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Lundquist's stories differ from air time

by JEFF KRUPSAW SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE | August 31, 2021 at 2:03 a.m.

Verne Lundquist the public speaker is more loquacious than Lundquist the unmistakable TV play-by-play voice.

That was and is by design.

Lundquist, 81, regaled 400 members of the Little Rock Touchdown Club for nearly an hour Monday afternoon at the DoubleTree Hotel.

He could have gone on for a week.

Lundquist told stories, some in great detail, about his career as the radio play-by-play man for the Dallas Cowboys, his move to TV where he called NFL games, NCAA basketball and the Masters for CBS.

Lundquist touched on his friendships with former Cowboy and recent NFL Hall of Fame inductee Cliff Harris, who played at Ouachita Baptist University, his one time broadcasting with former Arkansas coach Frank Broyles, and his first TV play-by-play broadcast when he teamed with famed Razorbacks broadcaster Bud Campbell to call Arkansas-Texas A&M in 1969.

Two of Lundquist's most famous calls are from the Masters -- Jack Nicklaus' birdie putt to take the lead on No. 17 in 1986, and Tiger Woods' winding 50-foot chip-in for birdie on No. 16 in 2005.

Both were stamped with Lundquist's TV style of using few words, and just letting the moment tell the story.

"I grew up admiring the late Ray Scott, with the Green Bay Packers," Lundquist said. "I got to know him well. And he was the best I knew at laying out.

"A typical touchdown call from Ray, was '[Bart] Starr ... [Boyd] Dowler ... Touchdown.' That was it, because it's television. So I learned from that."

Lundquist's calls of Nicklaus' putt and Woods' chip were shown on a video Monday from start to finish. The economy of words stands the test of time.

"I'm very proud of the two we showed today, but I wouldn't have called the Tiger Woods chip shot the same way 25 years ago. I would have been young and excited. I wouldn't have let the pictures tell the story."

Lundquist, who still resides on the tower above Nos. 16-17 at the Masters, was 45 in 1986 when Nicklaus ended a two-year dry spell with a final-round 65 to win the Masters for the sixth time.

He was well aware of the significance of Nicklaus' putt, and he told himself to stay calm.

"Keep it simple, keep it short, and get out of the way."

It took Lundquist 11 words.

"This is for sole possession of the lead. ... Maybe. ... Yes Sir!"

The description of Woods' chip, which rolled and rolled and nearly stopped on the lip of the cup, was every bit as concise.

"Here it comes," Lundquist as the ball tracked toward the hole. "Oh, my goodness. ... Oh wow."

It finally plunked in the hole.

"In your life have you seen anything like that?"

Many in Monday's crowd knew Lundquist for the 17 years he was the lead play-by-play man for SEC football, from 1999 to 2016.

Two Lundquist calls Arkansas fans may remember coincided with Darren McFadden's rise in the race for the Heisman Trophy in 2006 and 2007. McFadden finished runner-up both years, but his displays against LSU at War Memorial Stadium and the following year at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge were two examples of vintage Lundquist.

On Nov. 26, 2006, fifth-ranked Arkansas trailed No. 9 LSU 24-14 early in the fourth quarter when McFadden, who touched the ball 24 times (21-182 rushing, 2-of-2 passing for 33 yards, 1-7 receiving) got them back into the game.

"First and 10: McFadden," Lundquist said, not speaking again until the running back had run untouched to midfield. "Say goodbye. Darren McFadden. 80 yards. Touchdown."

Arkansas lost the game 31-26, but came back in 2007 behind another Heisman-worthy performance in Arkansas' triple-overtime victory over No. 1 LSU.

"What a player he was," Lundquist said.

Lundquist was asked to rate McFadden as an all-time college back.

"He was a large human being. I wouldn't put him in Earl Campbell's position. But Darren, holy cow, he was not a small guy," Lundquist said. "He's among the top 20 backs that ever played, in my view."

Lundquist, who retired from college football in 2016 and college basketball in 2018, recalled some of the idiosyncrasies of calling games at War Memorial Stadium.

"The pathway to our booth was open," he said. "We had people come by and say, 'Hey, you all on the air?"

"Yeah, we were."

Print Headline: Lundquist's stories differ from air time

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