From behind the mic, UI administrator shares his public announcing talents

In his free time, University of Iowa administrator Rod Lehnertz announces for the UI wrestling team.


Contributed by Rod Lehnertz

Rod Lehnertz, age six, and his brother meet Los Angeles Dodgers play-by-play voice, Vin Scully in 1971. Scully later signed the image in 2003, “Hi Rod don’t give up on your dreams. God bless, Vin Scully” on the top right corner of the image.

Sabine Martin, News Reporter

Rod Lehnertz says he has the best seat in the house at University of Iowa wrestling meets. His place is next to the mat, as the team’s public address announcer.

Notorious for livening up a crowd of UI athletic fans, Lehnertz, who is the UI’s senior vice president for finance and operations, often shouts “get ready to rumble” into his microphone as it reverberates around the arena.

“I call it a hobby,” Lehnertz said. “The athletic department gets exactly what they pay for because I don’t do it for any money. It’s just fun.”

Before he was the wrestling team’s announcer, Lehnertz said, he was the PA voice for the UI’s swimming team for more than a decade. He’s also the backup announcer for UI football games at Kinnick Stadium.

Born and raised in Iowa City, Lehnertz said his PA career began when scars on his vocal cords started to form during his childhood. He said his parents took him to the UI Wendell Johnson Speech and Hearing Clinic.

“I had a really high, scratchy, irritating voice in sixth and seventh grade,” Lehnertz said. “Over the summer, they retrained me to not put so much pressure on the top of my vocal cords.”

Starting seventh grade with a higher voice, Lehnertz said he left that school year with the baritone-like cadence that his voice has today.

Lehnertz’s said that Vin Scully, the play-by-play voice for the Los Angeles Dodgers, is his inspiration. Lehnertz went to his first Dodger baseball game at the Dodger Stadium in 1971.

“I had an uncle who had no connections but wrote a letter to the Dodger ownership that his two nephews were coming out,” he said. “He asked if we could possibly get down to the field for a photograph or two.”

Granted access by Dodger ownership, Lehnertz and his brother went down to the dugout in Dodger Stadium and took a picture with Scully.

“At that point, I didn’t know who it was,” he said. “I was only 6 years old, but I was getting this picture taken with him autographing the baseball, looking at me.”

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Lehnertz said he still cherishes the photo as a keepsake.

“Vin Scully’s voice and baseball has been a big part of where I got interested in doing some of the voice work,” Lehnertz said. “It remains a hobby and something where I can admire the student athletes at the University of Iowa.”

Lehnertz said he went on to college at the UI, later transferring to the University of Kansas to pursue a program in architecture and broadcast journalism.

“If I could give one piece of advice to any student, high school or college, regardless of the path you’re taking, I have suggested that they should look in the course offerings … for verbal communication or speech course,” he said.

UI Assistant Director of Marketing and Athletics Fan Engagement Kelsey Laverdiere works directly with Lehnertz for his UI athletics PA jobs. She said Lehnertz is well versed in everything in Hawkeye Athletics and always gives 110 percent.

“I think something that’s really unique is when you have a public address announcer that is not only understanding the audience and the fan base that you’re communicating with, but you understand the sport and you understand our coaches and the dynamic of what we’re trying to portray,” Laverdiere said.

The UI wrestling team has hosted meets with empty arenas, except for family members, this year because of COVID-19.

“It is strange to announce to an empty arena, but I can’t wait for next year,” Lehnertz said.

The UI Office of Strategic Communications recruited Lehnertz to voiceover promotional videos for the UI, he said.

Ben Hill, senior director for marketing communication, wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan that Lehnertz was a natural choice to voice UI videos, like the UI’s budget explanation video.

“We are happy to make use of our on-campus talent whenever we can,” Hill wrote.

Lehnertz said he created a makeshift closet to quickly record the lines given to him.

I did a lot of homework. You had to get the right microphone … because there isn’t as much fuzz and noise,” Lehnertz said. “I went down to our guest bedroom in our basement and put some padding and other things on the edges of the inside of a standard closet. As it turned out, it sounded just great.”

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