Behind the Mic with Kurt Duryea

Kurt Duryea, right, talks with Jack Jones during an End Zone Show broadcast at The Gridiron in Centre in this file photo.

This September, WEIS Radio will be celebrating its 60th year of broadcasting. It will also be the station’s 38th year of broadcasting football games.

As part of the station’s diamond anniversary celebration, Sports Director Shannon Fagan will have a series of Q&A features on some of the personalities who have called sporting events around the station’s coverage area in years past.

This week’s installment of “Behind the Mic” is with Kurt Duryea.

Q: How special is it for you to have been a part of WEIS’s 60-year broadcast history?

A: “Sixty years.  That’s awesome. WEIS has been the media hub for Cherokee County for news, community events and sports. I don’t have to tell you, folks from around here love their sports and they are devoted supporters of their local teams. To know that you played a small role in delivering that content is pretty cool. It really is special.”

Q: What piqued your interest in sports broadcasting? Any influences?

A: “Not really. I was a high school and collegiate athlete and I’ve been involved in sports, playing/coaching/organizing, all my life. It just felt like a natural extension of that passion.”

Q: Do you recall the first game you broadcast? Any details you’d like to share?

A: “The only thing I remember was that it was a basketball game. Beyond that, I’m not good at recollecting those things.”  

Q: You worked with several broadcast partners through your years with WEIS.  Who were they and how did they help you develop your talent?  

A: “That’s true. I first worked with Bill Mobbs. His attention to the game details and historical perspective is amazing.   

“Nolen Sanford is a special talent. If it wasn’t for Nolen my broadcast career might have been a short one. One night, after a game at Spring Garden, I shared with Nolan some of my difficulties. I was struggling. I said, ‘I feel like a batter that just can’t make clean contact.’ Nolan talked with me for about an hour sharing advice and encouragement. I’ll always be indebted to him for his wisdom.  

“Shane McElwee was a natural. He was an all-state athlete, so he understood the game. He was also a local sports encyclopedia.   

“I can’t forget Marc Summers. We’d do a morning sports report. I called in at about 5:30 every morning and we’d tape it. Most of the time we’d get it in one take, sometimes not. He was always patient and it was always about quality.

“Joey Weaver was instrumental in providing all the behind-the-scenes production that set the stage for our broadcasts.”

Q: You also helped pioneer a couple of the station’s sports spinoffs, including The End Zone Show. What led to that idea?

A: “Again, it just felt like a natural extension from calling games to providing something I thought the community would enjoy. The key, and I never shared this with you, was to get you and Scott Wright on board when we launched the show. You were, and still are, the local sports icon, and your involvement validated the idea. Plus, the local coaches all bought in. From there it was all downhill. That doesn’t mean it was easy. It was a labor of love.

“We also had another spinoff from The End Zone Show, The Bobby Joe Johnson Show on Friday mornings, where Coach Johnson and guests would preview that week’s games.   We also did football and basketball preview shows with coaches and players.”   

Q: What are some of your favorite sports broadcasts in and around Cherokee County throughout the years you worked with WEIS?

A: “I don’t have a particular game or event. I’m just proud we reached out to the entire WEIS listening area to showcase teams, players and coaches. WEIS reaches well beyond our county border, and we included schools from other counties like Collinsville, Gaston, Piedmont and Hokes Bluff.  

“We sought out halftime guests from visiting teams as well as local sports heroes to give our listeners colorful commentary. Guys like Larry Strain, then at Woodland and now at Handley. He was a regular contributor. Lee Ozmint, Steve Smith, Alan Beckett, among others, added their takes.  I knew early on that people wanted to hear from coaches and players. I’m going to leave someone out of this, but Lisa Bates, Amanda Clowdis and Leah Nelson were outstanding guests as well as Jana McGinnis, Jon Tidmore, Neal Wester, Joe Carpenter, Ricky Austin, Brian Clowdis, Kyle Garmon, Jason Howard and, of course, Sand Rock’s Rusty Jacoway and Brian Mackey.  

“I think the other thing that helped me was that I personally knew so many of the players from youth sports. Back then, I was still playing ball and we had so many involved in high school sports from our open gym and rec league.”  

Q: For those who don’t know, where can people hear you on the radio these days?

A: “I’ve been fortunate to be the play-by-play announcer at Piedmont since 2015. This year I’ll log my 100th football broadcast with the Bulldogs. It’s been a remarkable run and I’m blessed to work with Coach Smith.

“I met Steve and Rachel when we moved here back in 1998. We’ve been close friends ever since.  The games are carried on WCKA 810 AM, 94.3 and 97.1 FM, as well as streamed live.  Folks can also watch the games on the NFHS Network.”

Q: What advice would you give any up-and-coming sports broadcasters? 

A: “Three things: Like team sports, everyone has a role. Understand and perform your role to the best of your ability. Second, give the score and game time often. Third, don’t say anything off air you wouldn’t say on air. You never know when you’ve got a hot mic.”

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?   

A: “If you don’t mind I’d like to add a couple of thank-yous. First, to my wife and family. Their encouragement and support mean everything. And, to my friend, Shannon Fagan. We’ve shared stories, insights, frustrations, and more in a quest to deliver the best sports coverage to our listeners and fans. It’s rare to find someone like him whose unbiased opinion is valued and acknowledged by his peers.”

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