In 1980 Brad Nessler was a young, unknown radio announcer in Minnesota when he received an offer from WGST in Atlanta to come south and work in sports full time.
The graduate of Minnesota State-Mankato decided quickly that he loved the South.
“I drove down and never drove back,” said Nessler, who has lived in the same house in the Atlanta suburb of Duluth for 32 years.
Nessler already has had a hall of fame broadcasting career. But when we talked Wednesday, he didn’t hide his excitement over the official news that in 2017 he’ll become the play-by-play voice for “The SEC on CBS.”
Clay Travis of Fox Sports first reported this back in late April, but out of respect for Verne Lundquist, the man who he’ll be replacing, Nessler did not want to talk about it until CBS made its announcement on Tuesday.
“I’m totally excited,” said Nessler, who has been at ESPN for the past 24 years. “I couldn’t get excited for a while. I didn’t want to say anything because Verne and I are friends. But the first thing you have to know is you don’t replace Verne Lundquist. I am honored that when he’s ready to go, I get to sit in his chair.”
Lundquist will make the 2016 season his last as the play-by-play announcer for SEC games on CBS, a spot he has held since 2000. He will continue to work college basketball and golf for CBS.
I had dinner with “Uncle Verne” in Athens, Ga., in April and he told me at the time that “doing the SEC games on CBS is one of the best things I have done in my career. I know that I’m getting near the end, and it has just been great.” Earlier this year, Lundquist, 76, was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Emmy Award in ceremonies in New York.
Lundquist, said Nessler, “is a guy who has always been in my corner. When I was a young broadcaster working the Peach Bowl in Atlanta, Verne introduced me to the crowd at a luncheon and said some nice things. He talked to the CBS guys about me and was my advocate. I mean, who does that now?”
Nessler’s contract with ESPN was up this summer. The timing was right. This will be Nessler’s second tour of duty with CBS, where he covered the NFL, college football and basketball in 1990 and ’91. Nessler said he is glad to be back in the CBS family.
“I had a long run at ESPN, but I wanted to my next move to be at a place that wanted me until I wanted to quit, like CBS is doing with Verne,” said Nessler, who turns 60 on Friday. “Sean McManus (chairman of CBS Sports) said, ‘We want you to come and work as long as you want.’
“Having somebody who will make that kind of commitment to me at this point in my career is special. How can you turn that down?”
Nessler said he will work a couple of SEC games this season when the network has doubleheaders on November 5 and November 12. At this point, he does not know who his analyst will be.
When Nessler takes over in 2017, he’ll be reunited with analyst Gary Danielson. The two worked together for five years (1992-96) at ESPN.
“It’s a back-to-the-future kind of deal for me, and I can’t tell you how excited I am to be reunited with Gary,” Nessler said. ” ‘The SEC on CBS’ is the best college football show there is. I’m really looking forward to it.”
(You can follow Tony Barnhart on Twitter @MrCFB)
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