By Justin Jones, Staff Writer
Thursday, September 6, 2012 —
Even for 40-year “Voice of the Tar Heels” Woody Durham, telling his memories of the games, athletes and coaches he’s encountered brought a bit of nervousness. That feeling would almost seem strange for a man whose voice has filled car stereos, earbuds inside stadiums and computer speakers streaming over the Internet.
When Durham retired in April 2011, he talked about putting those memories into writing, and that conversation has turned hardback as Durham’s book “Woody Durham: A Tar Heel Voice” will be officially released today.
The 13-time winner of the North Carolina Sportscaster of the Year Award said he feels “fortunate to come along at a time where Carolina was good and getting better,” and attributes his success to the nearly 900 football lettermen and 200 basketball lettermen that played with Durham watching from the broadcast booth.
“They made ole Woody sound awfully good,” he said.
Fans of the boys in blue would agree. Durham did sound good calling victories like Connor Barth’s field-goal that lifted UNC to its first-ever victory over a top five opponent, No. 3 Miami, in 2004 at Kenan Stadium when he said, “Let em have it,” referring to the falling goalpost. And Tar Heel fans remember, even if they weren’t alive at the time, the transparent emotions in his voice as he called Dean Smith’s first national championship in 1982 from New Orleans. Memories such as those and countless others are what Durham has tried to share in his new book.
Durham, who got his start in radio at WZKY in Albemarle, recalls growing up in Stanly County during the opening chapter. Included in that chapter, Durham speaks kindly of former Albemarle head football coach Toby Webb, who coached Durham during the 1960s. In the book, Durham says Webb never referred to Durham as a great athlete, but often said, “Well, he was awfully smart.”
Those memories came alive with the help of Tar Heel Sports Network and Tar Heel Monthly’s Adam Lucas.
Lucas, who is a regular contributor to GoHeels.com and has worked with Durham for Tar Heel basketball broadcasts, was a natural fit, Durham said, as he resides in Chapel Hill and has a writing style to Durham’s liking. Their relationship goes back to Lucas’ childhood, when he chose Durham as the subject for a research paper, just so he could meet his broadcasting hero.
When the two teamed up to make the book a reality, Durham had little doubt he had chosen the right guy. Lucas called it “totally ridiculous,” meant in the best way possible, to be helping his hero write the book.
“The most important thing was get out of the way and let him talk. But I also wanted to make sure we told stories people want to hear,” Lucas said.
“So when they’re reading the book they can hear him in their head.”
While Durham’s wife Jean assisted with the outline and chapter divisions, Lucas wanted to put Durham’s broadcasting memories of key games in a place that would peak reader’s interest. So before beginning a new chapter, there’s a memory from Durham that tells his story of a game, just as he remembers.
Readers of the book should find a blend of Durham’s personality, mixed with Lucas’ familiar writing.
“He was a good friend, and I knew how talented he was,” Durham said of Lucas and their years of working together.
“Never known many in athletics that can write as quickly, and when you’re reading, it’s entertaining and informative. He could post something an hour after a game, and it be both.”
Since his retirement, Durham still finds himself busy, traveling along with coaches for the spring and summer’s Tar Heel Tour, and for the next month, across North Carolina and to Pawleys Island, S.C. to sign his book for Tar Heel faithful.
He admits he misses the big games, the fans and the tournaments, but not the broadcast preparation. No third-string walk-on hit the grass at Kenan, making his first tackle, without some type of bio given from Durham. It’s because he had prepared.
“I’ve always heard him talk about preparation and work he puts into it,” Lucas said.
“But it’s like on trips where we’re in Maui, he never comes out of the hotel while the rest of us are sitting around,” Lucas said of Durham’s commitment to his job.
Durham said he retired because he thought his presentation wasn’t where he thought it should be. If it was, few had noticed, and even fewer would have wanted Durham to retire. He made the decision to step down, on his own terms, over Christmas 2010 after speaking with his two sons, Wes and Taylor, both of whom are broadcasters.
As expected, the book, which is already available on Amazon, is filled with comments and info on Durham’s relationships from past players and coaches.
And for some, the book may bring back memories of a noisy Carmichael Auditorium, or make one want to hear him say “britches” one more time.
“I think as much as you want to do something, there’s a bit of nervousness about it. You’re putting on paper some of your memories.”
Durham shouldn’t be too nervous as he makes the 13 stops around the state in what will likely be crowded bookstores for signings. Tar Heel fans listened to him for 40 years, and might find the book a way of hearing Durham call a Carolina victory, one more time.