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'THE' Voice of the Cowboys: Hunziker's journey to 1,000 games at Oklahoma State

Jan. 10—The screen of Dave Hunziker's Motorola phone displayed 10 unfamiliar digits. It was the first of September, 2001, and from a press box in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, the newly hired voice of the Cowboys was just hours away from his debut. But first he was preparing himself to do something far more important.

A call needed to be made.

Hunziker was awarded the Oklahoma State job just 64 days prior, on June 29, with enormous shoes to fill. With the help of his at-the-time producer Joe Riddle, he was ready to take the first step. Hunziker pressed the green call button in the top left corner. The recipient answered.

Janis Teegins was on the other end. Wife of the late Bill Teegins.

Teegins spent the previous 10 years as the voice of OSU Athletics, but was one of the victims of the 2001 OSU Basketball plane crash.

Not fully sure exactly what to say, Hunziker knew what message he wanted to convey.

"I'm thinking of you and your family, and I just hope that I can do this the way that Bill would like it to be done," he recalls saying. "I just wanted her to know that I was thinking about her because I knew it would be a hard day for her. I'm glad Joe (Riddle) suggested it, really glad."

That gesture sent shockwaves through the OSU community. At least for everyone who heard about it, which wasn't many people. It showed exactly the type of person Dave Hunziker was before he ever went on the air.

"A lot of guys would be thinking, 'it's all about me,' instead he picks up the phone and does that," longtime OSU sports personality Robert Allen said. "From that moment on, I knew we were dealing with someone who was better than most."

Hunziker gave himself three rules to follow:

1. Do a lot of listening and not much talking.

2. Remember how lucky you are.

3. Learn as much as you can.

For the first several years of his tenure, he especially prioritized rule No. 3. With the guidance of Riddle, his producer, he made massive strides. He described it as reaching a different level. One Hunziker didn't know was there.

"It was a lot of understanding what a game should really sound like," Hunziker said. "Not just play-by-play, what it should sound like in every aspect. By the time I was five or six years into this I got really comfortable."

The fans also got comfortable with him, and it actually happened pretty quickly. Thanks largely in part to his genuine, easy-to-talk-to nature. Traits he learned growing up in Kahoka, Missouri, a town in Northeast Missouri that has hovered at 2,000 people for the last three decades.

It was there that Hunziker spent time listening to games with his dad. When he lost his father at the age of 12, he subsequently spent even more time listening to games. St. Louis Cardinals with Jack Buck, Kansas City Chiefs with Kevin Harlan and Missouri Tigers football were the big hits.

That curated the down-to-earth, humble personality along with his love for broadcasting. Included in that was a desire to provide a friendly escape from the challenges of life to his audience. Hunziker understands the OSU audience very well. His full-time broadcast partner of 16 years has seen that up close.

"OSU fans and alumni, generally speaking, sit very much as the type of people he grew up around," OSU radio analyst John Holcomb said. "There's that salt of the earth, maybe a smalltown bond there. There's not much pretentiousness."

That bond grew and grew over 23 years filled with unheralded athletic success. Back-to-back Bedlam wins in his first two years. A Final Four two years later. A Big 12 Championship in 2011. Tyreek Hill's punt return in 2014, and lately Bedlam wins in 2021 and 2023.

"I come in and we start rolling. You couldn't have timed it better," Hunziker said. "It just worked out great."

One of those fans impacted was a young Adam Hildebrandt. A native of Broken Arrow, Hildebrandt vividly recalls listening to Hunziker call the 2006 season-opening kickoff return touchdown by Perrish Cox against Missouri State.

"I was out mowing my front lawn and had dragged a radio out there and turned it all the way up so I could hear it over the lawnmower," Hildebrandt said.

A year later, in the summer of 2007, Hildebrandt and Hunziker would meet for the first time. It was the inaugural Oklahoma State Sports Media Camp, something Hunziker and the other OSU broadcasting professors have prided themselves on ever since.

One activity of the camp included rotating campers between innings of an Oklahoma City Redhawks baseball game, allowing each attendee to call an inning, with feedback from Hunziker. What he said to Hildebrandt during that inning would change the then 17-year-old's outlook on a career choice forever. The highlight was a comparison to Fred White, former Royals broadcaster from 1973-1998.

"I was fortunate that he saw some raw talent in me that I don't think that I even knew was there at the time," Hildebrandt said. "Had they not been complimentary of what I was doing and encouraging me to potentially pursue that, I don't know that I would have gotten into broadcasting."

