There are many voices of University of Nebraska football. Head Coach bo Pelini. Husker Sports Network play-by-play man Greg Sharpe. Not to be forgotten though is Husker football’s Memorial Stadium public address announcer Patrick Combs, who lends his own signature personality to the goings-on inside that cathedral of college football without ever detracting from it. I did the piece a few years ago about Combs and his dream role as “The Voice of Husker Football.”
The Man Behind the Voice of Husker Football at Memorial Stadium
©by Leo Adam Biga
Originally appeared in Omaha Magazine
Patrick Combs, 41, lives a dream each Husker game day as the in-stadium announcer for Nebraska football. He grew up cheering Big Red at Memorial Stadium, where he and his late father, Lincoln, Neb. car dealer Woody Combs, bonded on Saturdays.
From age 13 on, he said, “it’s safe to say my dream was to be the Voice of the Huskers. I always thought how cool it would be someday to be that booming voice…”
When not living his dream he’s director of business development for NRG Media, a Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based company with 83 radio stations in seven states. Combs works out of the Omaha office, home to Waitt Radio Network. He loves radio, but despite a resonant voice he didn’t seek a career in broadcasting, it sought him.
Growing up he and his family were into horses. His father, whom Combs said “had a great voice,” announced area equestrian events, including those a young Pat rode in. Whenever his dad couldn’t do an event, Combs filled in. People would invariably tell him, “You should be an announcer.” Instead, he attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln intent on going into law or politics. He interned for then-Governor Bob Kerrey.
He ended up going to work for his dad. Recruited away by another dealer, he made general manager at 24. In 1993, he led a group of young American professionals to Taiwan for an international business summit and found a new calling.
“It was a life-changing month for me,” Combs said. “I realized very quickly how fortunate we are in this country with the freedoms we have and the abilties we have to be entrepeneurial. I came back idealistic and energized…and I decided to channel that by running for political office to try to make a difference.”
He entered the ‘94 U.S. Congressional race against Neb. Republican incumbant Doug Bereuter. Combs, a Democrat, was a 27-year-old unknown. But in a GOP-heavy state he managed 40 percent of the vote by campaigning every day and raising an unheard of $250,000 for his upstart bid. He failed to gain the same seat again in ‘96.
By then soured on selling cars and being denied a political career, he answered opportunity when KLIN in Lincoln asked him to co-host a talk show. The gig got in his blood and he learned the biz, laying the foundation for his 13-year radio career.
Life was good. He married, became a father of two, saw his career flourish at Waitt, which merged with NRG, and indulged his “passion” for riding Harleys. But two things were missing. The man he calls “my biggest idol and mentor” — his dad — died in 2001. And his dream job as Voice of Husker Nation seemed unattainable.
“I’d pretty much written off that job,” he said. Enter fate. In 2003 the job came open and Combs won it after auditioning, including calling that year’s Spring Game.
Going on his fifth year as the P.A. man, he said, “I’m still like a little kid in a candy store. I love it.” Though few know the name behind the voice, he said, “that’s OK. I’m just thrilled to be there. I’m humbled every day I walk into the stadium and to be part of such a storied program. There’s pressure to do a good job and I try very hard to do a good job. I do not want to let the fans down.” That’s why he preps hours before each contest. Calling a good game, he said, comes down “to being a facilitator of information and adding to the environment of the game.”
From the booth Combs imagines his dad, who got him started announcing, hearing him in the stands.
“I know he would be so proud his son is the Voice of the Huskers.”
- VIDEOS: Memorial Stadium Already Three Months Ahead Of Schedule (rantsports.com)
- Nebraska Football: Huskers Sell Stability with Bo Pelini Raise, Extension (bleacherreport.com)
- Nebraska Spring Game Canceled Due To Inclement Weather (sbnation.com)
- McKewon: Pelini plots for Year Two in Big Ten (omaha.com)
- Huskers assistant: Job safe, but I’ll curb stance (espn.go.com)