Nick Nunnelly came to Centre College with a dream of playing college basketball, but after an ACL injury his sophomore year derailed his basketball career, he found himself contributing to Centre’s athletic teams in a way he never would have expected. Later on that year, he began serving as a play-by-play announcer for the live webcasts of Colonel baseball games, and in the time since, he has become one of the main online voices of Centre athletics.
Nunnelly partners with David Heald ’16, and they are the first two student announcers on Centre’s athletic webcasts. Despite having no prior broadcast experience, the two showed a natural talent for announcing over the course of the 2014 baseball season. This year, the program has grown to incorporate more student announcers, and Nunnelly has had the opportunity to call games in several different sports.
“I could have never seen myself doing something like that, but we thought it couldn’t hurt to try,” Nunnelly said, regarding his and Heald’s approach to that first season. “What surprised us the most is how receptive everyone was about having us come in and give it a shot. We had no experience, and nobody had any idea if we were any good, but we gave it a try.”
Nunnelly, a finance and economics major with a math minor, never previously saw himself as a broadcaster, though he has found increasing opportunities in that realm. In the summer of 2014, he did an internship with iHeartMedia and appeared on several local radio spots in his hometown of Tampa, Fla. His role at Centre has increased this year as well, serving with Heald as co-hosts of the ColonelCast, a weekly highlight show focusing on Centre athletics.
“The student announcer program is something we’ve been trying to grow over the last couple years, and we’ve been very fortunate to have students like Nick and others who not only have a talent but an enthusiasm for the job,” said Matt Montavon, Centre’s sports information director. “Whether it’s as a play-by-play announcer or as a host for our other video projects, Nick has been a natural on the microphone, and his energy adds to the quality of everything we produce.”
The son of a Centre graduate, Nunnelly had long considered Centre, but it was the opportunity to play for one of the top basketball programs in Division III that solidified his college choice.
“I always wanted to come here and follow in my dad’s footsteps, but never saw myself living in Danville, Ky., until Coach Mason talked to me and brought us onto campus,” said Nunnelly. “I had a twin brother who went somewhere else, and I finally had the opportunity to do my own thing and try something all my other brothers didn’t get to try. I thought that was incredibly cool.”
Nunnelly did play basketball for one season, but as a freshman on a veteran team that went 21-6, won a Southern Athletic Association championship and reached the NCAA Tournament, he did not see any meaningful action. He was hoping to have an expanded role as a sophomore when injury struck.
“That freshman year went by like a blur, and I was really excited about my sophomore year,” Nunnelly added. “I did a lot of work in the offseason to get back and play basketball and actually have more of a role. I had talked to Coach Mason a lot about it, and then my first day of open gym my sophomore year, I tore my ACL. That was the second time I suffered this injury to my right knee, and that was going to be curtains on any sort of sports career I was going to have.”
Little did he know, the injury simply opened another chapter he couldn’t have predicted. Two years later, he may not be known as the basketball star on campus, but he is regularly recognized as one of the voices of Centre’s athletic broadcasts or as one of the faces of ColonelCast. Nunnelly is particularly proud of his work with this project, that started within the sports information department in late January. The first episode aired on March 3, and Nunnelly and Heald have played a significant role in the show’s evolution.
“That was really unprecedented,” Nunnelly said. “We just kind of all came together as this small Avengers team to see if we couldn’t try something that had never been done at Centre College before. For our first try, we actually have a lot of people watching the videos, commenting on them and talking to me about them.”
According to Seth Stogsdill, who is part of the sports information team that works on the ColonelCast, a key part of the show’s development lies with its hosts.
“ColonelCast is so fun to do because Nick and David are so smooth, and they have such a great feel for what they’re doing,” said Stogsdill. “I make the scripts for the shows, but it’s really just a series of bullet points, and then Nick and David roll with them. The end result is a product better than anything I could write on my own. The chemistry these guys have can’t be written. It’s just there.”
For Nunnelly, his Centre experience hasn’t been the one he expected, but has been a great one nonetheless. He attributes much of that to a culture that is accepting to new things or new ideas.
“I love this place,” Nunnelly said. “People are open to a student coming up and saying ‘I want to try this.’ The answer is always ‘Sure, run with it.’
“I was talking to President John Roush the other day about how it’s so cool we’ve been able to do this,” he continued. “Nobody had done it before; it wasn’t even an idea. Now, all of a sudden it looks like it’s something that’s going to be around after I leave, too.”
May 14 , 2015