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On the Banks EXCLUSIVE: An Interview With Chris Carlin

The Rutgers play-by-play announcer sat down with On the Banks for an exclusive and exciting interview

Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Carlin is synonymous with Rutgers.  He's been calling football games for over a decade, and basketball games for almost as long.  He's also an integral piece in New York sports, having worked for Imus, Mike and the Mad Dog, the Mets, SNY (like the great LOUDMOUTHS show he hosts.), and now Sirius/XM College Sports.  The man know his Rutgers.  Check it out.

On the Banks:  You've been calling Rutgers football games for 12 years, and basketball games for almost as long.  How have you noticed Rutgers change in that time?

Chris Carlin:  I guess the most change I've seen is in perception. When I was a senior in high school at Oratory Prep in Summit, I never even took a look at Rutgers. I regret it to this day. The rise of the football program through last decade changed the perception of the school nationally, and we saw applications go up. The Block 'R' was all over the state. After a tough couple of years, that positive momentum is coming back. People are paying attention to some of the great stories we have. The Women's Soccer team, Wrestling, Men's Lacrosse -- to name just a couple. That's exciting.

OTB: Everyone remembers the "Pandemonium in Piscataway" call.  What are some of your memories of your call of the famous Rutgers football win over Louisville in 2006?

CC: I remember the whole week pretty vividly. I did spend a lot of time thinking about what I might say if that moment came, and 'pandemonium' came to mind because I couldn't come up with another word that would describe what the scene would be. (Also, Gorilla Monsoon was a favorite wrestling announcer when I was a kid, and he used 'pandemonium' all the time. I always loved that word.) After the fact, I remembered Tim Pernetti saying there is 'Bedlam in Piscataway,' back in 2002, when Rutgers played Miami tight through three quarters. (He said it after Shawn Seabrooks recovered a blocked punt for a touchdown.) Credit Tim, because I turned it into an unconscious spinoff.

I've never been hit up for tickets more than I was that week. I somehow was able to come up with 16, and still was 14 short of all the requests. That, and my phone was ringing off the hook for interviews to preview the game. 

Leading up to the game, I felt that for the die-hards, those folks who had been there every Saturday through so much of the struggle, the moment right before kickoff might be the most special. To look out, and see that stadium packed to full capacity and beyond, with white towels waving and the eyes of the college football world squarely on US, wow. The thought of it still brings a tear to my eye. 

I happened to live in Astoria, New York at the time. It was normally a 90 minutes ride at the most. That day -- it took me 3 1/2 hours, and I left my apartment at 1:00! I've never been more frustrated in traffic. God and I were having a few choice words during that car ride. 

The game is a bit of a blur, until there were about five minutes left. During a commercial, as Rutgers got the ball and the game was tied at 25-25, I looked over at Tim. We had talked at length the night before, and I said, "You know, Jeremy Ito has never kicked a game winner late. Tomorrow night, why not?" 

My favorite play from the drive -- was Brian Leonard, on 3rd & 6. He hadn't caught a ball all night, and at the time, he had a reception in 42 straight. He came back in 2006 -- for this night, and of course, he delivered. 26 yards on a swing pass. Fantastic. 

When Jeremy missed the first attempt, but got another chance because William Gay was offside, you just knew it was meant to be. On the ensuing kickoff, JaJuan Spillman almost took back his second return for a touchdown of the night, but got knocked out of bounds at the 50 with :01 left. People were already charging the field, when Coach Schiano was running onto the field, urging them all to go back. 

Then, it happened. The sack that capped off the best defensive performance I've ever seen in a half of football. After I said it, words just kept coming. Tim, who hated to speak over me, let out a loud "YES!!!!" He was in tears. Fooch was grabbing anyone he could in the middle of that melee, and Clark Harris was just screaming into his microphone, 'THIS IS UNBELIEVABLE!!!!' 

I've never had goosebumps for a moment like that. I love New Jersey, and I hate it when we get kicked around. That night was undeniably one of the great nights in the state's history. I'm literally getting chills as I write this.

