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Around the Columns

A voice from the west

Larry Zimmer

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Larry Zimmer, BJ ’57, left, recipient of the 2009 Chris Schenkel Award for a lifetime of college football broadcasting excellence, began calling games for the University of Colorado in 1971. He stands beside Steve Hatchell, president and CEO of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame Inc., and ESPN sportscaster and CU graduate Chris Fowler.

The relationship between football fan and radio broadcaster is unique. On one hand, the man at the mike is disseminating information to hundreds of thousands (sometimes millions) in the audience. On the other hand, it is a personal, emotional and play-by-play connection between voice and listener.

Larry Zimmer, BJ ’57, has spent more than 44 years cultivating that relationship, mostly as the voice of the Colorado Buffaloes’ football program. In December 2009, he received the Chris Schenkel Award for a lifetime of broadcasting achievement.

“In truth, you are being invited into a person’s living room,” Zimmer says. “You’re really only talking to one person or two people in a very intimate medium.”

Zimmer has spent the majority of his career covering sports — most notably CU athletics and the NFL’s Denver Broncos — with KOA-AM in the Denver-Boulder area. But his broadcasting career began at KFRU-AM working for Mizzou legend Mahlon Aldridge, who was recently inducted posthumously into the University of Missouri Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame. While in Columbia, Zimmer covered the Hickman Kewpies’ march to the 1962 state basketball championship and Tiger hoops. He also broadcast the 1964 College World Series in Omaha, Neb., where Mizzou was runner-up to the University of Minnesota.

“No other school in the country could give me that background,” he says. “I still believe Mizzou has the greatest J-School in the world.”

Since 1971, Zimmer has witnessed four Colorado football Big 8 championships, one Big 12 championship, a national championship, a Heisman Trophy-winning running back (the Buffaloes’ Rashaan Salaam in 1994), four Super Bowls and several immortal sports moments such as the “Miracle in Michigan” and “The Drive.”

Now, in addition to his radio duties, Zimmer teaches a sports broadcasting class at the University of Colorado School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Throughout the semester, the professor stresses his trademark pillars of preparation, passion and accuracy.

“I realized when I was 10 years old that I wasn’t going to be a very good athlete,” Zimmer says of his childhood in Louisiana. “I wanted to be part of it all, and I’ve met some wonderful people — players, coaches and fans.” — Marcus Wilkins