Not only did he get into broadcasting, he is now an award-winning broadcaster serving as the play-by-play voice for Oral Roberts basketball and baseball, and also as a pregame and postgame show host for Oklahoma State football — working alongside Hunziker.

"I think part of it is there were people that helped me, so that's what you do," Hunziker said. "You do for others as they do for you. I've always enjoyed that part of it. It's very rewarding to see people work their way into a position where they fulfill their dreams."

Hildebrandt is a great example of how good a teacher — a mentor Hunziker can be. Another example of that comes from somebody maybe a bit unexpected.

Back in 2016 Hunziker was approached about calling OSU baseball games for TV, and doing it alongside longtime coach and father of a baseball family, Tom Holliday. A man that lives baseball. Breathes it. The choice was an easy one for the at the time 15-year Cowboy voice.

"It was a perfect timed addition."

A new challenge was exactly what Hunziker says he needed at that time. Really learning the ins-and-outs of calling baseball for television, a sport he listened to so much on the radio as a kid.

It's just home games that he and Holliday do for baseball, but the reps and the years have formed a strong bond between the two — one that's been mutually valuable. Holliday teaching Hunziker a coach's perspective on the sport and Hunziker teaching Holliday how to be a broadcaster, something he never thought he would be.

"He's been like a teacher to me, and it's grown into a personal friendship," Holliday said. "Which really makes broadcasting fun."

He even playfully suggested the idea of Hunziker teaching a class to other former baseball coaches and players looking to get into broadcasting. He has the perfect name for it too.

Broadcasting 101, by Dave Hunziker.

Hunziker topped the charts as the longest tenured OSU broadcaster back in 2019, but what he was recognized for this past Saturday surpasses that. Ahead of the Oklahoma State-Baylor basketball 2024 Big 12 opener, a milestone was celebrated.

While waiting to get home after the 2023 Big 12 Championship football game, Hunziker noticed he was starting to get close to 1,000 games called for OSU radio. He texted his family group chat. They devised a plan. One that was carefully orchestrated behind his back.

First, a social media post by Oklahoma State Athletics. Then, a montage with some of his iconic moments and calls. Lastly, it was the voices of his two daughters:

"This is Grace Hunziker ... this is Mara Roberts ... and it is our honor to introduce our dad on his 1,000th broadcast."

It's a good thing Hunziker's longtime broadcast partner was able to hear it ahead of time.

"I couldn't look at him," Holcomb said. "I got a little choked up."

Of course, Dave was in the zone. A lesson he learned from his dad. "You've got a job to do."

Hunziker's family surprised him at the game too. Even Grace, who is now living in New York City. A surprise that brought a bigger smile to his face than any personal recognition or milestone on that day.

The fanbase was given the chance to celebrate his accolade at halftime, where he was honored with a ceremony at half-court, along with a framed collage from the athletic department.

In that athletic department, Hunziker has seen many come and go: four athletic directors, two head football coaches, five head basketball coaches and even four university presidents.

Give some of them a chance to talk about Hunziker and they will rave. Especially Mike Gundy, who has worked with him longer than nearly anyone else at Oklahoma State.

"He is a staple within our community of Stillwater and has a very recognizable voice, face and personality," Gundy said. "He is also loyal, trustworthy and one of the best in the business. I've thoroughly enjoyed our friendship over the years."

"Professional, genuine, honest, knowledgeable, passionate," OSU basketball coach Mike Boynton said during Saturday's postgame press conference. "There's not enough words I could use to describe how well he does what he does."

Combine together the meticulous work ethic and the honest, caring nature, people love working alongside Hunziker. Allen gave a title to describe him, and Holcomb agreed it fit perfectly.

'The Captain'. Like Derek Jeter.

He makes everyone around him better. For Holcomb, that reigns true even dating back to their first game together — Bedlam 2002.

"You understand that if you want to make this broadcast as good as it can be you better be prepared as well," Holcomb said. "Without ever saying a word to me, he helped me out."

"I wouldn't wanna do it with anybody other than Dave," Allen said.

He's brought a vast community together, time and time again, through both tribulation and triumph. Wins and losses. Good times and bad.

Ask Hunziker about his impact and he'll downplay it like he always has. The words of those around him show just how big that reach is. How he cares about all the right things.

"I hope it's showed that I cared," Hunziker said. "About doing the job the right way and treating people the right way and being someone who was a good part of the OSU family. If you do that then most everything takes care of itself."

That's how you stick around for 1,000 games.