“The ball’s marked on the 39-yard line. First-and-ten Wisconsin… First-and-ten Wisconsin!”
If you’re a Wisconsin football fan, you may not have heard of Mike Mahnke, but chances are you’ve heard him many times before.
“And at running back. Number 23! Jonathan Taylor!”
Now in his 24th season behind the mic at Camp Randall Stadium, Mahnke is the voice of Badger athletics and, really, the faceless face of Wisconsin Football. Mahnke says this job landed right in his lap. The former-theater major was thrown into the booth in 1995 with little preparation and no football announcing experience. But it didn’t take long for him to develop his now-iconic delivery.
“You gotta deliver the information first, and if you can have fun while you’re doing it and the crowd likes what you’re doing — hey, then I’ve done my job.”
Perched high above the stadium, Mahnke doesn’t interact with many fans. But this anonymity doesn’t really bother him.
“I’ve done some wedding gigs, and things like that, usually recorded. But it’s actually kind to fun to be anonymous to a degree.”
While Mahnke may not garner much individual fame, that doesn’t mean his work has gone unrecognized. His narration of the “golden era” of Wisconsin Football earned him a spot in the Camp Randall 100, which acknowledges the most influential individuals in the history of Camp Randall.
“You know you’re just kind of borrowing the great seat on the 50-yard line for a couple of years. So I know at some point the end will come but I guess I want to be remembered as someone who just loved Wisconsin football.”
For the Badger Report, I’m Brandon Fishman.