Over the years, Kyle Naber and his dad, David, have watched a lot of exciting basketball and football games together.
But they agree that this year’s UW-Eau Claire Homecoming football game, despite a Blugold loss, was their best game yet.
The father-son duo — the father an accomplished UW-Eau Claire grad and the son a successful student — sat side-by-side in the Carson Park press box as they worked together to announce the Blugolds' Homecoming football game.
“Anytime a father and son have a chance to work together and create memories together, it's an awesome thing,” says David, who graduated in 1986 with a degree in computer science and now works as a software developer for the Department of Veterans Affairs. “I loved my college years at UWEC, and have a lot of fond memories of the people I met and the experiences I had.
“To be a part of the memories that Kyle is creating through his years at UWEC is a blessing. To be there celebrating the 30th anniversary of my graduation, along with the 100th anniversary for UWEC, and being able to call a sporting event at historic Carson Park with my son is just icing on the cake.”
Kyle, a junior communication studies major from Muskego, has been announcing Blugold sporting events for nearly two years, first for TV-10, the campus’ student-run television station, and now for Blugold Radio, the university’s recently acquired radio station.
Knowing his dad and mom, Mary, also a Blugold alum, were coming to Eau Claire for Homecoming, Kyle was quick to offer his dad’s services when he heard there was a need for an extra announcer for the game.
“I know that my time is winding down as a Blugold and one of the biggest things on my list before graduating was to be able to call a game with my dad,” says Kyle. “Being from about three and a half hours away, this was not going to be an easy dream. I offered to have my dad do it since he’d be in town. Everyone went for it and I am so happy that it worked out.”
Coincidentally, while three of the four Naber family members are Blugolds, Kyle’s sister graduated from UW-Stevens Point, the Blugolds’ opponent in the Homecoming game.
“Having the Blugolds play the Pointers added a bit of drama to the whole weekend,” David says. “Our daughter gets the last laugh — this time!”
Always an avid sports fan, Kyle loved to play sports as a boy. But his interest in announcing came about in an unexpected — and nearly tragic — way.
Kyle was just 3 years old and living with his family in Egypt when he was diagnosed with leukemia.
He returned to Wisconsin, where he was treated at Children’s Hospital in Milwaukee with experimental drugs. Eventually, he had a transplant, with his mom as his donor.
“My transplant failed,” Kyle says. “But here is the miracle: I was fine. I did not get sick and this is truly a rare thing. I will be celebrating 17 years cancer free this April. I’m still here today and I’m 21 years old.”
The only lasting side effect of his cancer treatments is that he stopped growing much sooner than expected. So instead of being 6’6” as his doctor had once predicted, he’s 5’7”, he says.
“I used to have a hard time with this, but I'd rather be 5'7” and living than 6'6” and dead,” Kyle says. “I was once the tallest kid in my class. I was a decent athlete, and then I never grew. I loved to play sports, but I knew at a young age I would never go pro.
“So instead, I came into public relations and I am so thankful for everything that I’ve been blessed with so far. I have so much to live for. Announcing and PR gives me a chance to feel like I'm still on the team. I would not trade these experiences for the world.”
It was after his freshman year in high school that Kyle decided his days playing basketball were over.
Fortunately, it was about that same time that his dad and a neighbor began a new venture: live streaming local sports.
“They saw some others doing it and, both being very tech-savvy, believed it wouldn't be that hard,” Kyle says. “Naturally, they were looking for some announcers to help and I was the first option.”
At the time, Kyle’s only broadcast experience involved muting his computer so he could be the announcer during the electronic baseball and football games he liked to play.
But once he began announcing the real-life high school basketball games with his dad, he was hooked.
“I called every home game from my freshman to my senior year on the live stream,” Kyle says of his high school basketball team. “At the end of my time in high school, we had a three-camera setup, full headsets and replay. It was something that really took off. The school began to back us up and gave us some money for the equipment.”
His dad still calls the football and basketball games in his hometown, and Kyle still occasionally joins him in the booth when he’s home.
“There is a natural flow when I work with him; I like to think that we can make each other better,” Kyle says. “We pick up on each other's cues and we know when the other one might have missed something and we can step right in.”
Of the nearly 75 games he’s called with his dad, Kyle’s longtime favorite had been a high school basketball game at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, when a team won on a last-second buzzer beater.
Not surprisingly, this year’s Homecoming football game is his new favorite.
“It was a blast to have my Dad right there next to me,” Kyle says of the Blugold game. “We talk nearly every day, almost exclusively about sports. Naturally, we swap broadcast stories. My time as an announcer at UW-Eau Claire has been incredible, and I'm so happy that I was able to share it with my Dad.”
While he was in high school when he discovered his passion for announcing, Kyle’s interest in public relations began even earlier.
He was in third grade when his family took a trip to Toronto, where they visited a family friend who is head of PR for the Toronto Raptors basketball organization.
By the time they left Toronto, Kyle already was dreaming of a career in sports public relations.
“Since that day, I’ve always believed that PR was the job for me,” Kyle says. “I picked up announcing along the way. But I’ve always thought of announcing as something that I would do on the side.”
His broadcasting experience with Blugold sports has reinforced his goal of pursuing a career in public relations with a professional sports organization.
“I'd love to stay close by and work for the Timberwolves, Twins or Wild in Minnesota, or head back home and work for the Brewers or Bucks,” says Kyle, who already has had two summer internships with ESPN Milwaukee. “Since announcing is tied to PR, I think it is a huge advantage to already have experience as a media member. I know how it is to be in their shoes, and that will make everything easier.”
Kyle continues to be involved in TV-10 programming, but he’s enjoying the opportunity to announce more games to an even bigger audience through Blugold Radio.
This fall, he’s been traveling with the football team, announcing every game for Blugold Radio.
“The experience of traveling with the team is one of the most unique things I’ve been given the opportunity to do here at Eau Claire,” says Kyle. “I never thought that was going to be possible when I stepped onto campus as a freshman.”
Top photo caption: TV-10 transforms Carson Park's press box into its mobile production center to present the livestream of Blugold game day.