A Visit with the Voice of the Wildcats
Thompson was on the phone waiting to do an interview with Bob Barry, Jr. (son of the long time Voice of the Sooners, Bob Barry) for Oklahoma City's Sports Animal radio about the evening prior's big game.
"I hope you don't mind," he whispered with a smile before he went on air. "This will only take a minute."
I didn't mind one bit, it was exciting listening to him in action.
"Bob, hello! Thanks for having me today!" He said in his familiar voice.
As I sat and listened to him talk about K-State basketball, I looked around his office. Located just off the Bramlage Coliseum concourse, his desk overlooks Bill Snyder Family Stadium. The room is filled to the brim with purple K-State memorabilia from his past 12 years on the job, and pictures and notes from his favorite K-State athletes dot the walls.
2014 KANSAS SPORTSCASTER OF THE YEAR
There's no doubt Thompson loves what he does, so it was no surprise to me when, for the second time in three years, he was named the 2014 Kansas Sportscaster of the year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association (NSSA).
He garnered his first honor in 2012 and this January, he received another.
"To be honest, the first time, just to be nominated for it was pretty neat," Thompson said after finishing up on the phone. "It's an honor because I think what people now understand about Kansas is that it has always been a state that has really, really talented broadcasters."
Among the state's most talented broadcasters, K-State greats who were also named Kansas Sportscaster of the Year are: Fred White, who won the award from 1968-70; Dev Nelson, who won the award in 1967, 1971, 1972 and 1976; K-State Sports Extra's Mark Janssen, who won the award in 1977-78 while working for KMAN; and the now Voice of the Kansas City Chiefs Mitch Holthus, who won the award in 1994, 1998 and 2001. The NSSA began presenting the award to broadcasters in Kansas in 1959.
A seasoned veteran and a native of Solomon, Kan., Thompson started his broadcasting career 1976 with stations in Great Bend and Abilene. He was the play-by-play voice for Fort Hays State from 1985-89 before heading out west to Colorado. During his years in Colorado he was the play-by-play voice for Colorado State and also spent time in Denver covering the city's professional sports teams.
"When I got into broadcasting, I was in northwest Kansas doing midseason tournaments in Goodland, Colby, El Dorado, games that maybe not a lot of people cared about, but it was such great training. At that point you're just trying to survive and learn," he explained. "Then that first job leads to the next job, and then instead of doing a 1A high school game, you're doing a small college basketball game, and at that point, when you're young like that, that's like doing K-State or like doing the Nuggets."
He learned and he grew during his early years, and today, nearly four decades later, he is still enjoying what he does.
"It's always been about the games and being around the coaches and the players," he said. "I've always enjoyed that part of it. The older I get the more I enjoy being around the kids because they keep you young. You get to know them. You understand what it means to them. You hurt when they hurt and you're euphoric when they are.
"That's kind of the cool part of it. I think about, in the 12 years I've been here, all the really fine young people I've gotten to know. So many have gone on to do some really good things, not just in athletics, but in other things too. That's the neat part for me."
While Thompson appreciates the coaches and student-athletes he's grown to know over his years at K-State, there is no doubt they appreciate him as well.
"Wyatt is a true professional who genuinely cares about Kansas State University and our football program," said head football coach Bill Snyder. "He is truly a special part of our university family."
THOMPSON'S 'TYPICAL DAY'
So what does a typical day look like for the Voice of the Wildcats?
He laughed when I asked the question - truth is, there is no such thing as a 'typical day.'
"That depends on the time of year," he replied.
In the fall and the winter, Thompson spends a lot of time preparing for the games. He studies press releases and media guides of opponents K-State football and basketball will be facing that week. He is the host of K-StateHD.TV's Bill Snyder and Bruce Weber weekly TV shows as well as providing two-minute daily audio features for K-State Sports Network affiliates.
It's a busy slate along with his speaking engagements for various K-State Athletics events like stadium dedications, Catbacker Tours and, a fan favorite, pep rallies.
"Every day is the same in a way and yet it's never the same," Thompson laughed.
As for his favorite memory, it'd be impossible for Thompson to choose just one in his 12 years with the Wildcats. From football's 2003 Big 12 Championship to Basketball making it to the Elite 8 in 2010 to Collin Klein leading K-State football to its magical 2012 season, there have been numerous moments Thompson looks back on with fondness.
"The standard answer for so long was the 2003 football Big 12 Championship," he said, "and then along came Collin Klein and Arthur Brown and many, many others. But it isn't just about winning. Going to the Elite 8 and being three or four minutes from the Final Four - that's a thrill, and not everybody gets that chance."
Though he grew up just west of K-State and knew a lot of Wildcat fans, Thompson said it wasn't until he lived in Manhattan and was immersed in the culture that really fell in loved with the people.
"There are so many good people here and they all, in their own way, are invested in K-State," Thompson said. "It really is an interesting place. You don't have to be here very long to understand how passionate the people are, and their memory, their recall, it's off the charts."
In the past 12 years, Thompson has built memories of his own, made lasting friendships and has left his footsteps alongside the many other great broadcasters in K-State history.
As K-State fans around the nation have grown to love and recognize Thompson and his voice, he has grown to love and recognize just how special they are as well.
"I've always said this about K-Staters, if nothing else, they have passion," Thompson said. "They're passionate about their school, they're passionate about their teams, they're mad as hell when we lose and they're happy as hell when we win.
"And why would you want it any different than that? It's a great place - we've got it going. We're fortunate to be here."
K-State's Tysyn Hartman speaks in front of Wyatt Thompson and 15,000 fans during a pep rally at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas on January 5, 2012. (Scott D. Weaver/K-State Athletics)
K-State's Hall of Fame inductee Lauren Goehring talks with Wyatt Thompson during a press conference at the West Stadium Center in Manhattan, Kansas on October 11, 2013. (Scott D. Weaver/K-State Athletics)