Voice of the Kingdom - Part III

In the final installment of Voice of the Kingdom, we journey inside the world of Mitch Holthus on gameday at Arrowhead Stadium.

SATURDAY

When he's not on the road with the Chiefs, the only downtime Holthus has is Friday night, when he might catch a local high school game, or on Saturdays if he's not doing a Missouri Valley Conference football game.

Saturday is a day to do some last minute prep work for Sunday's game, but Holthus does his best to spend time with his wife, Tami. On the road, however, it's another story.

Holthus plots his time so precisely he budgets when he can get some extra shuteye. Sleep eludes him during the week, and with Raiders' week beginning after the Bengals' visit, he can grab an entire day of sleep because the Chiefs leave two days early for West-coast trips.

There are perks, but Sunday is the best.

SUNDAY

This is the money day. The day in which all the hard work comes to a conclusion and may generate another "Mitch-ism" that will go down in the history books of Chiefs Kingdom.

The morning starts early for Holthus as he and Tami leave the house at 7:45 AM. He pops in the stirring soundtrack from Gettysburg for his drive to the stadium.

"I think about my life flashing in front of my eyes," said Holthus. "I never take anything for granted. I also never take game day for granted. I never get used to it."

Upon arrival, Holthus works on the opening of that day's broadcast. That means a one-on-one chat with Chiefs Hall of Fame Quarterback Len Dawson. The two work like a well-oiled machine, as one would expect after 14 years. Both have their own styles, but Holthus knows Dawson is the voice everyone wants to hear.

"I've been doing this for over 30 years," said Dawson, "and he's the most prepared broadcaster I've ever been around."

10:30 AM rolls around and Holthus strolls down to the field. As we walked on the sidelines, we both noticed Bengals running back Rudi Johnson gingerly trying to loosen up. He had been hurt for several weeks, and Cincinnati's only true rushing threat was hoping for some meaningful duty against the Chiefs.

Minutes later, Holthus is back live on a local TV pre-game show on Metro Sports. He updates the viewers on injuries and inactive players and offers a quick analysis before heading back to the broadcast booth to prepare with his producer, Danny Israel, and spotter Tom Rosberg.

They go over all the key items and bits of knowledge that might need to be quickly brought to the attention of listeners. There were so many stories to this particular game that Holthus didn't want to miss anything.

Rosberg's job is to notice when certain players enter the game. As soon as he informs Holthus, he can then inject any relevant data about that player into the broadcast.

"This is a hoot," said Rosberg. "He might be the hardest working guy I've ever been around. He's one of my best friends."

Soon after, we head back down to the field, and Holthus is greeted by admirers, almost as if he were a rock star. Former players, visitors, fans and guests of the Chiefs all stop by to shake his hand and say hello.

The real purpose of the pre-game watch, however, is to see the Chiefs practice. On this particular day, Holthus wanted to see who was focused and who wasn't, who looked prepared and who didn't. You can only get that at close range - looking through binoculars from the booth just doesn't give you the same perspective.

Soon it was time to head back up stairs. It's show time. Holthus has a ritual where he takes a few personal minutes to get settled before checking on Tami, who's stationed two doors down with friends in a private box.

These moments are a time for her to reflect on the tremendous pride she takes in her husband. After all, she above anyone else has made sacrifices during the course of Holthus' career.

"He's such a man of integrity," she said. "Often times there are shortcuts that people take because of relationships - he's not taken any shortcuts along the way."

"He loved doing the broadcasts at Kansas State. Every step he's made along the way has been a great stop. It never seemed like it took forever to happen."

Holthus and I had agreed prior to our week together that I'd be permitted access to the radio booth during the game, and it was incredible. As the game began, he had a sharp, crisp sound that instantly made you feel as if you were seeing the game through his eyes. That's his job, of course, but some don't do it quite as well.

KICKOFF

It's one thing to call a game, but it's another entirely to keep it going while taking care of all the sponsors who must be mentioned throughout the broadcast. Each is written on a small cue card Israel hands to Holthus, who simply mixes them in and out of the action without skipping a beat.

There are no pauses or empty silence from the second the game begins until it ends. Everything is scripted, ad-libbed and delivered in a manner you only get with a professional.

As the game evolved, it was clear early on that it would be a good day for the Chiefs. The defense was dominant in the first half, but as KC's offense neared the end zone, one of the moments Holthus had prepared for all week was about to transpire.

With the Chiefs trailing 7-3 in the first quarter, the offense lined up for a third-and-goal from the 3-yard line. Future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez was on the verge of setting an NFL record for touchdowns scored by a tight end, so Holthus had to be ready to broadcast something that would be recorded and replayed for many years to come. All week I kept asking him if he had the line ready, and he did, but wouldn't divulge it. It was for Chiefs Kingdom.

As quarterback Damon Huard lofted a pass toward the corner of the end zone, Holthus moved to the edge of the booth to get as close to the action as possible. He stood on his toes as the ball sailed through the air, and then history was made.

Gonzalez caught the ball, the referee raised his hands to signal a touchdown, the crowd went berserk, and Holthus rendered his famous "Touchdown, Kansas City" call before making sure this historic event had a fitting exclamation point.

"It's not only a catch for Kansas City, it's a catch for Canton!"

It was a moment to live for, but one Holthus had to be prepared for, because milestones of this magnitude don't come along but once or twice in a broadcasting career.

As great as that play was for the Chiefs, the game wasn't over. The broadcast went on and eventually Kansas City defeated the Bengals, 27-20.

Throughout my time in the booth, it was clear Holthus was in his element. It was the most calm and relaxed I had seen him all week. For three plus hours on gameday, the radio booth is the one place that no matter how busy his plate may be, Holthus is a man at peace.

COOLDOWN

When the game ends, Holthus holds his customary interview with Herm Edwards. He conducts these one-on-one chats minutes after the head coach talks to the rest of the media, so Holthus must listen to the first press conference in order to come up with fresh questions of his own that hold the audience on the radio.

That's not a problem of course, because he's prepared, and gets Edwards to open up more than usual due to their relationship. Once that's done, Holthus receives more cue cards and attentively listens to the locker room interviews held by Bob Gretz and Dawson.

The day is almost over. As Holthus winds down the broadcast, he thanks everyone involved for the success of the production before firing off one more salvo for the listeners - "It's Raiders Week." Then it's time to see Tami again.

Holthus cherishes these moments with his wife, because they're empty nesters. Being together without the children is one thing, but being the Voice of the Chiefs is another distraction altogether.

"We especially enjoy Sunday nights," said Tami. "It's the culmination of a very long week and it's a small window of opportunity that we can spend a few hours together."

And that's the part of this entire story that is overlooked. Holthus is a man with many talents ranging from broadcaster, to motivational speaker, to husband, to father and confidant.

But none of what Holthus has achieved in his professional life would be possible if not for the relationship and faith he has within his family and with his wife.

If he has learned anything through the trials of his life, it's that you can never stop moving forward or take anything for granted. Every day a new hurdle might present itself.

Life is challenging. But with hard work even a farm boy from Kansas can become the Voice of the Kingdom.

Friday: Mitch Holthus – Voice of the Kingdom – Part I

Saturday: Mitch Holthus – Voice of the Kingdom – Part II

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