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'You won't find a nicer person in this world:' Hunziker keeps perspective, realizes his influence reaches farther than sports

It doesn’t take long for Dave Hunziker to strike up a conversation. 

The woman working the register at Panera Bread knows him by name. 

“I wouldn’t say I live here, but I come here a lot,” Hunziker said. 

As he gets his drink, soda with no ice, he walks across the restaurant to sit. On his way to his table, Hunziker greets people left and right. Some know him as the play-by-play voice of the Oklahoma State Cowboys, others see him as a friendly stranger. 

What people don’t see behind Hunziker’s almost unbelievable façade of positivity is a man who was shaped by tragedy no person should endure.

When Hunziker was 12, his father, Paul Hunziker, died of cancer at 54. 

“It changes your perspective big time,” Hunziker said. “You realize nothing is that bad… I just remember the day it happened. It just changes your perspective on everything in life. It totally changed everything.”

Right before Hunziker’s freshman year of college, his brother Kent got in a bad car accident. He said his brother has dealt with many back and neck issues since, but he is lucky to be alive. Both events have shaped Hunziker’s outlook. 

“You realize, how big of a deal is it?” Hunziker said. “It’s not. It’s just not. There’s bigger things here. You see that every day meandering through Stillwater running errands. You don’t have to look far to see people who’re struggling. You think, ‘Huh, I don’t have much to worry about.’”

Hunziker grew up in Kahoka, Missouri, a small town of 2,000 people tucked away in the northeast corner of Missouri. He graduated from the University of Missouri in 1988. He was working for Columbia College, doing almost everything in athletics, including broadcasting, when he got his first Division I job at Radford University in Radford, Virginia. 

“I think I was making $6,000 a year at Columbia College,” Hunziker said. “But that was fine.”

He was at Radford for eight years, then at Western Kentucky for one year, before he got the job at OSU in 2001. Hunziker came to OSU under tough circumstances. Bill Teegins, the Cowboys revered play-by-play broadcaster, died in the OSU basketball plane crash Jan. 27, 2001. 

Although he wasn’t Hunziker’s broadcast partner right away, John Holcomb said Hunziker handled the situation as well as possible. Holcomb has been the color analyst with Hunziker for OSU football since 2005 and basketball since 2007. 

"He came in in a difficult spot because Bill Teegins was so beloved,” Holcomb said. “He could've walked into easier situations for sure, but he also understood the situation.

"Once I met him, I knew they had made the right choice."

Hunziker said it wasn’t as tough for him as it was the OSU community. He couldn’t imagine what people close to the situation, along with fans, were going through, but he also realized he had a job to do. 

“I wanted to be respectful of everything, but I just wanted to do my job and just go about my business,” Hunziker said. “I think as much as anything, I tried to be really aware of, you know, it’s going to take a while for the healing of this to occur. Just do your job and be who you are, and things will happen as they happen. I had not gone through that tragedy. Obviously, I understood the dynamics, but the people who were having a hard time were the OSU people.”

In talking to people about Hunziker, his preparation for a broadcast was continually mentioned. Among watching film, doing the coaches’ show and putting together his spotter boards, Hunziker said he spends about 35 hours a week preparing for a football game. 

Hunziker’s wife, Mary Beth Hunziker, said she admires her husband’s drive and determination to keep working at his craft. 

"I've never seen him go, 'Oh, it's just a game. I'll just go do it,'” Mary Beth Hunziker said. “It's a big deal to him. Every game for him is a big deal. I just really admire his work ethic."

One of Hunziker’s close friends in the broadcasting world, Brian Eskridge, said Hunziker never leaves anything out when preparing for a broadcast. Eskridge, the play-by-play broadcaster for TCU for 20 years, said they met when Hunziker was at Radford and Eskridge was at Appalachian State. 

“There's a good chance he knows more about your team than you know about your team,” Eskridge said. “That to me is a true professional... He knows everything that he needs to know about both teams. You're not going to outwork him when it comes to getting ready for a game.

"When it comes to the play-by-play at Oklahoma State, he's as good as anyone in the country, but he also doesn't have an ego about him. He's the same Dave I know from Radford, dragging his gear around and calling Big South basketball.”

Hunziker said as his career has progressed, he has learned to handle moments better. He said the more a broadcaster sees, the less surprised he is and does better at handling his emotions. He also said he has gotten a lot looser during broadcasts. 

“I think what’s evolved is, I’m not afraid to throw something out there for fun, just for the heck of it,” Hunziker said. “It’s who I am. I’m not going to fake who I am.

“I’ve had people work with me say, ‘You’re so loose.’ How else is there to be? It’s not life or death. We know what we’re doing, let’s go do it.”

