CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Suffering a slight head cold Tuesday afternoon, North Carolina radio play-by-play man Jones Angell apologized if there was a slight rasp in his voice.
There wasn’t. Not yet. But it won’t be surprising if there will be in the next week or so because his vocal cords are getting quite the workout this month.
Thursday, Angell travels to Charlottesville, Va., to call the UNC-UVa football game. At 6 a.m. Friday, he’ll be on a flight to Los Angeles to work the 11 p.m. (EST) basketball game at Long Beach State. Saturday, it’s off to Hawaii for the Tar Heels’ Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday games in the Maui Invitational. And after flying home with the basketball team on Thanksgiving evening, he’ll be back at the football stadium Saturday for Maryland-UNC -- before flying to Bloomington, Indiana on Tuesday for UNC's ACC/Big Ten Challenge game against the Hoosiers.
And that’s after calling two basketball games and a football game last weekend.
“I think, by far, this is the toughest stretch I've been through,’’ said Angell, who also counts hosting coaches shows each week among his responsibilities. “It really is a crazy couple weeks -- but it’s not something I’m complaining about. I get to sit there and watch North Carolina play football and basketball, and I get paid for it, which is a job anyone would love to do. And I certainly do.”
It’s been about a year and a half since Angell, a 33-year-old father of two who graduated from UNC in 2001, took over for legendary “Voice of the Tar Heels” Woody Durham. Angell had worked as host and color analyst for the Tar Heel Sports Network the previous six years, and appreciates how much he learned from Durham and Mick Mixon (now with the Carolina Panthers).
We caught up with Angell during a short break in his busy week:
When did you know you wanted to be in radio or do play-by-play?
Jones Angell: I can’t tell you there was one specific moment, or one team that I watched or anything like that that really turned me onto it. I knew that I loved sports, but I wasn’t good enough to play at this level. I knew I enjoyed talking about sports, and I knew I enjoyed the show aspect of a broadcast. I did some theater work in high school to have fun. It wasn’t something I wanted to do on a long-term basis, but I enjoyed that aspect of the performance, the show -- and marrying those two things together turned out to be a good option to me. And being able to do it at Carolina, which is such a special place to me, has been a dream come true.
You’re now in the middle of Year 2 as UNC’s play-by-play guy. Do you feel settled?
JA: I do. I didn’t feel unsettled last year, and part of that is because I’ve been working here for so long … and I knew the excellence and expectations that Woody had brought here. I knew the fan base is one that takes the broadcasts seriously, and likes to listen to the hometown announcer. So I understood what came along with the job. I wasn’t unsettled last year, but particularly on the football side of things, I do feel more comfortable this year. I do think the broadcasts continue to improve, and that’s something you want to do every year, whether it’s Year 2 or 32.
Do you have a favorite call so far -- play or game?
JA: I think the favorite play, regardless of sport, has got to be the Gio Bernard [game-winning] punt return against NC State a couple of weeks ago. It was just a special play for Carolina and Carolina football, and such a memorable moment for Carolina fans. … From the basketball side of things, last year was so much fun because it was such a quality team, and you knew Carolina had a chance to win every time they were out there. I don’t know if there was one specific favorite play -- but there was that John Henson inbounds dunk against Virginia in Charlottesville that was definitely a spectacular play.
How in the world do you prepare for a stretch like this -- so many games, so few days, more than one sport?
JA: You really do have to work ahead when you have this scenario: so many games in a short amount of time.
Right now, I’m already preparing for Virginia [football] and Long Beach State [basketball], and I’ve already got my Maryland [football] spotter boards finished. When I get on the plane on Friday, I’ll already have my Maryland and Carolina spotter boards with me, and I’ll be filling in notes as we go throughout the week. And I’ve got my Long Beach prep almost ready. And if I can, I’ll get the stuff for Mississippi State -- Carolina’s first opponent out in Maui -- at least started before we head out there ....
I do use the four-color pen like Woody did, I have that with me. But I don’t use quite as many colors or push pins as Woody did. But in my own way, I am as detailed. Whenever we go on these multiple-day trips, I always travel with a little portable printer, so I can take the operation on the road as much as I can. I do a lot of things by computer … I don’t know if I’m ADD, but I’m probably pretty close to it. I like to have things organized, I don’t like a mess, I like things at proper angles on my desk and stuff like that. I really like to have things repetitive every single game, and that helps me be comfortable and be ready to go. So I try to replicate [my organization] every single game as best I can.
The most important thing in our business is being prepared, being ready for the broadcast.
Are you hoping to do this job for 40 years at UNC, like Durham did?
JA: I’ve been asked that question before, and last year, my answer was always, ‘Well, I’m just hoping to get through one year,’ so now I’m just hoping to get through Year 2. If I do end up doing this that long, what a blessing it would be -- because I can’t imagine a better place to work than Carolina, a place where I went to school, and I grew up a Tar Heel fan. And if I did get an opportunity to do it for that long, then it would be a fantastic thing for me, and I’d love being here every minute.
Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.