Alumni Profiles

Making the Call
Jack Edwards '79 parlays a love of sports into a brilliant broadcasting career.

Sports fans cherish tales of athletes overcoming adversity. Jack Edwards' story is one of those. In the summer of 1977, Edwards '79 left his Durham home for Vail, Colo., to hone his soccer skills. A two-year member of the Wildcat varsity, Edwards was pursuing his dream, following the unpredictable bounce of a soccer ball. "I wanted to train at altitude," he says. "I wanted to work on the technical side of my game, so I could come back as a junior and be one of the better players in the region."

Jack Edwards '79

In his first summer-league game, Edwards was unstoppable, scoring three goals. Then, on his next attempt to score, he collided with the opposing goalkeeper. One of his legs shattered, and so did his soccer dreams.

But Edwards, a communications major at UNH, persevered. Recuperating in Durham, his leg in a hip cast, he opted to take several summer courses. He spied a sign-up sheet for Writing Broadcast News, taught by WGIR radio veteran Moe Quinn, and enrolled. The course ignited his imagination.

Today, thousands of United States sports fans know Edwards for his work as a broadcaster, particularly as the voice of World Cup soccer. At last summer's tournament in South Korea and Japan, Edwards did play-by-play commentary for most of the games, including the final between Brazil and Germany (which commanded an estimated 1.5 billion viewers worldwide), for ABC and ESPN. It was the pinnacle of a remarkably successful journalism career that started in Moe Quinn's UNH classroom.

"It was a pretty neat chance happening," says Edwards. "I remember being in Moe's class, saying to myself, 'This is why I went to college.' It was just passion from there on out."

That winter of 1977-78, Edwards began announcing Wildcat hockey games for WUNH. When he wasn't calling games, he studied tapes of Channel 11's broadcast team of Jim Jeanotte and Bob Norton or legendary Bruins' radio announcer Bob Wilson. "Bob Wilson was a maestro," says Edwards. "He used his voice as an instrument."

Edwards' use of musical and theatrical metaphor is apt. His parents both taught at UNH--Ruth Edwards was a professor of music, while John Edwards was a professor of drama--and both had significant influence on his craft. "To me, every game has a dramatic story," says Edwards. "Sometimes it's over in the first act, and other times it's going to go down to the last two or three lines. And what makes it more fascinating to me is this: the more you know about sports, the more you realize you can't possibly have any idea of what's going to happen next. Most of the time, there's a bit of mystery going into the theater. And who knows what's going to happen in the next two or three hours when you go into an arena?"

Although he returned to the UNH soccer team after recovering from his broken leg, Edwards realized that he wasn't the player he had been before. When he lost his starting spot, he decided to focus instead on broadcasting. His undergraduate highlight came in 1979, when the UNH hockey team reached the Final Four, before bowing out to eventual national champion Minnesota in the semi-finals. ("We emptied the WUNH budget for that trip.") After graduating that spring, Edwards followed Quinn to WGIR and was able to parlay an internship into a job in the newsroom.

He started his career with two goals: to cover the winter Olympic games for the network rights holder and to call a World Cup soccer final on network television. He met the first objective in 1988, at the age of 30, when he was assigned to cover alpine skiing at the Olympics for ABC. "That was giant," he says. "They took a chance with me. They said 'Here's a guy who's really enthusiastic about skiing, knows a little bit about it, and can deliver, so we're going to create a position for him.'"

The Olympic stint launched Edwards career toward the big time. He continued to work at WCVB (Channel 5) in Boston before taking a position with ESPN's SportsCenter in 1991. In 1992, he reported on the Olympic winter games from Albertville, France. He may be best remembered, however, for a famous ESPN ad in which former Red Sox ace Roger Clemens tossed him out of a building, while another sports anchor clocked the pitch at 95 miles an hour.

These days, at 45, Edwards continues to work as an independent contractor for ESPN, ABC and other affiliate stations. Northeast soccer fans can find him calling the New England Revolution broadcasts. Hockey fans will recognize his work with ESPN, especially during the Stanley Cup playoffs. (Edwards routinely drops references to "lively Snively," conjuring memories of the raucous ice arena from his UNH days.) When pressed, he admits its tough to decide which sport he enjoys most.

"As a broadcaster, I got my start doing hockey, and I always loved hockey. But I was a soccer player," Edwards says. "I love them both in different ways. Hockey has an intensity and a speed that no other sport can match. But soccer has a continuum to it that makes it truly a chess match."

Regardless of which sport he's calling, Edwards appreciates that his dreams didn't end on that soccer field in Vail, Colorado. They may have gotten sidetracked, but if so, they were sidetracked in the right direction. "I'm pursuing my ultimate passion," he says. ~

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