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The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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MAY 2020 THE WOLVERINE 55   WHERE ARE THEY NOW? He kept doing it, and so did his classmates. They steamed through the 1971 season at 11-0, Brandstatter earning All-Big Ten honors. They didn't run away from every- one, escaping Michigan State (24-13) and Purdue (20-17). They needed a 21-yard touchdown run by Billy Wilder with 2:07 left to beat Ohio State (10-7). But they got the job done, as promised. "As a class, we had great pride," Brandstatter said. "We let everybody on that team know, this is what we're going to do." They lost to Jim Plunkett and Stan- ford in the Rose Bowl, and Brandstat- ter subsequently lost his bid to make training camp with the New England Patriots. That's when his future be- gan in earnest. Brandstatter fired off résumés to 20-some radio and TV stations around the state of Michigan. One of them — WEYI Channel 25 in Sagi- naw — offered an interview. Soon enough, he became their sports director, bringing home the princely sum of $75 a week. "It's a football lesson," he said. "You just put your head down and move forward. You look for the pos- sibilities of moving on." He'd worked in factories, so this wasn't bad, by comparison. He worked 30 months there, doing the sports and filling in memorably for weather lady Kay Wyman. "She sold furniture in Saginaw," Brandstatter noted. "But she was also the weather lady at Channel 25. When she was off, [news director Dick] Fabian would look at me and say, 'Why don't you do the weather?' "The night President Nixon re- signed, we had his speech. We didn't have enough money for the overtime for the other two reporters, and they couldn't anchor. Kay was off. I did the news, weather and sports for the 11 o'clock news on Channel 25 the night President Richard Nixon resigned." He worked his way up through a sports anchor job in Jackson, while doing high school play-by-play on the side. Then Detroit TV station WDIV called, and Brandstatter caught both a break and huge motivation. While working as a sports pro- ducer/anchor, Brandstatter once took instruction from famed anchor Al Ackerman, hastening his exit. "Al looks at me and he goes, 'Jim, find me 30 seconds of video on Steve Carlton,' the great pitcher for Phila- delphia," Brandstatter recalled. "I'm walking back in our little archive room and thought to myself, 'You know, you've got more to give than finding 30 seconds of video of Steve Carlton. There's more in there.'" He found more, doing play-by- play on PBS for a high school game of the week, and eventually doing Michigan play-by-play via rebroad- casted games for the fledgling ON- TV in the late 1970s. "Man, that was mother 's milk to a baby," he noted. "When I did that, it was like, this is what I want to do. This is what I want to be. I didn't make any money at it, at the time, didn't know if I could, but I loved doing this." He began doing "Michigan Re- play" in 1980, and a few years later, Beckmann beckoned Brandstatter to be his color man on Michigan radio broadcasts. Brandstatter has been there since the mid-1980s, moving behind the play-by-play mic in 2014. He became the Detroit Lions' color analyst in 1987, serving in that role through the 2017 season. The dual duties led to some quick and testing turnarounds. He opted to drive from Blooming- ton, Ind., to Green Bay, Wis., a few years back, in a Saturday-Sunday switch from Michigan-Indiana to Lions-Packers. "Well, the Michigan game goes into three overtimes," he said. "They had one of the biggest crowds they've ever had down there, because it was Michigan." He spent two and a half hours in postgame traffic, after they closed a freeway going north. "Then I get to Chicago and they closed 94, and I've got to go all the way around," he recalled. "Same thing in Milwaukee. So I don't get up to Appleton, where the Lions are staying, until like five in the morning. I'm drinking coffee the whole way. "Dierdorf called me and said, 'You awake?' [Producer] Tony Butler called me and said, 'You awake?'" "I get to my room at five in the morning, I lay down, and my wake- up call is for seven. I think to myself, looking at the ceiling, are you nuts?'" Maybe — but nuts for a reason. ❑ The Jim Brandstatter File Michigan Accomplishments: Performed on Big Ten championship teams in 1969 and 1971, earning All-Big Ten honors in '71 … Started for the 1971 squad, which went 11-0 in the regular season. Professional Accomplishments: Worked as a sports director and producer in Saginaw, Jackson and Detroit throughout the 1970s and into the '80s … Began hosting "Michigan Replay" in 1980, and has been on the Michigan radio broad- cast team for football since the mid-1980s … Served as color analyst on Detroit Lions radio broadcasts from 1987-2017. Michigan Memory: "I loved Bump Elliott, and can't thank him enough. The memory of him coming and sitting with my parents, and me making the deci- sion, that was the seminal moment in my life. It paved the way for what was to come. "Then playing for Schembechler, having that great success, and going through the trials and tribulations that he put us through, with a bunch of other guys that became very close … those relationships have lasted a lifetime. There's a reason for that, and that reason is Bo Schembechler and his staff." Education: Earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in general studies, 1972. Family: Married to longtime Detroit television broadcaster Robbie Timmons. Brandstatter earned All-Big Ten honors as a senior offensive tackle on the 1971 squad that went 11-1. PHOTO COURTESY BENTLEY HISTORICAL LIBRARY

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