(WGHP) — Not everyone knows where they want to do with their life as they grow up. Mick Mixon isn’t one of those people. He knew early on where he wanted to be.
“Ever since I was a little boy growing up in Chapel Hill, I was this little Mickey Mixon. I wanted to be a linebacker. I wanted to be a fullback. I wanted to be the starting pitcher, but genetics is an unfair science,” Mick said. “But ever since I realized I probably wasn’t going to be the starting pitcher, roll in that sidehill 8-footer at Augusta to win a green jacket, I thought the place to be was the press box, the batting cage, the team bus. The locker room the press box is my office. It’s one of my favorite places to be in the world, but I always have known about my life since I was a kid that that’s what I wanted to do.”
He thought he’d play baseball. And in his mid-20s, he was the play-by-play voice of the Maine Guides until the team’s owner lost the team in a court decision, and Mick was out of work.
So, he came back for what he thought would be one year doing games at his alma mater, UNC, with the legendary Woody Durham. One year, though, melted into 16 before Mick got a call.
“Well, it was 2005, and the Panthers had announced that they were not going to renew the contract of my predecessor, and they reached out to me and asked if I would consider applying for the gig, and I said, ‘Of course.’ I was flattered but really didn’t think it would go much farther than maybe one suit-and-tie, one trip to Charlotte to interview,” Mick said. “But when I came back from the first of what turned out to be about 5, day-long interviews…when I came back from that first one, I said to several people that I cared about, ‘That’s a special organization.'”
So special Mick believes it will soon taste Super Bowl success.
“Absolute victory is coming to the corner of Mint and Morehead soon, and this is not something that I think. This is something that I feel that I know because of the exquisitely talented head coach Matt Ruhle. He’s an amazing communicator. He understands performance psychology, motivation, team dynamics,” Mick said.
“Scott Fitterrer, our GM, natural-born talent evaluator. David Tepper, our owner, will not be denied. He will spend whatever it takes. He will apply all of his risk tolerance. He will apply whatever creative intelligence is necessary to bring the pieces to the Carolinas. So I guarantee you it is coming. And if it’s not this year, I will listen to my successor describe it all while I’m sitting on a tractor out here bush hogging a field,” Mick said.
That’s right: after 17 years as the voice of the Panthers, Mick is retiring. He almost left a decade ago but not to retirement.
“When Woody (Durham) retired, UNC contacted me, and I was tremendously honored that my name was on a list they had to come back to Chapel Hill, but I didn’t want to do it. I felt that I needed to try to repay the Panthers for the faith and trust they had in me which is a debt, by the way, that if I stay until I’m 80, I could never square up,” Mick said.
So, he’ll soon leave behind a distinctive style of calling a game that he’s proud was never a cliche.
“It’s just not good enough, in my opinion, to come on the air loose, to come on the air without giving a little thought to why is the next three hours important,” Mick said. “So for you to just go, ‘You’re looking live at Soldier Field’ or ‘Welcome, everybody,’ I hate that.”
“The ten, five, touchdown – anybody can do that,” Mick said.
The Panthers, he believes, “were looking for someone who could be in the community, could say yes to every invitation. That’s one of the things I’m proudest of: I’ve tried to say ‘yes’ to every Rotary Club, Civic Club, Optimist Club, Pessimist Club, charity event. and no far is too far to drive, and no hour is too late to arrive or depart. And I’ve tried to represent the Panthers in a classy way on and off the air.”
See the moment that changed Mick’s life forever in this edition of the Buckley Report.