Dave Wannstedt: Unlikely media star; ‘I just get caught up talking about football’

WannstedtExcerpts from my latest column for the Chicago Tribune:

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Dave Wannstedt is walking down Michigan Avenue on an overcast November morning after finishing his regular Tuesday morning sports radio appearance. He ducks into a store to get a cup of coffee even though he already appears to be fully caffeinated.

Wannstedt always gets amped talking about college and pro football. Above everything else, his rapid-fire, high-energy broadcast persona makes him completely engaging. Must-listen radio. Mike Mulligan, co-host of WSCR-AM 670’s “Mully & Hanley Show,” says, “It is the best segment on our show.”

The on-air version of Wannstedt is a stark contrast to how Bears fans remember him.

“I always was protective with the media,” Wannstedt said, in explaining why he didn’t reveal that outgoing side during his days as Bears coach from 1993-99 and later as head coach with the Dolphins and in college at Pitt. “I always was cordial, but I never wanted to let them inside Dave Wannstedt’s personality. I don’t know why. I wish I knew why.”

The 63-year-old Wannstedt, though, doesn’t waste any time doing a deep examination because he is way too busy talking football everywhere and anywhere these days. His schedule is a whirlwind.

Wannstedt’s week includes commutes to Los Angeles to be a studio analyst for Fox Sports’ college football coverage. On Sundays mornings, he appears on Fox’s early NFL pregame show, “NFL Kickoff.” Then Wannstedt immediately returns to Chicago, usually watching the Bears game on the plane, so he can make a Sunday night appearance on Comcast SportsNet. He also has regular weekly spots on BTN and CSN, including “Pro Football Weekly.”

Wannstedt’s plate could be even fuller.

“Everyone is calling,” said Bryan Harlan, his agent. “We’ve turned down a lot of things.”

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When Wannstedt decided to go the broadcasting route, Harlan said he had to follow a strict mandate if he wanted to be successful. Harlan told him he couldn’t be worried about whether his comments would affect his ability to land another coaching job.

“Bryan said I couldn’t be guarded because I was thinking about what a general manager or an athletic director might think,” Wannstedt said. “I had to be honest. I had to let my personality come out.”

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