciation for Cristil and his work.
For the last 58 years, Cristil showed up and performed his craft better than anybody.
When you turned on a Mississippi State football or basketball game on the radio, Cristil would always seem to be there describing the action. I don't remember many instances when he wasn't there.
It's apparent Cristil loved what he did and didn't want to take a game off for any reason.
That's why when news broke about Cristil's pending retirement due to health concerns, then had the heart-felt message following the MSU-LSU broadcast, it was a little hard to believe.
Cristil called his last game on Saturday afternoon when the Bulldogs traveled to Knoxville, Tenn., to play the Tennessee Volunteers in basketball.
As MSU capped the 70-69 win against Tennessee, Cristil got the opportunity to say one final time, "wrap it in Maroon and White."
It was only fitting that the Bulldogs were victorious on the court in Cristil's final broadcast. He seemed to enjoy the game very much.
It's going to be strange not hearing Cristil's voice on future MSU football and basketball broadcasts, but Jim Ellis and company will do a fine job in moving forward.
There are plans are being made to honor Cristil in some way for the many years of service he provided to the Bulldogs.
It's difficult to come up with the amount of words and some that are adequate enough to recognize such a man as Cristil.
The best thing I can do is return the favor he gave me several years ago.
To Jack Cristil, best wishes, Danny P. Smith, SDN sports editor.
Danny P. Smith is sports editor and columnist for the Starkville Daily News. The opinions in this column are his and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Daily News or its staff.