Getting to know the voice of the Tigers

Don Munson, a Clemson radio fixture since the early 90's, is the fifth man to be named the radio play-by-play announcer for Tiger football.

For the last 16 years, Munson has worked in a number of different capacities for the Clemson radio network, including the Tiger Tailgate Show and Fifth Quarter Show. Since 2003, he's hosted Tiger Calls and served as the play-by-play announcer for women's basketball and baseball.

Munson was hired by the school's athletic department in 2010 to work as the director of creative media services and this fall will be his first season as Clemson's play-by-play announcer for football.

On Wednesday, he spoke with CUTigers caught up with Munson to talk about what it means to be the voice of the Clemson Tigers.

With Clemson radio, you've served in so many different capacities, but this position as the play-by-play guy for the football, that's got to be the cream of the crop for you.
Munson: Oh, yeah. First and foremost, I'm just humbled by it, to be honest with you. I don't know if most people know the background, but there have only been four other guys before me that have ever called games on the radio. Jimmy Coggins, who did it from the late 30's into the 60's, and Jimmy actually did Clemson and South Carolina, as I understand it, so he may be the only guy that I know who has called games for both schools. Then, a guy named Bill Goodrich came in the mid 60's. Then, of course, Jim [Phillips] in '68, I believe. And, then, obviously, Pete [Yanity] after Jim passed away in '03, [and] now, myself. Coggins, Goodrich and Phillips are all in the South Carolina Broadcasting Hall of Fame. Pete is on a ballot for the broadcasting hall of fame. You know, I'm humbled by the people that have gone before me and that type of thing. I'm just honored to have opportunity to do this for Clemson.

The appointment to the spot, was this something you wanted to do way back when you got into the business, to be the voice of a major program?
Munson: Being the voice of a major university was – obviously, when I got out of school, I graduated from App. State back in '84, was fortunate enough there at App to do basketball play-by-play in the winter of '84, then got involved with the football broadcast starting in the fall of '85 and worked there at the radio state in Boone until '87, then moved to Hendersonville, North Carolina as the sports director and audio personality at the station there in Hendersonville. Back in those days, not only are you doing high school sports, so you did basketball, football, baseball [and] those type of things in Boone and Hendersonville. I also continued with my duties up at App. State until 1991, then, got involved with Clemson in '94.

Sure, when you're coming out of school, you're a young 20-something, you're aspirations are always huge and big, so for me to say that I didn't aspire to do something like that at a major university, I'd be lying to myself. This is something that I've always wanted to do, just very thankful that Dan [Radakovich] has put his confidence in me, to be able to do this.


Kennedy picked up a Clemson offer a few weeks after visiting for Junior Day.
When you were deciding what career path you wanted to take, why did you decide broadcasting was what you wanted to do?
Munson: I kind of wish my dad was still alive. My dad passed away a couple of years ago. Dad used to always tell me when I was doing the thing at App, ‘I should have known you would go into broadcasting back when you were a little kid.' I was born and grew up in Atlanta. We only lived there until I was 6 1/2 -- he said, ‘I can remember being in the backyard, tossing the ball to you and letting you hit it. when you were 4 or 5-years-old, you would do a running play-by-play for whatever team.' He said, ‘I remember in '67, you would do the Red Sox and the Cardinals from the World Series. You would be both teams, but you would have both lineups down and would hit the ball, run around the base, come back.' He said, ‘I should have known then.'

I really got bit by the bug when I got to college and starting working for the campus radio station my sophomore year, so that's where I really got bit by the bug. Our college station was a little different than what they have at Clemson and a lot of places. They allowed you to broadcast games. Back in those days, we did soccer games, football games, basketball -- men's and women's, baseball games on the radio. I really got a good baseline and some college experience there. The professors would critique your work and help you get better. They weren't just throwing you out there on your own, but actually helping you get better, so that's where I first really got big by the bug for it.

