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NFL Films post-production director Kevin McLoughlin was at his desk in Mount Laurel, N.J., on Jan. 4 when he first heard the voice of Ted Williams, in a YouTube video shot before the holidays by Doral Chenoweth, a reporter for The Columbus Dispatch in Ohio. The video showed Williams a former radio announcer known by his fellow homeless on the Columbus streets as Radio Man (and who was named after his father's favorite baseball player), standing wild-haired by the side of a highway, wearing a camo jacket and holding a hand-lettered sign advertising his "God-given gift of voice." Asked to demonstrate, Williams, 53, opened his mouth and out floated startlingly mellifluous tones.
The video had instantly gone viral, and by the time McLoughlin encountered it, offers of employment had started pouring in for Williams. On Jan. 6 he opened NBC's Today show in New York City.
"When I heard his radio shtick, I was like, 'O.K., that's a dime a dozen,'" McLoughlin says. "What turned me around was when he started telling his story. That's what NFL Films does." Like former NFL Films voiceover greats John Facenda, with his Voice-of-God style, and the exuberant Harry Kalas, Williams, says McLaughlin, has a story-telling voice. "It's conversational, but it has that richness," he says.
McLoughlin, who scouts and books voiceover talent for the television and film studio, was transported by Williams's account of his love of radio, his descent into drugs and alcohol, his newfound sobriety and his hopes for employment and redemption. McLoughlin immediately imagined Williams's voice narrating one of NFL Film's documentaries about some team's heartbreaking loss and turnaround fairy-tale win.
He wasn't the only one. Shortly after that, McLaughlin got an e-mail from his boss, Billy Driber, who had also seen the video. The half-joking message: "If you don't hire this guy, you're fired."
McLoughlin hopes to get Williams in the studio for an audition, though he may have to wait his turn. The offers have continued to roll in, including one for a full-time gig doing television, radio and website voiceovers for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who set up wewanttedwilliams.com, a website that has so far collected 1,480 messages from well-wishers. "Who needs LeBron when you have Ted Williams?" asked the Columbus disc jockey who fielded the Cavs' job offer during a call-in with Williams, who has yet to meet with the Cavaliers to formally accept the job.
Williams was also tapped by Kraft, sponsor of the Fight Hunger Bowl between Nevada and Boston College, to do a macaroni-and-cheese spot that aired Sunday during the game. Now, if people like McLoughlin have anything to say about it, and if he manages not to squander this serendipitous second chance, Ted Williams, the man with the golden voice, could himself become the fairy-tale sports story he was born to narrate.