Today’s installment of “5 questions with…” features one of the very best in the business when it comes to sports broadcasting. Wes Durham has been announcing football, basketball and baseball for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets since 1995, and also does radio play-by-play for the Atlanta Falcons. We met in his office recently to talk a little shop….
Andy: When you were growing up, did having your legendary father, Woody Durham (“The Voice of the Tarheels“), inspire you to become a broadcaster?
Wes: I was 5 years old when my Dad took the job at North Carolina and I wasn’t thinking broadcasting. When I was growing up, I was really more interested in playing basketball. My real name should have been “Mr. Basketball Camp” – if there was a basketball camp going on, I was there. When I was 12 years old I was a 6?, 185 lbs., with a size 12 shoe. When you’re that age and that big, everybody loves you, and people start talkin’ prospect in North Carolina. Problem was I’ve only grown 2? since, and it was when I was at Coach Dean Smith’s camp a few years later, and saw the likes of 6? 8? Chris Washburn dunking, and another guy named Ralph Sampson, when I realized my basketball immortality was not going to be. It was right then when I started to use what I had picked up from watching my Dad, and being on the sidelines of so many of his games. I jumped in by getting a job at a local radio station when I was 14 years old, and basically haven’t looked back.
Andy: As the voice of the Jackets, you’ve announced over 500 games (that’s alot of games!). Has there been one athlete that really stands out in your mind as the best Georgia Tech player you’ve ever seen?
Wes: I was privileged enough to see Calvin Johnson (now with the Detroit Lions) play football for 3 years, and pound for pound, I have no doubt he is the best player who has ever played any sport at Georgia Tech. I was also privileged enough to have a few breakfast meetings over the years with guys like Bob Davis (HOF GT Football player from the 1940?s) & George Morris (HOF GT player from the 1950?s), who both verified my assessment on Calvin. In basketball, Stephon Marbury was an amazing defender and could score 20 at any time. Drew Barry led the ACC in assists 2 years in a row, and many people don’t realize what an outstanding and important asset he was. The most dynamic player was Isma’il Muhammad – his dunks were just SICK, and while he wasn’t the best player, he was the most exciting with his acrobatic jams. I came in after Nomar and Varitek in baseball, but was lucky enough to witness Mark Teixeira. He hit a home run out of the park that is still on it’s way to Charlotte. Wes gives his memorable take below on a Calvin Johnson catch for the ages.
Andy: In addition to your announcing duties for Tech, you are the Director of Broadcasting, you have a weekly radio show on Atlanta’s 790thezone Sports radio, and oh yeah, you do play-by-play for the Atlanta Falcons. Does being the Director of Broadcasting entail teaching any classes, and are you able to have any semblance of a personal life for cryin’ out loud?
Wes: The Director position has mostly to do with being a liaison between the school’s marketing wing (ISP Sports, Inc.) in making sure all things run smoothly prior, during, and after all productions on campus for all sporting events. I do not have to teach any classes. As for my personal life, I am extremely lucky in that my wife understands what I do for a living, and loves what I do for a living. Sure I’d like to go out and have dinner with friends and play golf more often, but in order to be successful, you simply cannot. One of my good friends told me the that I live by the Boy Scout’s motto, “Be Prepared”, and that’s exactly what I try to be. I don’t know how to do anything else – It’s who I am. To stay on schedule you have to stay organized, budget time and get disciplined. I do love what I do. It’s good that they pay me for the office job, but I really would do the games for free.
Andy: You ever “screw up” on the air?
Wes: This all goes back to being prepared Andy, but at the end of the day there is no perfect broadcast. Just like golf, there are no perfect 18 holes. You try your best to prepare and be consistent. I’ll finish a broadcast and think I screwed up one or two things, only to have people tell me I just called my best game. Of course you let those 2 things eat at you and try to fix them for the next game. The general fan will never know, but you do, and always try to improve. One thing is certain, and that is you always sound better when you win. I can call the best game of my career, but if your team doesn’t win, nobody will care. If you win and you didn’t have your best day, nobody will care as well. I always play for consistency – win or lose you gotta deliver the product.
Andy: What is it you love so much about Original Retro Brand?
Wes: I think the coolest thing n sports today is throwbacks, period. You can see my screensaver has an old picture of Grant field from the 1960?s, and I have pictures of old players & old logo’s all around my office. You have an old Durham Bulls shirt which I got for my Dad, and I just love all the graphics Original Retro Brand has in their arsenal.
I want to thank Wes for taking the time to give us some interesting insight to what goes on in the life of a big time sports broadcaster. I look forward to hearing him call many, many more games!
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