Getting to Know ISU's New 'Voice'

John Walters was named the new Cyclone football and basketball play-by-play radio announcer this summer. Walters, the Sports Director at WOI-TV, will do a terrific job in the booth for ISU fans. I have greatly appreciated Walters' work on the Cyclone Television Network doing the play-by-play for men's basketball games. Walters and Gary Thompson made a super team, calling the game—and explaining the game—without trying to become "the show." A couple of true professionals, that's for sure.

As you know, Walters will be filling the position of the legendary Pete Taylor as the radio voice of the Cyclones. Walters and Taylor were very good friends and I'm sure that Walters would've been Pete's choice to step into this job.

Walters will work extremely hard at doing the best job possible for Cyclone fans and he will represent Iowa State University in a first-class manner. I'm sure that listeners will appreciate his sense of humor, as well.

For those of you who might not be familiar with Walters yet, I posed several questions to him this week and here is what he had to say…

Marty: You've worked with some great analysts like Gary Thompson and Jon Sundvold. What will it be like to work with Eric Heft? Will it take a few games to get the timing right between you guys?

John: I would rank Eric right up there with any of the great analysts I've worked with. I've always admired his work. Eric is a very intelligent guy and I think that comes across in his broadcasts. I think he's always honest too, and that's something I really like. The biggest adjustments will probably be for him. He was just so used to working with Pete. After 24 years with the same guy, it'll probably take him a while to get used to a new partner. Still, I'll be the rookie, and he may have to carry me for a while. It really helps that I've known Eric for 20 years, and we get along great.

Marty: What are the keys for the Cyclone football team to make it to another bowl game this season?

John: I think there are several, but the offensive line ranks first. "Dan McCarney football" is not dropping back and throwing 45 passes a game. To his credit, Mac has always been able to adjust to the players and strengths that he has (which I think is the mark of a great coach) so he let Seneca throw it on just about every down late last season. But Mac would be the first to tell you that he wants the run to set up the pass, not the other way around. With better running backs and improvement up front, Iowa State should get back to playing power football this year.

I've followed Iowa State football for 20 years and I can never remember a better secondary or group of receivers (probably not a coincidence, since they work against each other in practice). I think those will be two real strengths for this team. Linebacker is a concern, just because Jeremy Loyd and Matt Word were two guys who ended up on NFL rosters. That's tough to replace. And, of course, there is inexperience at quarterback. But, I'm convinced that top-to-bottom this a better football team than last year's, and I think it will be reflected in the final record. I predict eight wins (nine counting the bowl game).

Marty: What are your favorite TV shows?

John: Probably Baseball Tonight, College Hoops 2night and NFL Prime Time. I'm not a very well-rounded person. I just don't watch much TV. My wife and I do enjoy "The Practice," and we rarely miss "Sports Sound Off."

Marty: Who are your favorite play-by-play announcers?

John: Pete Taylor was number one. What a pro. He was just great to listen to. I also grew up listening to Jim Durham call Chicago Bulls games on the radio. I really like his style. I love to listen to Keith Jackson on college football. Harry Caray was always my favorite baseball announcer.

Marty: Is there any chance for the Cubs to win it all this year?

John: I think they have a great chance to at least win their division, because of their great pitching. The Cards and Astros can't match it. I also like the idea of Wood, Prior, Zambrano as a three-man rotation in the playoffs. That would be tough to beat.

But, realistically, I've been following the Cubs for 35 years and I'm still waiting for my first pennant.

Marty: When was the last time you thought of Elmer Robinson?

John: Funny that you should ask that. I was just visiting with Rod Bodholdt and Jeff Grummer (from B&G Productions) last week. Those two guys will do a great job producing the Dan McCarney Show this fall. But, I digress.

I was telling Rod and Jeff that Jeff Hornacek played in my conference in high school (Jeff played for Lyons Township High School in LaGrange, a member of the West Suburban Conference. I went to Glenbard West High School in Glen Ellyn, and did not play) but Hornacek didn't stand out because Elmer's brother, DeAndre Robinson, was the star of the team. That was my last thought about Elmer.

