BYU connection yields strong voice

Published: Friday, Sept. 15 2006 12:00 a.m. MDT

PROVO — While many local TV viewers may struggle to find this fall's telecasts of BYU football games, they've certainly seen the four, 30-second promotional spots for the Cougars' 2006 ticket sales. You know — the one with the kitchen "to do" list and the three meshing BYU highlight clips, pompous music and voiced-over motivational quotes from writer T.S. Elliot, Greek historian Thucydides and ancient Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu.

All with that deep, familiar, male narrative voice.

You've heard it somewhere before. Sounds authoritative, polished, precise.

But where?

Suddenly, it clicks — the Allstate Insurance commercials and Military Channel promos. President David Palmer from the TV series "24" and black-ops commander Jonas Blane in "The Unit."

For the record, it's TV and film actor Dennis Haysbert.

And the last name clicks again with long-time BYU fans — as in former wide receiver Adam Haysbert, who starred for the Cougars in the 1980s. The two are brothers, part of the nine-sibling Haysbert family from San Mateo, Calif.

BYU athletics director Tom Holmoe called on the BYU and brotherly connections to land Dennis Haysbert's vocal talents.

"He did it out of the goodness of his heart," said Emily Deans, director of BYU's athletics marketing. "There's no way we could have afforded him. He did it as a favor to Adam."

Earlier this summer, BYU athletics and marketing officials met with Richter7 — the advertising agency working with BYU the past few years — to review its proposed ticket-sales campaign. When discussion came to voice-over narratives, Holmoe had an idea — to call former teammate Adam Haysbert.

The two shared California roots and a couple of overlapping Cougar seasons, with Holmoe helping Haysbert get settled into Provo and the football program when the latter arrived.

He called Haysbert, now living and working in Philadelphia, asking if his older brother might be available to lend a hand — and a voice.

Haysbert remembers being briefed on the campaign: "I said, 'I think he'd do that.'"

He then called his brother, who was in Cape Town, South Africa, for another month filming the upcoming movie "Goodbye Bafana" — Dennis Haysbert plays famed leader Nelson Mandela befriending his white, apartheid-steeped prison guard.

Once agreed, Holmoe was put in touch with the actor's agent to work out the details when Haysbert returned to the United States.

Wanting to make circumstances as convenient as possible, BYU offered to bring Haysbert to Utah to do the vocal work or to send Richter7 staff to California to record closer to the actor.

"Tom was making it very easy for him to do these promos," Adam Haysbert recalled.

However, the voice-overs ended up being a long-distance, high-tech endeavor. Richter7 arranged with a studio near Dennis Haysbert's Southern California home, where he stopped in, and Richter7 personnel — still in Utah — recorded the tracks over the Internet in about a half-hour's time.

The result: a high-profile but low-cost bonus to the campaign — perfect for what Deans calls BYU marketing's "budget on a shoestring."

A standout, 6-foot-4 high school defensive end in San Mateo, Calif., Dennis Haysbert spurned college scholarships to go into acting. Getting a break in spot roles in 1979 in series such as "Lou Grant," "White Shadow" and "Growing Pains," he was already headlong into his acting career — often portraying military, police and sports figures — by the time his brother arrived at BYU.

Get The Deseret News Everywhere