Nov. 15, 2012
By Mark Janssen
If you will allow me, I want to reminisce today about one of my heroes, and for some of you that have five or six decades of maturity, someone who made Kansas State athletics come to Purple and White life with excitement through the spoken word.
His name is Dev Nelson, the "Voice" of Kansas State athletics from 1954-1979 and the sports information director for the Wildcats from 1966-1972.
Wednesday night Kansas State honored the Nelson family with the announcement that the Press Level of the new West Stadium Center will be named in his honor.
"Dad would be thrilled," said Nelson's son, Greg. "Every time dad talked about K-State he talked about family and how everyone pulled for one another. Everyone looked after everyone else as a family member."
Daughter Janalee added, "He was really proud of the fact that so many athletes that came here really weren't superstars, but individuals who were trying to be the best they can be and make a difference. He loved the stories of each player more than anything else."
It was on my first day of K-State classes in the fall of 1968 that before my shadow darkened a door designed for reading, writing or arithmetic, I went to the southwest corner of the second floor of Ahearn Gymnasium.
That's where K-State's sports information office ... yes, one room ... that housed Nelson, his lone assistant, Charlie Eppler, and secretary Norma Lawrence.
I'm sure I impressed them with the fact that I was the sports editor of the "Beaver Tales" at good old Scott City Community High School in western Kansas, and that I had planned to be a student-athlete as a member of the K-State bowling team.
Dev graciously allowed me to volunteer my services doing some filing, and writing "home town" features that were sent to the local papers of K-State athletes. But the biggest for me was helping spot or keep statistics for visiting radio announcers, some legendary like Jack Buck of KCMO, that came into KSU Stadium.
Dev was my idol. My goal in life was to be a Dev Nelson.
I certainly never reached such status, but he did give me the foundation to have a 40-year run in the area of sports broadcasting and writing that I owe to him.
Dev prepared for broadcasts with note cards of game information that he called his "notey notes." That would later become the headline for an occasional newspaper tidbit column of mine.
I was a broadcaster the first 10 years out of K-State and Nelson honored me by giving me a spot on the K-State Radio Network team at the tender age of 28. But more than the broadcast booth, Dev was someone you could model your life after.
If you wanted to laugh, you went to Dev; if you wanted just to feel good, you went to Dev; if you needed a sounding board, you went to Dev.
Five minutes with Dev was like eating just one BBQ rib. It just wasn't nearly enough. You had to have more.
I'll never forget the times he demonstrated how he recreated games on radio through information received over the telegraphy reports and using studio sound effects for crowd noise and the crack of the bat.
It was after his retirement that I headed a fund-raising drive for a Dev Nelson Scholarship fund that would go to a K-State journalism student. Ex-K-Stater Gordon Jump of "WKRP in Cincinnati" fame was the first to jump on board and lend his name to the project.
A native of tiny Marquette in central Kansas, Nelson became sports director of WIBW in Topeka before coming to K-State as "Voice" of the Wildcats in the mid-1950s. He would earn Kansas Sportscaster of the Year five times and was the first broadcaster on the Big Eight Basketball Network.
In 1988, Nelson was inducted into the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame, in 1991 he entered the Kansas State Hall of Fame, and in 2001 the Kansas Broadcasting Hall of Fame.
Dev, who died in 1993, had no enemies; God created no better man. To know him was to like him. After his retirement, he dove into the hobby-turned-business world of baseball cards and sports memorabilia. In a world of ragged edges, Dev was of "mint" honesty.
For those who never enjoyed Nelson's baritone voice, I'm truly sorry. You missed a voice made for radio. He verbally painted a purple and white picture that win, lose or draw was all K-State. He was factual, fair and came across as your friend, whether a Kansas City lawyer that he knew, or a Scott City farmer that he didn't.
While letting the game carry the most importance, on occasion Dev did add a dash of flamboyance on the most special of plays, or biggest of big wins. In Dev's words, they were ".. a rip snortin, hootenang, double-barrel, deeeeeep-dish dilly" of a play, or a victory.
Just as Nelson was a rip snortin, hootenang, double-barrel, deeeeep-dish dilly of a man.
Kansas State did right with keeping his name attached to the press level of the West Stadium Center. Dev Nelson needs to be remembered.
Oh, as for K-State's current No. 1 status in the country?
"He would be astounded," said Greg. "He was broadcasting in some pretty lean years, so he would love coach Snyder and be so excited about what's going on today."
Janalee added, "He would be so excited because he would have so much respect on how coach Snyder runs the program. He would be absolutely thrilled."
We hope you enjoy K-State Sports Extra. We would like to hear your comments and any story ideas for future emails, so fire them our way. Contact either Mark Janssen or Kansas State Assistant AD for Communications Kenny Lannou.