DAN INTERVIEWS KENT PAVELKA
(NOTE: The following interview with Kent Pavelka, former voice of Husker basketball and football, took place over a period of a couple of months; it involved a face-to-face interview, several phone calls and email exchanges. We talked about his Nebraska roots, how he got started in broadcasting and what's been doing since his days with the Huskers. This interview was published on Feb. 2, 2006.)
Husker Dan: Kent, welcome to HuskerPedia.
Kent Pavelka: Thanks, it's good to be here.
HD: For those of us who for years had the pleasure of listening to you announce some of the greatest football games in Husker history, want to know how and what you are doing these days.
KP: I'm doing great. I've just started a public relations firm here in Omaha, called Kent Pavelka and Associates. One of our first projects was the One City-One School District project here in Omaha. We're also working with Metropolitan Community College in Omaha on another project.
HD: How did your company come about?
KP: After I left the morning show at KKAR in Omaha last summer, I took a couple of months off and did nothing at all-something I've never been able to do. At the time, I really didn't know what I wanted to do, but I was encouraged by several friends to start my own company. The name was chosen even before there was an actual company.
HD: How can prospective clients reach you to learn more about your company? Do you have a web site?
KP: I don't have a web site right now, but I can be reached in Omaha at 402-699-9444.
HD: I remember last year, you did a couple of Husker basketball games. Will you be doing any more in the near future?
KP: Actually, this month I'm doing two games. One at Iowa State, February 15th, the other one in Lincoln against Texas Tech on the 18th.
(Husker fans: You will be able to hear Kent's PBP broadcast of the above games via the Internet. Go to Huskers.com and there's a link to "Live Broadcasts". Select the game and you'll be able to listen in.)
HD: Great news! You also worked a pay-per-view game last fall. What was that like?
KP: I was the sideline reporter for the Huskers' opener with Maine. It was a little frustrating because I wanted to say more, but unfortunately, as a sideline reporter, you don't get a chance to say very much.
HD: You had an opportunity to do a radio broadcast (not football) from Israel a couple of years ago. How did that come about and how long were you there?
KP: I was a part of the American Voices in Israel. They invite people to Israel so that they can experience the Middle East. I was there a week doing daily radio broadcasts.
HD: What was that experience like?
KP: To walk the streets of Old Jerusalem where Jesus Christ walked the Stations of the Cross was unbelievable. My years away from sports have been very gratifying. I've been very lucky. I've enjoyed spreading my wings after sports.
HD: Let's go back to your days as the Husker play-by-guy. What was your first game?
KP: I took over for Lyell Bremser at the start of the 1984 season, so the first broadcast I did was the Wyoming game in Lincoln.
HD: What do you remember about it?
KP: Not much, all I know is that we won. (42-7)
HD: You mentioned Lyell Bremser, what was it like to work with him?
KP: He was a great guy.
HD: How did he take to retiring after doing Husker games for so many years?
KP: Unlike my situation, he left on top and on his own terms. He did it for 46 years. He was ready to retire.
HD: Did the two of you stay in contact after he retired?
KP: Oh yes. He was the general manager at KFAB after his broadcasting days, so he was my boss. I saw him every day.
HD: Did you talk football?
KP: He'd call me after each game and we'd discuss the broadcasts, not the games, just the broadcasts.
HD: Was he ever critical?
KP: Never. He was always helpful and very gracious. He was a great guy.
HD: Let's go back to your roots and how you got into broadcasting. Where did you grow up?
KP: I was born and raised in Lincoln. I went to Lincoln Northeast High School.
HD: So you're a Rocket.
KP: You bet.
HD: What turned you on to a career in broadcast journalism?
KP: When I was growing up, my folks would have the radio on in the fall, listening to Husker football games. My buddies and I would be in the back yard playing touch football and I could hear the radio through the kitchen window. I was about 13 at the time, I was listening one of the broadcasts-I don't remember who the announcer was at the time-could have been Lyell, or Dick Perry or Bob Zenner, and for whatever reason, I was mesmerized. I was transfixed. I knew then that that's what I wanted to do.
HD: Did you play sports in school?
KP: No. I played in the junior high band.
HD: What instrument?
KP: Trombone. I liked it but when I got to high school, I didn't have time to stick with it.
HD: Did you go to UNL out of high school?
KP: Yes. They had a good journalism school. I wrote for the school newspaper and did the play-by-play for KRNU, which was the campus radio station. I used to do Husker freshman football and basketball games.
HD: Do you remember your very first Husker game you attended?
KP: Actually, no. When I was just a kid, my buddies and I used to sit in the Knothole section at Memorial Stadium. We'd be running around, playing catch or whatever and not paying too much attention to the game. That was back, I think, in the Bill Jennings era.
HD: There wouldn't have been much to watch back then! Is your family also from Nebraska?
KP: Yes, my family's roots go back pretty far in Nebraska soil. Have you ever read "My Antonia" by Willa Cather?
HD: She's one of my favorite writers.
KP: Well, my grandmother, Annie Pavelka, was the inspiration for the role of Antonia in that book. That book defines the roots of our state-hard work and perseverance.
