Munson touched lives, including mine

His gravely voice was perhaps the most recognizable in the SEC. His style was like none other.

In my book, Larry Munson was as much an institution in this league as Bear Bryant, Steve Spurrier, Herschel Walker and Archie Manning.

The only difference was that Munson didn’t play the game or coach it. He described the game on the radio for more than 40 years with the kind of raw emotion that Georgia fans came to revere.

There will never be another like Munson, not even close. Nobody else could pull it off no matter how hard he tried.

The legendary Georgia broadcaster died Sunday night in Athens. He was 89.

I still remember the first time I heard Munson on the radio. It was sometime in the mid 1970s, and he sounded like the guy sitting at the bar with his friends agonizing his way through a game.

He wasn’t talking to you. He was talking with you.

The joy in his voice when the Bulldogs scored was dripping with emotion. So was the pain when they fumbled the ball away.

Munson’s passion was what made him so special. You hung on his every word, and even if you weren’t a Georgia fan, you came to appreciate the way he truly made you feel that you were there with him at the game.

Keep in mind that there were very few college football games on television in the 1970s or the early 1980s.

It was a treat to be able to turn on the radio in those days and hear Munson paint the picture as only he could.

The Bulldogs were “We,” and when a Georgia player picked off a pass or scooped up a fumble, it was “Our guy has the ball and is running down the field.”

He has too many memorable calls to recount them all here.

I still laugh out loud any time I think about his “Run Lindsay!” call on Lindsay Scott’s 93-yard touchdown catch and run to beat Florida in 1980. An ecstatic Munson exclaimed, “I broke my chair. I came right through my chair, a metal steel chair …”

Of course, there were so many memorable Walker calls.

“He’s running over people! Oh you Herschel Walker!”

Mark Richt’s first signature win, a last-minute 26-21 victory at Tennessee in 2001 featured the famed, “We just stepped on their face with a hobnail boot and broke their nose. We crushed their face.”

In those days, I was covering Tennessee for The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville and can still hear Munson groaning, “There’s that song again,” any time the Tennessee band would crank up “Rocky Top.”

I’ve told my favorite Munson story many times, but it’s fitting to tell it again.

Not long before his retirement in 2008, Munson -- wearing one of his customary warm-up suits at that time -- came bopping into a crowded men’s room at halftime of a Georgia game at Sanford Stadium.

Looking at the long line to the only stall in the place, he huffed a few times and then proceeded to work his way to the front of the line and knocked on the door.

“Are you getting close in there?” Munson repeated a couple of times.

He might as well have been calling a key goal-line stand for the Dawgs.

It was absolutely priceless, and to this day, I’ve wondered what the guy in the stall thought when he heard that voice – of all voices -- knocking on his door.

I’ve missed Munson dearly since he retired. It’s just not the same going to a Georgia game without Munson calling the action.

I’ll miss him even more now that he’s gone.

He had a profound impact on my life and my career. He was one of two legendary SEC broadcasters that inspired me at a young age, the other being longtime Tennessee play-by-play man John Ward.

As a kid growing up in the Carolinas, both were larger than life. I knew early on that covering the SEC in some capacity was what I wanted to do.

From the time I was 12, it was my goal.

I will forever be indebted to both men for giving me something to shoot for and helping me get to where I am today.

And to Munson, hunker down, my friend.

You’ve touched more lives than you’ll ever know.