A digital special section of | Subscribe

Jerry Hester

Jerry Hester

All-Big Ten forward | Former radio analyst | Class of 1997

He was as cool as they come on the court. But Jerry Hester felt anything but the first time he strapped on a headset and prepared to make his live broadcasting debut as the new color radio voice of the Illini.

"I was very nervous. I can remember worrying about the smallest details — Should I sit with my elbows on the table? Should I wear a tie or is it OK just having on my dress shirt?

"Brian Barnhart and I had a couple phone conversations prior to the first game but I wanted to make sure I didn’t talk over him or mess up his rhythm. 

"Not knowing what to expect, the night before I memorized the opposing team's coaches' names, players' names, uniform numbers, heights, weights shooting percentages, everything. Luckily, I was blessed with a decent memory.

"I remember showing up about three hours before the game and realized I probably showed up a little bit earlier than needed.  Once we sat down, I started to relax but the moment we went on air and Brian said 'Good evening ...' my nerves came back during the pregame show. 

"Once the game started, I immediately felt relaxed and enjoyed just talking basketball. While I was not very polished to start, it was fun. During the first media timeout, I took my headphones off and asked Brian: 'They actually pay us to do this?'

"Brian said 'Shhhh. Don’t tell anyone.'"