About an hour before Texas Tech’s team bus was scheduled to leave for pregame on Tuesday, Brian Hanni was jogging at 13th and Howard Streets in Omaha’s Old Market district when his Fitbit started to buzz.
“An intersection I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” Hanni said.
The call was from Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger, who told Hanni that he had been selected as the radio play-by-play voice for the Jayhawks.
“He delivered the news, I immediately fell to my knees, and my eyes started to well up with tears,” Hanni said. “We hang up, and I say a prayer of immense gratitude, because this has been the biggest dream of my life.”
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Hanni replaces Bob Davis, who retired last season after calling KU games for the last 32 seasons.
It was just the beginning of a crazy day. Hanni, who has been the voice of Texas Tech men’s basketball and baseball the last four years, later was on the mic for the Red Raiders’ 3-2 victory over No. 1 Florida — the program’s first-ever College World Series victory.
“When I say today’s been the greatest day of my life, it might sound like an overstatement, but I mean it very sincerely,” Hanni said. “It’s everything I’ve ever dreamed of.”
A Topeka native and Topeka West alumnus, Hanni graduated from KU in 2002 and worked for KLWN radio station in Lawrence during 2002-12. In addition to doing play-by-play for KU men’s basketball and football, Hanni also will be host of weekly radio shows for coaches David Beaty and Bill Self.
“We view this position as not only a radio voice but as an ambassador for Kansas athletics and our university,” Zenger said. “We received interest from many well-established broadcasters. Ultimately we felt that Brian’s talent as a broadcaster, his positive outlook and his proven connection with the community separated him from the other outstanding candidates.”
Hanni admitted the last eight months have been stressful since Davis announced his retirement. He says there have been sleepless nights and also countless conversations with friends who helped calm his nerves.
“This is everything I’ve ever dreamed of or gunned for in my professional career. It’s meant everything to me,” Hanni said. “It’s the reason why I left four years ago, was to put myself in a better position to one day possibly have a chance to replace Bob when he hung them up.
“To follow a living legend like that I realize is an impossible task, but this is a dream that has literally been 20 years in the making. It’s been the No. 1 ambition of my life to this point.”
Even when he was at Texas Tech, Hanni helped with local fund-raising efforts. Each summer, he organizes the Rock Chalk Roundball Classic in Lawrence, which gathers former KU athletes for a charity game that raises money for children with cancer.
Hanni, 36, says he hopes to relocate to Lawrence sometime in August, hopefully for the beginning of KU football’s fall camp.
“It’s a relief. It’s a feeling of elation, and it’s the greatest feeling of gratitude and excitement I’ve had in my entire life to be coming home,” Hanni said. “Dorothy said it best: ‘There’s no place like home,’ and she was talking about Kansas.
"So I can’t wait to get back there.”