Seeing all the fans in the parking lots -- laughing, hugging people they didn't even know, taking in every moment -- man, that was the best part. As fans, you guys had been through so much, it was just awesome to see you get to enjoy it.

(On a personal note, my fiance - now wife - Sheryl and I drove home. I got home about 2:00 AM, and had to get up at 4:00 AM to go to work on the Imus show. I woke up, turned on ESPN, and heard my voice. I can't even begin to explain what that felt like. Imus was trying to get under my skin (like any other day,) and I just said to him, 'You can say whatever you want today, old man. You ain't knocking the smile off my face." 

All morning, I had friends texting and calling, telling me that 'Mike & Mike' were playing it all morning. It's a dream of a broadcaster to get an opportunity to call a game and get a moment like that, and I will forever be indebted to Bob, Kevin, Greg, and Rutgers for giving me that opportunity.)

OTB: Going beyond that game:  What are some of your favorite Rutgers calls you've made in both football and basketball over the years?  Why?

CC:  For football, the end of the regular season against Cincinnati in 2005, when Rutgers got its first bowl invitation since 1978, to the Insight Bowl. I remember saying something like, 'How does Christmas in the desert sound?' Tim immediately came back with, 'Sounds good. I'll be there!' 

In 2006, Ray Rice ripped off a 90 yard run at Pitt that was pretty remarkable. (Darrelle Revis was the only guy in Western Pennsylvania who could possibly catch him.) The South Florida win in 2007. One of my alltime favorites -- 2009 at Connecticut. When Tom Savage hit Tim Brown, and Timmy took it 81 yards, that was just amazing. I remember Ray Lucas yelling something like "WAHHHOOOEYYY!" in the middle. Tim was one of my favorite players over the years. Kid had great heart. 

In hoops, my first year was 2008-09. The win over #7 Georgetown in 2010, on a Sunday afternoon. The win over Seton Hall in the 2011 Big East Tournament, and the remarkable game in Round 2 against St. John's. (Still can't get over how badly we got hosed there. The image of Jim Burr walking off the floor is still burned in my brain.) Wins against Florida (Mike Rosario's return) & Connecticut were awesome games to call.

But my favorite in hoops -- the win over Villanova in 2011, down 10 with about 90 seconds left I believe, and the Jonathan Mitchell 4-point play. Admittedly, there was so much noise when he hit the shot, that I wasn't sure immediately there was a foul. But that was one of those moments where whatever just pops into your head comes out of your mouth, and for me it was....."NO WAY THAT JUST HAPPENED!!!" Unreal night at the RAC.

OTB: Eric LeGrand is now in the booth with you.  Can you tell us a little about your relationship with Eric and how it's grown since you called the play that caused his injury?

CC:  It's hard to get to know a lot of the kids on the football team well, because honestly, there's just so many of them, and my time with them is so limited. I had a few interactions with Eric before his injury, but I didn't know him well at all. When he came charging down the field and launched into Malcolm Brown from Army, we could tell he was hurt immediately. As we were watching it unfold, we were just thinking the same thing everyone was: Please God, let him be OK. 

As the months passed after the injury, a producer at SNY, Carly Lindsey, and I were starting to figure out how exactly we could start to follow his journey back. Watching him in work in rehab, seeing his mother Karen care for him everyday -- it was so inspirational. Eric & Karen gave us access to come and follow him intently, and that's honestly when we got to know each other better. 

Eric and I spent a lot of time talking football, and he had expressed an interest in broadcasting. At first, Coach Schiano asked him to be an analyst on the Pregame & Postgame shows, and then he tried a few games. He gives terrific insight, and he's a pleasure to be around. To watch him embrace the role every day that he truly believes God picked him to play is uplifting. He never turns anyone away, and he's an incredible example to kids. They really gravitate toward him. 

He's become a great friend. I love the kid so much.

OTB:  As you entrench yourself in a new era of Rutgers athletics, there are three new faces you'll be interacting with.  What can you tell the fans about Pat Hobbs, Chris Ash, and Steve Pikiell?  How will they change the direction of Rutgers or help it grow?

