Forever The Free Agent QB, Gary Danielson Discusses His Complex Relationship With Uncle Verne

Managing Editor, Sports + DIME
09.07.16

Getty / CBS

The first thing Gary Danielson does when he calls last Tuesday is apologize. He missed the first call earlier in the day and had to get back a couple hours later, and he isn’t happy with himself. After being assured that this happens all the time, he says, “not to me.”

That short interaction in 30 seconds sums up more of how the top CBS college football analyst is wired than hours of broadcast footage, thousands of tweets, and endless pages of message board threads ever could. Danielson pays attention to detail, and he’s still operating under the free agent quarterback mentality he played with during his 10 seasons in the NFL (and his brief stint in the World Football league).

These days he’s not looking over his shoulder quite as often, but he still knows it could all go away at any moment. So he puts blinders on and focuses on doing his job. Which includes taking a half-hour to chat on college football’s opening weekend, his 10th at CBS – and the last for partner Verne Lundquist.

Martin Rickman: When people think about you as a commentator, they don’t often think back to how you got here. We get lost in what’s happening in the moment. But it took you awhile to get to CBS, and I’m sure your past informs everything you do in some ways.

Gary Danielson: There was a lot of serendipity in my career as a broadcaster. I was doing local work in Detroit during the offseason in those days, and I heard about a job being available at ESPN as a sideline announcer. It was the middle of July, and I made about 10 calls to try and get an interview and an audition. At the beginning of August I got a call back, and they asked me to come in on Sunday. I had a wedding that weekend, and told them I really can’t. But they said, “it’s your only shot.” And I’m thinking, for a sideline reporter? So I made it happen. I went in and did one of those TV set auditions. I ended up landing a lead analyst job somehow doing a primetime, 8 p.m. game just three weeks later.

I’d never really done a game before. And here I am right next to Ron Franklin, doing Baylor-Nebraska, three weeks after an audition to be a sideline reporter. It’s funny to think that I’ve been doing lead games since 1990, and it hasn’t changed much to tell you the truth.

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