The Spartans have been hearing a different voice over the public address system on Friday nights for a whole year now, but the new twists that Jeff Sluss has added to the Salem tradition are just starting to soak in.
“The Priiiiiiiiiiiiiiide of Salem Marching Band!”
“And that’s another Spartan … First Down!”
“It’s football time in Salem!”
“It’s not just my job to inform who ran the ball, who made a tackle, who made a touchdown, but to get the crowd excited and involved,” Jeff Sluss said. “It makes a huge difference to the kids when they can hear the crowd roaring behind them.”
Three years ago, Sluss was just beginning to see that he needed to be more involved with the community and with his family when life threw him a huge obstacle.
While driving back from Disney World in Florida, he started talking to his wife, Jill, about spending more time with his family and cutting back on travel with the consulting firm he owned. He’d recently started traveling to England, to Norway, and he had an offer from a client to work for several months in China at the time.
“In one of the most bizarre twists of fate,” he said, a fax intended for APEX Industrial Equipment on 4th Street ended up at his house while he was on that Disney vacation. When he dropped it off to them the next day, Lee Plymale mentioned needing someone to help run the business, and Sluss soon came to work for them.
Several months later, in June 2007, while Jill was pregnant with their third child, Aurelia, Sluss was diagnosed with leukemia. He underwent treatment for and luckily he didn’t suffer “any of the nightmare stories” or reactions to the treatment. He actually took the second, third, and fourth rounds of chemotherapy as an outpatient.
Once the disease went into remission, Sluss was even more determined to spend quality time with his family. If it stays away for two more years, he’ll be considered cured. But he’s still got the “bucket list” mentality.
Another of his goals was to become involved with football again. He played at Christiansburg High but because of an injury couldn’t play his senior year. Sluss helped coach the eighth grade team and really enjoyed it.
While he was in the hospital, his son Levi participated in a football camp run by Dennis Haley of the Baltimore Ravens. Just getting out of the hospital to be able to see Levi play in the game was wonderful, but Levi won the “best attitude” award at camp. Things like that are what Sluss calls “good medicine.”
An opening on the Andrew Lewis Middle coaching staff had opened up, and Sluss was invited in. That also meant he got to help spot during Friday night games in the press box, and his sons, Levi and Braeden, got to help out the team.
As if quality time with family plus coaching football weren’t enough, Sluss was asked to announce during the Single A state football championships held at Salem Stadium, in 2008. Tony Wirt, longtime Spartan announcer, wasn’t feeling well that day. He ended up handing the post over to Sluss at the beginning of the 2009 season.
He isn’t helping to coach middle school football any longer, but he’s most excited about making his kids proud in the press box.
MORE ON SALEM SPORTS:
* Q&A with Salem coach Stephen Magenbauer
* Q&A with Salem’s football captains
* Photos from the Salem-Turner Ashby football scrimmage
* Photo of Salem JV volleyball vs. Byrd
* Photos of Salem fall sports team
* Photos from Salem-Martinsville football scrimmage
* Fan photos from the Martinsville scrimmage
* Photos of Salem JV volleyball vs. Franklin County
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