NEW YORK (AP) – In many ways, the only thing changing for Brad Nessler is the blazer he will be wearing in the booth.
Nessler is preparing for his first season as the voice of the SEC on CBS, filling the seat held for 17 years by friend Verne Lundquist and returning to the network where he first went national.
His “new” partner is Gary Danielson, whom Nessler worked with for seven years at ESPN and ABC. And Nessler has spent plenty of Saturdays in Southeastern Conference country during a long career calling college football games.
No doubt Nessler is comfortable with his new gig. He hopes viewers will be as content with him as they were with his predecessor.
“You know you can’t be Uncle Verne, right?” Nessler said Tuesday at the CBS offices in Manhattan. “Maybe I’ll be Cousin Ness or something?”
Nessler’s first game will be TCU at Arkansas on Sept. 9.
The 61-year-old Nessler was a natural replacement for Lundquist, who is giving up the weekly grind of the SEC season, but will still be part of CBS golf and NCAA Tournament coverage. Lundquist, 77, had become such a Saturday afternoon institution that even his occasional slip ups were embraced by many fans as part of the charm of Uncle Verne.
Nessler understands viewers might not be quite so kind when he has an off game, but he’s not too concerned.
“One thing that helps is I’m not a Twitter guy. The social media doesn’t bother me because I don’t pay attention to it,” Nessler said. “I’ve seen people get wrapped up in that during games.”
Nessler and Lundquist have a long friendship that goes back to when Nessler was a 26-year-old radio play-by-play man for the Atlanta Falcons in the 1980s and Lundquist was at the end of his tenure doing Dallas Cowboys games. It was Lundquist who touted Nessler to CBS executives. Nessler called his first college game — Pitt at Oklahoma — for CBS in 1990 .
“If you told me pick a guy who’s most like Verne’s style out there, I’d choose Brad even if I didn’t know him,” Danielson said. “He’s a minimalist as a broadcaster.”
A few years later Nessler moved to ESPN and was eventually paired with Danielson. The network broke up the two in the late 1990s and eventually Danielson landed at CBS. This will be his 12th season as the lead analyst on CBS’s SEC game of the week.
“I think it’ll be a little different,” Danielson said about working with Nessler instead of Lundquist. “Brad will be a little more aggressive in seeking out information, but I think both styles are great.”
Nessler has called plenty of NFL and NBA games, along with college basketball, but he considers himself a college football guy. He said while he was appreciative of his role at ESPN/ABC, jumping back to CBS for this job was a pretty easy call.
“This is a time slot and a game that everybody watches,” Nessler said. “Where I was I was in a great position, but every week we would go ‘I wonder what CBS is going to choose?’ Because we would have the second choice of SEC games. Now, I don’t have to worry about that.”
Nessler also gets to check a couple boxes on his play-by-play wish list that are still open. He has never announced a Florida-Georgia game, the annual rivalry played in Jacksonville and nicknamed the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. He will also call the Army-Navy game for the first time.
Nessler said he fought back tears watching last year’s Army-Navy game from beginning to end as Lundquist said goodbye to college football. Part of Lundquist’s sign off was a nod to Nessler. You can be sure Nessler will acknowledge Lundquist during that first broadcast from Fayetteville, Arkansas.
“There’s going to be shoutout at some point even if it’s kidding him, ribbing him, saying that he’s sitting there in his boxers,” Nessler said. “And I’m going to call him that week for sure.”
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