Marty: How will Tim Floyd fare in New Orleans during the upcoming NBA season?

John: I think Tim will do very well. He took a lot of criticism in Chicago. I just don't think that you all of a sudden forget how to coach. Tim has a tremendous basketball mind. I'm sure he learned a lot from the experience in Chicago, and he'll be a better pro coach for it. For the first time, we'll get to see what he can do with veteran talent on the floor. Tim said he'd like to win an Eastern Conference championship in year one. I wouldn't bet against it.

Marty: Which would you choose for ISU this fall... Beat Oklahoma by 3 points or Kansas State by 30 points?

John: Those BOTH sound pretty good to me. I think I'd take the win over Oklahoma simply because that would probably mean knocking off the #1 team in the country. I know those goalposts have seemed to be pretty indestructible in recent years, but I'm guessing they would end up in Lake Laverne if Iowa State beat the Sooners.

Marty: What was the best Iowa State game you've ever seen?

John: For football, it would be hard to top last season's game in Iowa City. It was just such a complete turnaround. The Marv Seiler/Chris Ulrich upset of Nebraska ranks up there too. Everybody remembers Marv, but Ulrich ran for 105 yards in that game on fullback dives.

In basketball, there are so many great memories at Hilton. Beating Danny Manning and Larry Brown four straight years is hard to top. Lafester banking in slingshots for 54 is pretty good too. And then there's Fizer dunking over Mihm in a huge late-season win over Texas.

But, one game that really stands out was a home victory over Michigan State. Scott Skiles played with unreal intensity. He was probably the original guy to slap the floor when he wanted a defensive stop. Now everybody does it. But, Elmer (there's that name again) won the game with a late reverse layup. That was a fun one.

Marty: I picked Tom Brady late in the second round of a fantasy football draft last weekend. Does that make me an idiot?

John: As long as it's a 25-team league, I don't think you're an idiot. If it's a league with ten teams or less, I think I'd rather pick Peter Brady in the second round.

Marty: What do you think of Coach Wayne Morgan so far?

John: You can't help but like the guy. He is very personable. I can see how he would make a huge impression on recruits. And, from everything I understand, his assistants are equally impressive. I think Wayne has done an unbelievable job so far in very tough circumstances. He still hasn't made a trip to Lawrence, Kansas... but I like what I see so far.

There is no doubt in my mind that Wayne will bring great players to Iowa State. For some reason, people think that you have to fall into a category (either great X&O guy, or great recruiter). Wayne has proven to be a great recruiter through the years. But, you don't go 15-1 and win a conference title at Long Beach State unless you can coach a little bit too.

Marty: Who are some of your all-time favorite Cyclone athletes?

John: I'll limit my picks to the guys I've actually seen play in person. In basketball, I loved watching Jeff Hornacek, Jeff Grayer, Fred Hoiberg, Marcus Fizer and Jamaal Tinsley (sounds like a pretty salty starting five). But I always pull for the underdog too (that's probably why you hear so much excitement in my voice when Clint Varley or John Neal makes a great play). I think one of the great success stories in Iowa State basketball history was Brian Pearson. To be a captain after walking-on from a high school with 17 boys is unreal. He was just a great guy too.

In football, Seneca Wallace was kind of fun to watch. So was Troy Davis, Darren Davis, Joe Henderson and Blaise Bryant. Again, though, I love the underdog. Did Michigan, Oklahoma or Southern Cal ever make a visit to Panora, Iowa on a Friday night? How about Dike? To see Jordan Carstens and Lane Danielsen closing out their careers as two of the best ever to wear the Iowa State uniform is really special.

Marty: Will you have plenty of butterflies before the kickoff on August 30?

John: They're there already, and they feel bigger than butterflies. I'll be nervous, but that will just be one of the emotions in the booth that night. It'll be tough for me, and even tougher for Eric. Iowa State will never be the same without Pete Taylor. As far as I'm concerned, he'll always be THE Voice of the Cyclones.

(Marty Gallagher founded the popular web site IowaSportsOpinions.com. His columns for CN online are published each Tuesday and Friday. You can e-mail him at Marty@IowaSportsOpinions.com.)


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