Anyone who has listened to a broadcast has heard Hunziker say, “Good night Vienna.” It is one of his coined phrases. In 2002, Hunziker’s second year at OSU, he went home to Kahoka to do a speech. While he was home, he spent some time with a friend, Bubba Cannon. 

Hunziker said Cannon was an eccentric guy, stocky but not overweight, built like a prototypical catcher, which Cannon excelled at in his playing days. Cannon worked at Duer Oil Co., a stand-alone gas station in Kahoka. He said Cannon always said, “Good night Vienna” to signal the end of something.

Shortly after his trip home, Hunziker was calling OSU’s game at Kansas on Nov. 16. With OSU leading big late in the game, Kansas running back Clark Green fumbled inside the Cowboys’ 10. Terrence Robinson of OSU picked the ball up and ran it back for a 93-yard touchdown. As he crossed the KU 20, Hunziker yelled, “Good night Vienna,” signaling the end of KU’s chances at a win. 

The phrase carries even more meaning today for Hunziker than it did the first time he used it. Cannon died a few years ago of cancer. 

Hunziker said he doesn’t have to look far on a daily basis to gain perspective. Mary Beth Hunziker is the director for the Intensive Care Unit and Respiratory Therapy at Stillwater Medical Center. 

"You realize it's just a game,” Hunziker said. “My wife reminds me of that because she works in the ICU. I don't need to go far to be reminded of what's important. She's dealing with life and death on a daily basis, and I'm worried about whether we can stop Baylor. Reality sets in real quick."

When he isn’t working, Hunziker loves to bowl and golf. Through golf, he became close friends with Ryan Cameron, who has worked for OSU Athletics since 2001. 

Cameron said he and Hunziker try to sneak in as many rounds as they can, but there is always one time during the year they go, no matter what. 

As the Sports Information Director for OSU women’s basketball, Cameron works closely with the program. In 2011, Cameron was going through a tough time after Cowgirls’ coach Kurt Budke, along with assistant coach Miranda Serna, died in a plane crash in rural Arkansas. 

"(Hunziker) called me and said, 'You know what we're going to do during finals week? We're going to go golf,’” Cameron said. “(Hunziker) said, ‘I don't care how cold it is, I don't care. You need to get out. We're going to get out and get our minds off of things.' Ever since then, during finals week or around that in December, no matter how cold it is, we'll bundle up and go play at least one round of golf together in December."

One of Cameron’s favorite memories of Hunziker involves Cameron’s grandfather, Don Cameron. Cameron said a few times he and Hunziker went to Tulsa to play golf with Don Cameron. Cameron described his grandfather as stoic, but said he was thrilled to play golf with the voice of the Cowboys. 

"We just had a blast,” Hunziker said. “Ryan is a highly, highly skilled golfer and his grandpa was perhaps even more skilled… (Don Cameron) was such a fun guy to be around. He helped me with a couple things. He helped me with my chipping, I remember that... Those were fun trips to Tulsa Country Club. They were really fun."

Don Cameron died in 2013. As Cameron was driving away from his grandfather’s funeral, he turned the radio on to listen to the OSU basketball game. The Cowboys were in West Virginia taking on the Mountaineers. Hunziker was doing the pregame show and gave a tribute on-air to Cameron’s grandfather. 

"That meant a lot to me and my family,” Cameron said. “It was my dad's dad. He got to hear it, too... It made me feel good on a tough day for our family. That's just who he is. He goes out of his way to try and do nice things for people. That's really at the forefront of all the good qualities that make up Dave Hunziker.”

Hunziker said he wants to be remembered as somebody who tried his best to be fair and was a good guy who people were comfortable enough to come talk to. 

He said he wants people to enjoy and look forward to listening to his broadcasts, adding how thankful he is to be the voice of the Cowboys and live in Stillwater. 

Hunziker recalled a situation earlier this year before a baseball game against Kansas State on March 22. That day, a new man was working one of the cameras. Pat Gwin and Linda Davis were seated below the broadcast booth, both of whom teach at Westwood Elementary in Stillwater. 

Gwin, who taught Hunziker’s daughters, Mara and Grace, turned around with Davis and talked to Hunziker for 5-10 minutes. After the conversation, the new camera operator looked at Hunziker with a puzzled face. 

“Fans interacting with talent? What’s that?” the camera operator said.  

Hunziker said the other camera man working, who had been around for multiple broadcasts, replied. 

“That’s Oklahoma State, that’s what happens here. This place is different.” 

Hunziker, dressed in a blue sports coat with a blue and orange striped shirt, smiled as he finished the story:  

“I was sitting there listening to them and I said, ‘Yup, it sure is, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.’”

sports.ed@ocolly.com