The Vikings-Buccaneers game Thursday night serves as a homecoming for NFL Network’s Brad Nessler, a St. Charles native, Minnesota State-Mankato graduate and former Vikings radio play-by-play analyst.
For my money, Nessler is the best play-by-play announcer in any sport on TV these days. Whether calling the NFL or college football and college basketball for ESPN, he always delivers a professional, knowledgeable broadcast.
I caught up with Nessler at the Atlanta airport before his flight to the Twin Cities. He talked about his memories as the Vikings play-by-play analyst on WCCO Radio from 1988-89.
“I remember playoff disappointment in San Francisco,” he said. “I remember Herschel [Walker] having about 150 yards in his first game and flying out of his shoe on his first carry.”
Nessler recently ran into former Vikings defensive lineman Keith Millard, who currently serves as a defensive assistant with the Tennessee Titans. The two shared stories and laughs about those training camp days in Mankato in the late 1980s.
“I always enjoyed myself, maybe too much,” Nessler said, laughing. “I know there were times when it was like two minutes till 11 and I said, ‘Boys, aren’t you supposed to be back pretty soon or coach is going to be mad?’ They said, ‘It only takes a minute and a half to get to Gage [Hall dorm]. I said, ‘We’re a mile away. How are you going to do that?’ I know they were a little late a couple of times and I was probably part of the reason.”
Nessler still remembers fondly WCCO’s press conference announcing the broadcast team of Stu Voigt and himself.
“It was pretty special because I don’t think I’ve ever seen my dad that proud,” he said. “I just remember my mom and dad being so thrilled that day. It was pretty cool so the whole beginning was just neat.”
Nessler has called a few Vikings games over the years after he left to join CBS.
“I remember the last one I did there was with Hank Stram,” he said. “He had this gigantic monitor in the booth. He had a spotter’s sheet that was about the size of a dining room table. I walked in and I said, ‘Hank, where am I supposed to stand?’”
Nessler is excited to return to his home state and spend some time with family members, including his brother. They had a big family dinner planned Wednesday night. His ESPN college football duties only allow for a brief visit though.
“There’s a 6:30 a.m. flight from Minneapolis to Birmingham with my name on it Friday morning,” he said. “I have to get to Tuscaloosa for a meeting with Coach [Nick] Saban and those guys.” He’s calling Mississippi State at Alabama.
Nessler maintains a hectic schedule during football season, especially now that NFL Network has a full slate of Thursday night games. He also calls a college football game every Saturday night.
“The time management thing is huge,” he said. “I don’t think I realized how big of a challenge it is. I did it last year but we had eight games instead of a full schedule. I keep telling people, it’s like the Beatles song “Eight days a week.” If I had an eighth day in the week I would be perfect. I can’t find that extra day.”