Jones Angell had Gio Bernard's punt return. What will it take for David Shumate to build that kind of bond with Duke fans?
If anyone knows what now faces Shumate, unveiled Monday in Durham as Duke's new football and basketball radio broadcaster, it's North Carolina's Angell, who like Shumate was a relatively unknown quantity when he took over for a Hall-of-Fame voice who had been the soundtrack to his school's athletic endeavors for multiple generations.
Shumate takes over for Bob “How sweet it is!” Harris, who retired after 41 years as the voice of the Blue Devils. In 2011, Angell was picked to take over for Woody Durham, perhaps an even more iconic figure in the state, one utterly beloved by Tar Heels fans for four decades. Like Shumate, a broadcast executive with some play-by-play experience, Angell had filled a number of broadcast roles at North Carolina, his alma mater, but had never had a job this big.
“Not everyone is going to love you or accept the change right away,” Angell said. “Carolina and Duke are places that do have such a strong fan base and large followings that people care about and listen to the radio and what that person is saying. It may take a little time for that transition to be complete.”
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Six years later, Angell has carved out his own niche, nimbly maneuvering out of Durham's shadow and claiming his own spot after what Angell called “getting over that initial hurdle of being in that chair.”
Some of that is natural talent. Angell has a refined sense of emotional perspective and a knack for easily conveying both drama and pathos with the timbre of his voice. But some of that is time, and some of it was circumstance: specifically the final moments of the State-Carolina game at Kenan Stadium on Oct. 27, 2012.
When Bernard turned the corner and tore down the N.C. State sideline on his way to victory, the honesty and enthusiasm of Angell's call helped him turn a corner with Carolina fans.
“Gio fields it at the 26. Heading to the far side. Gio at the 35.”
And here, Angell's voice thickens. His pace quickens. His volume increases. He's not screaming, but even if you're not watching the video clip – and this is one of those video clips that has become inseparable from the radio call, like Jack Buck not believing what he just saw from Kirk Gibson – you can sense just how fast Bernard is going.
“He's at the 50! No he's not! Yes he is! Gio is going to take it for a touchdown!”
It's a terrific call. And one Angell still hears often. Like last year, at a charity golf tournament when a UNC fan asked Angell to call his cell phone. The ring tone? “He's at the 50! No he's not! Yes he is...”
Angell has since called a basketball national championship, and his everyday excellence as a play-by-play broadcaster probably isn't appreciated to the degree it should be, but that call is the one that sticks with people. Shumate may not be lucky enough to call a play like that right away, but he is at the kind of place where people care enough – and still listen to the radio – where that can still happen, with some patience.
“I'm looking forward to getting a chance to know him and talk to him a little bit,” Angell said. “There is something special about Carolina-Duke. There just is. To have that counterpart on that side, it's nice to have somebody who's going through the same thing, even if it's from the other side.”
Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, email@example.com, @LukeDeCock