CC:  Like the fans, I'm still getting to know Pat, Coach Ash, and Coach Pikiell. It took me about 3 minutes when I first met Pat - the day after he was hired - to understand this was an incredibly sharp guy. Very impressive, and energetic. Pat walked in the door, and immediately recognized some changes that had to be made, and wasn't afraid to do what needed to be done. That's not easy for someone just walking in the door, but he had an easily recognizable leadership quality right away. Love his enthusiasm for Rutgers. There's nothing he wants more than to get this done. 

Coach Ash is impressive, and all business. Watching him interact with players, staff, and fans during the spring, he commands respect with his presence. Incredibly detail oriented. Great energy, and the staff he has brought in is a direction reflection of him: young, smart, tireless. Quick story: I set up an interview with Coach Ash for halftime of one of our basketball broadcasts, and went to the Hale Center one day at 7:00 AM to tape it. There were coaches & staff flying around that place like it was 3:00 in the afternoon. It had a dynamic feel. 

When Coach Pikiell was hired, I immediately got 4 or 5 texts to the effect of, "You're going to love this guy. You don't know what a great coach Rutgers just hired." The staff is obviously fantastic. I haven't had a chance to interact with Coach Pikiell yet, but we're actually getting together soon. I'm very much looking forward to it.

OTB:  How important are the facility upgrades to Rutgers Athletics?  Why should fans donate to the Big Ten Build?

CC:  Imperative. I get the chance to travel around the Big Ten, and see everyone's facilities up close. We're behind, and that has to change. There's no sugarcoating it. If we want to compete, it has to happen. When Pat launched the campaign, he wanted people to be 'All in.' He wanted everyone to have "some skin in the game." Every time I've seen him speak, the message has been the same: Failure is not an option, and we need you. 

My wife Sheryl works for Shawn Tucker, in the Rutgers Leadership Academy. After I heard Pat speak about it a few times, we sat down and talked. We wanted to get "some skin in the game," so we decided to donate $10,000. We're not rich, but Sarah Baumgartner and everyone in Athletic Development make it easy. We're donating $2,500 a year for the next 4 years. We're cutting back on our admitted Starbucks addiction (we don't have kids, just our dog Snoozer, and she has enough toys.) We'll take some money here and there, and put it aside. It's much easier than we realized, and we feel like we're "all in." We feel great about that. We love Rutgers, we've made some amazing friends, and there's nothing we'd like to see more than the success we know is coming. 

OTB: Lately, on Twitter, you've been dropping some great Mike and the Maddog anecdotes from your time working for them.  Do you have any Rutgers related Mike/Dog stories you could share?

CC: Not too many, when it comes to Rutgers. Mike came down to the Spring Game in 2002, and he coached one team, while Tom McCarthy, Tim and myself coached the other. We won, and I got the Gatorade bath. Could've done without that. 

When they came to the Louisville game in 2006, they couldn't get over the atmosphere. Say what you will, and I know there are many who aren't big fans, but their presence gave the game even a little more juice. They came and hung out in the booth for a while during the game, and naturally offered plenty of analysis during the commercial breaks. I left that to Tim on the air. 

I've dropped some stories lately, primarily because of the reunion show back in March. I worked for them for 7 years, and it was an incredible experience. I miss the show, frankly, Throughout my senior year of high school and college, I drove a delivery car for Hasler's Pharmacy in Chatham Township. I listened to them all day, every day. To get to work with them for as long as I did was a dream come true.

On a personal note, I just want people to know how incredibly fortunate I feel to be a part of the University. The fans of Rutgers are the most dedicated I've ever come across. For me, it's been an incredible 15 years. My wife found her life's work at Rutgers. We love it, and we love knowing we're helping Rutgers become what it can be.

Can't wait for September 3!

Thank you, Chris!  We can't wait either!

Dave White is the author of the Jackson Donne thrillers.  You can purchase them where ever books are sold or through his website.