Summer of 1975. Chuck Will is enjoying the afternoon sunshine at Fort Worth’s Colonial Country Club when he hears the rumbling voice of Lance Barrow.
"I want to talk with you about a job, Mr. Will," Barrow says.
Will is taking a break from duties as associate producer of CBS golf coverage. He's sprawled on a golf cart, eyes closed as he suns himself, but he finds the energy to quickly interview Barrow.
Will is just as quickly impressed. Barrow has driven from his home in Colleyville in his spiffy Ford Torino 500 because he wants to embark on a career in TV sports. He projects an easy, strong confidence. He knows golf. He’s proud of his school. "I'm attending Abilene Christian, Mr. Will," Barrow says.
Will listens carefully, though he never bothers to open his eyes. He hires Barrow on the spot.
"I hasten to say," says Will, 81, from his home near Philadelphia, "that was a good decision."
Will doesn't need to worry about an argument. Barrow has spent 33 years on a steady climb at CBS, where he now works as coordinating producer for golf and NFL coverage. He's won a host of Emmy Awards and ranks among the most influential figures in sports broadcast journalism. He's the prime force behind broadcasts that transport the exploits of Tiger Woods and Tom Brady to millions.
And, after all these years, he's still having a blast.
"I'm the same guy who asked Chuck for a job," Barrow says. For Barrow, his profession remains eternally fresh. He is thrilled – and that's the right word – each morning when he awakens and realizes it's time to work.
Covering sports events is what Barrow has always wanted to do, and you get the feeling it always will be what he wants to do.
"I always think of how blessed I am. I can't wait to do what I do," Barrow says in his deep, Texas drawl. "The places I get to go. The people I get to meet. I'm not sure why I've been so blessed to do this, but I know the Lord put me in this position. I think of other jobs and what other people do every day and think, 'Man, that would be really difficult.' "
When you talk to Barrow, conversation soon turns to life in what he affectionately calls "the truck." Barrow talks as if "the truck" is a haven, a fun place to watch an event.
The reality is vastly different. When a novice steps in Barrow's production truck, he's overwhelmed by the sheer number of people and television monitors.
"More than 160 screens," Barrow says with a laugh.
Chaos seems to rule. So much information floats around, so many images, so many voices. Running this truck seems, contrary to Barrow's view, quite a burden.
Yet Barrow rules with grace and expertise. He declines to shout. He conveys a friendly yet steely brand of authority.
"In that truck," Will said, "it's an enlightened dictatorship. That's how it has to work for a producer."
Jim Nantz serves as play-by-play announcer for CBS on its NFL and golf broadcasts. He's worked beside Barrow for years.
Leadership is crucial for a quality broadcast, Nantz says. The producer must calmly, yet firmly rule the truck. Barrow decides what a viewer will see, and not see. Barrow serves, with the aid of dozens of helpers, as the prime story-teller of a sports event.
Barrow's job, Nantz says, is similar to an orchestra conductor, where a multitude of instruments join together under the direction of a single leader. The result can be inspiring, if the conductor is skilled. If not? A disaster will be broadcast to the sports nation.
"During every broadcast," Nantz says, "Lance is in full command of all his people."
There are many reasons Barrow enjoys success in the chaotic realm of the truck, but at the top of the list is his personality.
Rick Atchley ('78) attended ACU with Barrow, and the men remain friends. Atchley has often watched Barrow interact with women and men, girls and boys at Richland Hills Church of Christ near Fort Worth, where Atchley serves as minister.
"Lance makes every person he's with feel like he or she is the most important person he's going to see that day," Atchley said. "There are a lot of smart people, but Lance's gift is he makes you believe there's nothing better for him to do at this moment than be with you. And he makes everybody feel that way."
Dan Dierdorf agrees. Dierdorf, who works as a CBS color commentator, is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Barrow's close friend.
They often eat dinner together on the road, talking about family and business. Dierdorf marvels at Barrow's thirst, which is understood by any Texan, for iced tea. "He drinks it out of a 55-gallon drum," Dierdorf says, laughing.
Dierdorf has long seen what Atchley talks about. Barrow is friendly and caring to everyone, no matter if the person is Peyton Manning or a busboy cleaning his table.
"Lance's picture is next to the phrase 'people person' in the dictionary," Dierdorf says. "He thrives on being around people, and he's much more interested in talking about you than talking about himself. That's a gift."
It's a gift that was multiplied during his years at ACU. Barrow remembers a kind, supportive atmosphere – a place where professors and friends challenged him to become the best possible person and worker.
He offers a long list, with some trepidation about missing someone important, of ACU men and women who helped him grow as a man and a journalist. He mentions professors Dr. Gary Thornton ('72), Dr. Rollo Tinkler ('54) and Lowell Perry ('47). He mentions coaches Wally Bullington ('52), Don Smith ('53) and Willard Tate. And he mentions ACU president Dr. John C. Stevens ('38) and, of course, Dewby (Adams '52) Ray.
"How great she was as a mom of mine in Abilene," Barrow says. "She helps so many kids."
Barrow spent his freshman year at the massive University of Wisconsin. He then transferred to ACU, where he enjoyed the intimacy of a smaller, kinder campus.
"Those people, they were never too busy to say something encouraging or to help you," Barrow says. "They were always there for me. They were great friends when I was there, and I still consider them great friends."
Those friends helped give Barrow the confidence required to approach Will in the summer of 1975. Barrow wasn't even nervous as he asked for his big chance.
"All he could say was no," Barrow says.
Two days later, Barrow climbed atop a tower overlooking Colonial Country Club and found himself working beside Pat Summerall, the legendary CBS golf and football announcer. Barrow worked as Summerall's spotter. He scanned the course, identifying golfers. The men quickly became friends, and for the next eight years, Barrow worked as Summerall's assistant.
Barrow still remembers a few words of advice Summerall offered soon after they met.
"Lance, take what you've learned from everyone and then just be yourself," Summerall said.
On his long climb to the pinnacle of sports broadcasting, that's exactly what Lance Barrow has done.
– ACU Today Magazine, Winter 2009
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