Doing duck impressions doesn't get you anything but giggles at children's parties -- unless you master one particular word: Aflac.

That's what Minnesotan Dan McKeague learned when he was selected from among 12,500 hopefuls to be the new voice of the insurance company's squawking mascot.

The sales manager for Twin Cities radio stations KQRS and Love 105 entered the monthlong contest on a whim after Aflac fired comedian Gilbert Gottfried for making insensitive comments on Twitter in the wake of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. Gottfried has played the character in 52 TV ads over 11 years.

"It's just one word, but you have to give it meaning and emotion and make it sound surprising," McKeague said Tuesday shortly before boarding a plane to New York for rounds of meets and greets. "I mean, that's what I was thinking of when I practiced in the car."

McKeague, who contributes voiceovers for the radio stations, said he sent in a 30-second spot and then forgot about the contest. He later learned he was one of 20 finalists and was asked to make another audition tape. McKeague, the father of three and a resident of Hugo, found out Monday that he had been selected. The first commercial with his voice aired Tuesday night during, appropriately enough, NBC's "The Voice."

"You don't understand how difficult it was for me to keep the secret," he said. "I wanted to call everyone."

Michael Zuna, Aflac's senior vice president and chief marketing officer, said the company was impressed with McKeague's vocal range and acting ability.

The gig is certainly brighter news than the last time McKeague made headlines. His house was largely destroyed three years ago when tornadoes swept across the north metro. At the time, he told the Star Tribune that he barely got to safety under the stairwell before a twister touched down and took everything but the lower level of his home.

"I opened the door and there was sky," he said. "Everything was gone, all gone! I can't believe I'm alive!" • 612-673-7431 Follow Justin on Twitter: @nealjustin

See McKeague's reaction when he learned he got the gig at