Any influences, play-by-play guys that you really listened to?
Munson: Having grown up in North Carolina, I was more of a -- when we moved back to North Carolina in 1972, I lived in Canada for 3 ½ years, my dad was getting a Master's degree and there was a professor at a little town called Boyle, Ontario, right outside of Toronto, that he really wanted to study under, so we lived there for 3 ½ years, so, I guess I would say the major influences on me are guys like Gary Dornberg and Wally Ausley used to call the N.C. State games. That was back in the days when I was 12, 14 years of age, getting more of the sports bite. They called the games for N.C. State when David Thompson was playing. Obviously, Woody Durham at North Carolina was calling games. Then, when I got into college, Bob Harris was really kind to me, the play-by-play guy at Duke. Ben Wright, who used to be on CBS golf, he lived in Hendersonville and he actually reached out to me and kind of took me under his wing through the days I lived in Hendersonville. He let me meet the Pat Summeralls…he introduced me to a bunch of people from that aspect. Those are guys that probably had as much an influence.

Then, I want to tell you, the guy who had a huge influence on me and I recognize this now, may not have necessarily recognized it then. But, when I was in high school, I was very involved with drama. The guy that was our drama instructor, a guy named Tom Orr, was huge in just the impact that he had, personally, on me, just helped me, especially with my voice and that type of thing. He was huge with.

Do you have a favorite call, a moment where you feel you just really nailed it?
Munson: There was a moment at App. State when we had to win a game to get into the playoffs, and we had to kick a field goal from 47 yards out, it was against James Madison. A guy named Bjorn Nittmo kicked the field goal. That's certainly a moment that stands out to me.

Tyler Colvin's grand slam against Oral Roberts is a moment that certainly stands out to me. The other interesting part, that's the only game that my parents, both my father and my mother, ever sat with me in a booth. That was their first game ever at Clemson. That was the first athletic event they ever went to at Clemson. I had my dad to my left and my mother to my right, and Dan Scott was working with me. He was sitting on the other side of my mother. That was the only time they were ever together with me at a booth, and a game that ended dramatically as that one did, and, just the atmosphere at Doug Kingsmore that day as well.

Those are a couple of moments. I got to call the [basketball] game at Illinois the day that coach [Dabo] Swinney was introduced as the head football coach. In '08, that was certainly a tight one coming down the stretch, Demontez Stitt leading the Tigers to victory in that one on the road, so as I sit back and think about it, those are some moments that stick out to me.

But all of those pale in comparison to what Clemson football is. Clemson football is huge. It is one of the mack daddies of college football. I realize that there are going to be a lot of people out there listening. There are going to be a lot of people critiquing the work that I've done, so I've got to be prepared to absolutely do my best every time that mic is open.

Given the capacity you worked in the last couple of years, does it help a little to have that experience?
Munson: Yeah, it allowed me -- I don't know if there is another broadcaster out there that had as much of an inside look to what's happening in the football department as I did. Coach Swinney has told me I'm welcome to anything. I think he likes the fact that he has a guy that has been there and has seen what happens inside. I told him…I thought that I knew what was going on, because I was pretty close to the program, but I didn't know squat. I had no clue as to what was going on with the players, the coaching staff, the head man himself, even with the administrators. I think a lot of people think that they do, but they have no clue as to what is going on, especially with the players. The pressure and just the time management that the players have to do each and every day is just incredible...I learned a ton in the last three years, being inside that thing. And coach Swinney building the program the way that he's built it, at times, just kind of sit back in awe of it. But, also, really, really appreciate the last three years that I've had here in Clemson football.

There was Pete's signature call of 'orange in the end zone,' do you have anything like that up your sleeve?
Munson: I have no clue. People have asked me that. I never have had a signature call of anything that I've done. I bet you I'll probably just be more of a touchdown Clemson kind of guy. Hopefully, I'm calling touchdown Mike Williams, a lot of that kind of stuff just a ton, but I have no clue. Jim Nantz is famous for writing all of the things he says at end of events, he writes out those scenarios and will do something signature-wise at the end of an event, but I'm not, I'm pretty straight-forward when it comes to that.

So you would describe your broadcast style as pretty straight-forward?
Munson: I hope so. That's what I try to do. I know there are some Clemson fans that come up to me and say, ‘You get too excited for what happens with the other team.' But, when I see a great play happen, doggone it, if it's against you, I understand that, but sometimes you've just got to tip your cap to the other guys when they make an outstanding play. I don't think there's anything wrong with that. If it's made against you, I don't think that there's anything wrong with that. But I understand, my paycheck says Clemson University. It says Clemson University. I understand that fully. They expect me to look at it through the orange glasses. You know what? They're right, because of what this job entails, I think that should be correct.

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