HD: Wow, that's really cool. What do you remember about your grandmother?
KP: I didn't have much of an opportunity to get to know her. She died when I was about 6 years old.
HD: So you had family living in the Red Cloud area?
KP: Yes. I had a lot of relatives in Bladen, Nebraska-a town of about two or three hundred, which is close to Red Cloud, Nebraska where Cather lived.
HD: Did you spend much time down there?
KP: Yes. I'd go there in the summertime. My uncle had a sand and gravel business. It was a great place for a young kid to experience. We could get away with more down there than you could in the city. You could drive a pickup truck, smoke cigarettes-it was a great life! My aunts were great cooks. They would make kolaches, roast pork, dumplings and in the summer, they'd fix roasting ears-otherwise known as sweetcorn. And their fresh fried chicken was the best.
HD: Let's get back to football. As you know, here at HuskerPedia, we ask the tough questions. Are you ready for the challenge?
KP: Fire away.
HD: How did the phrase "Touchdown! Touchdown! Touchdown!" get started?
KP: (Laughs). It began one time when the Huskers made a particularly important score. I thought at the time that if one "Touchdown!" was good, two was better and three was just right.
HD: Do you remember the game when you first said it?
KP: No, I don't.
HD: What was the preparation like before each Husker football game?
KP: It was very stressful. It was like studying for a final exam each week. The planning began every Monday morning. I would begin gathering all the information I'd need for the game. I had pages and pages of notes I made for each game. I'd have a list of all the skill players for each team, 3-deep with all the names and jersey numbers. I kept a copy of it on the dash of my car and another in my pocket when I went to the gym. On game day, I'd get to the stadium about 3 or 4 hours before the game started. I'd still be reviewing the notes 10 minutes before game time. I'd script the opening remarks for each game but after that you just go with the flow of the game.
HD: What did you like the most about doing the PBP?
KP: Nailing it. Knowing that you hit it out of the park.
HD: Did you ever listen to replays of your broadcasts?
KP: No. Occasionally I'd hear some of the highlights, but never an entire game.
HD: You mentioned stress. Was it from critics?
KP: Criticism is always there-sometimes justified, sometimes not. But if you are a perfectionist, like I am, you always leave yourself vulnerable. Nebraska is a small pond, but it's the only pond and you'd better be prepared.
HD: So the stress comes from being able to measure up to your high standards each week?
KP: Right. You know that every high school football announcer dreams of doing Husker games. But be careful what you ask for-you may get your wish!
HD: What were some of the games you remember the most?
KP: Well, certainly the '95 Orange Bowl when the Huskers beat Miami for Tom Osborne's first national championship. But the game that I was the most worked up over was the '96 Fiesta Bowl. I was so hyper before the game I thought I would stumble over myself. Later on, I managed to settle down and focus on just swinging for the fence.
HD: If the Fiesta Bowl game was the most stressful, what was your most embarrassing moment in broadcasting?
KP: (Laughs) It was a high school game I did when I was at KHUB in Fremont. I think it was Fremont Bergen playing, I think, Columbus Scotus. Anyway, there was a time in the game when the officials picked up the ball and moved it down field. I took great pains to describe all the possible penalties and how much yardage could be assessed, when my color guy nudged me and said, "Umm, Kent, I think it's the end of the quarter." I was so embarrassed!
HD: (Laughs) Let's switch to the 2005 Huskers. What are your thoughts on the season? How do you think the Huskers will do this fall?
KP: If you look at the first few games of last year and compare them to the last three games of the season, you see that the Huskers really improved their game. They finally "got it". Zac Taylor was the difference. In the West Coast Offense, you have to have a quarterback that can run that kind of an offense.
HD: So how do you think the Huskers will do this season?
KP: I think they'll pick up where they left off. But they can not permit another year of Taylor getting hit the way he was last year. It was brutal. The key will be the offensive line. The defense really improved this past year. We saw players who really wanted to play at the end.
HD: Have you met any of the new coaching staff?
KP: Yes. When I worked the Maine game, the broadcast team had a meeting with Bill Callahan and Kevin Cosgrove. In the meeting, Coach Callahan got up and told everybody there about my background with the Husker football program. It was a classy thing to do on his part.
HD: Were you glad Texas beat USC in the national championship game so that we don't have to hear that the Trojans are the best college football of all time?
KP: Yes. If the 2005 Trojans ever played the '95 Husker team, I don't think Southern Cal would see the ball much. USC wouldn't be able to stand up to the pounding that Huskers would give them.
HD: Is there anything else you'd like to say to all your fans?
KP: It was a nice run. It's nice to be remembered and it's nice to have been a part of Husker sports.
HD: Thanks for taking time to share your thoughts with us.
Look for Husker Dan's next column, a special edition that will give an overview of the 2005 season, the Alamo Bowl game and the Huskers' 2006 recruiting class. You won't want to miss it!!
If you'd like to write Husker Dan, you can email him here. For past Husker Dan columns click here.
DAN INTERVIEWS KENT PAVELKA