WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Mick Mixon has spent the past 30 years watching some of the best athletes in North Carolina compete for championships. Professional and amateur athletes. He’s been the eyes and ears of fans who could not be in the Dean Dome or Bank of America Stadium, painting pictures of the action on the field or the court with his words.
“Once I realized at about age ten that genetics was the most unfair science in the world, and that I probably wasn’t going to be coming in out of the (bull)pen to provide left-handed short relief, throw that sinkerball and strike out the side in nine pitches, then all I ever wanted to be from that moment on was a sports broadcaster,” says the 60-year-old native of Chapel Hill.
Growing up a short ride from the University of North Carolina campus, college sports was on a young Mick Mixon’s radar. He listened to announcers like Bill Curry, Wally Ausley and Woody Durham bring the action to life on his radio. Mick decided he wanted to try his hand at announcing and did not let age hold him back.
“I saved my money and bought a Webcor (brand) cassette tape recorder,” he remembers. “With that tape recorder and a lot of the cassettes I still have, I’d be embarrassed to listen to them but I still have them, there’s me, pre-teen, interviewing my dog, interviewing my sister, interviewing my Mom, interviewing neighbors, doing mock broadcasts. I was that kid who would not shut up. I’m sure I was greatly irritating.”
Mick got his first job in radio before he could drive, riding his bike to work at WCHL and learning the ins and outs of broadcasting (9:15 of the podcast). On May 12, 1980, the day after he graduated from UNC, Mick started his first full-time job in the industry at WCGC-AM in Belmont, near Charlotte (9:45 of the podcast). A few more stops along the career path led to Mick joining the Tar Heel Sports Network, ultimately taking the seat next to Woody Durham broadcasting UNC games. Mick talks about those days and what he learned from the legendary “Voice of the Tar Heels” starting at 2:15 of the podcast.
“You couldn’t out-Woody Woody,” he says. “You couldn’t out-prepare him, although it was fun to try. You couldn’t out-work him. Here’s the one thing I learned from Woody that stays with me, and I try to pass this along to younger broadcasters. Woody saved his most exciting vocal register for Tar Heel great moments. For Amos Lawrence or Kelvin Bryant touchdowns. For Jerry Stackhouse or Rasheed Wallace dunks. But he also got excited when N.C. State did well, or when Duke did well, if they were playing the Tar Heels that day. He believed the game deserved that, that the audience deserved that.”
Mick’s career path changed in 2005, when he was tapped to be the new play-by-play announcer for the state’s NFL team, the Carolina Panthers. He joined the established members of the broadcast team, Eugene Robinson (25:00 of the podcast) and Jim Szoke (26:00 of the podcast, Szoke flagged for ‘quipping’) with the goal of making their weekly games a meeting place for Panther fans.
“People have choices,” he stresses talking about the options available to the audience. “It’s not their responsibility to make us happy, its our responsibility to give them a place to come and spend a few minutes. When I meet people who say they listen to us on a regular basis, that they turn the TV down to listen to our call of the game, it just makes me want to hug ‘em, even though I might not be all that touchy-feely.”
When not preparing for an upcoming game, Mick’s job with the Panthers makes him popular across the state speaking to civic groups and organizations, sharing stories about players, fellow announcers and his own off-the-field accomplishments (like securing his North Carolina General Contractors’ License – 37:00 of the podcast). Mick smiles widely talking about spending time with his wife, Dawn, and the balance she brings to his life. “I let her wear the hair in the family,” he says after holding a picture of the two of them up to the camera on his laptop computer. You get the sense there is no timeframe for handing off the play-by-play reigns any time soon.
“I do hope I can do it for a couple more years, and then maybe hand it off to somebody else and get on a tractor, be on some land, put on the headphones on a Sunday and listen to somebody else call the Panthers,” he says about the future. “Not anytime real soon, a few more years anyway. I’ve got to work on my 401k a little bit longer.”
You can hear my full interview with Carolina Panthers’ play-by-play guy Mick Mixon by clicking on any of the links below.
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