SEATTLE — Bob Rondeau has carved out a place between having the best vantage point for University of Washington football and basketball games while remaining in the background.
Rondeau has narrated Huskies’ sports highlights — and lowlights — for 37 years. His voice is easily recognizable, but those same fans know little about Rondeau, the person. The Colorado native made his life story a largely untold narrative — and that was by choice.
His final broadcast comes Saturday during The Apple Cup. Rondeau will take to the airwaves one last time and afterward, he’ll be in his preferred location: Out of the spotlight.
“I didn’t get into this business to be famous. I’ve always been a little uncomfortable with the notion of fame and all that,” Rondeau said. “It’s always made me kind of nervous.”
Rondeau is a self-described “perfectionist” who strives to be immaculate with every broadcast. His fear of imperfection bothered him at first, but it was something he was able to “overcome” later in his career.
He once worked at a television station and was required to be on camera. He did some anchor work while also shooting a few in-studio segments. Rondeau said he wasn’t comfortable being in front of the camera for a few reasons.
Rondeau the comedian jokes about not having “TV hair.” Rondeau the journalist says he felt like more of an actor than a reporter when he was on TV.
“I’ve always been a reporter first,” Rondeau said. “And if we’re being honest, I think that’s what this job is. I was never that comfortable with being a star, if you will.”
Getting Rondeau to talk about himself is a challenge.
Asked to tell a little known fact, he talks about his love of fishing and his three grandchildren.
Speak to those who know him and they fill in the details of a man who is many things to several people.
“He’s one of the most thoughtful, caring people and he’s very sensitive and aware of other people,” Lorrin Rondeau said of her father. “I only have the best things in the world to say about my father. I could not adore him more.”
Lorrin, who moved back to Seattle in July, said she grew up thinking her father was a regular person with a normal job. She knew about her father’s profession but didn’t realize the magnitude of it all until later in life. Over the years, she watched her father interact with fans who wanted to say hello or have a conversation with the play-by-play man for the Huskies.
Even then, she watched him handle the attention with poise and gratitude.
“He does not make a big deal out of things like that. It’s not his style,” she said. “He’s always appreciated fans and the recognition they’ve shown him, but he’s the last person to make a big deal out of it.”
Generations of Husky families know Rondeau for his detailed delivery, smooth voice and animated calls during basketball and football games.
But what it’s like to be raised by the man on the radio?
Lorrin had friends who were thrilled to meet her dad and talk about UW football. Any time someone hears or sees her last name, she’s asked if she’s related to Bob Rondeau. She recently few back from Phoenix and when she presented her driver’s license at the ticket, she was asked about her last name.
“They immediately referenced my dad,” she said.
Lorrin said her father was “strict but loving” and always found a good balance between the two. That showed when Lorrin went with her dad to the Rose Bowl back in 2000.
She described the trip as one of her favorite memories with her father.
“We went to the beach. We were at the Santa Monica Pier and it was a polar bear deal and I could not believe she went in,” Rondeau recalled. “She did it fearlessly. We had a great time and it was some good bonding time.”
Lorrin has been a fixture at home football games this season. So has Rondeau’s wife, Molly, who might challenge her husband when it comes to storytelling.
Molly was speaking to a reporter during halftime of a recent game when Rondeau walked by and said, “Don’t tell him that I grow tomatoes.”
The remark made her laugh. She then shared details very few know about her husband: He’s an avid gardener who is so good at what he does, the family does not buy produce in the summer. Also, Rondeau is a pretty good cook.
“He makes homemade fish and chips,” she said. “Better than most restaurants.”
Molly’s best stories are about how they met, got engaged and their wedding ceremony.
She said they met in the press box at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona. Molly, through her job, met and became friends with former Seahawks quarterback Sam Adkins. Molly and another friend were on vacation in Arizona when she got a phone call from Adkins, who at the time was Rondeau’s partner in the booth.
“Their spotters didn’t show up. Sam said, ‘I got a couple buddies who can spot,’ and Bob was like, ‘Go get them,’” she recalled. “They were getting ready to go on the air. He brought me up and my best friend up and we walked through the door and he’s always a gentleman.
“But he kinda looked at us like, ‘Really? Two girls are going to spot me?’ He didn’t say it but the look on his face was ‘I cannot believe you just did this.’ ”
Rondeau asked which of the two women knew football better and Molly said she did.
“He put me on Arizona State and I did not miss a play the whole first half,” she said.
Rondeau later found out Molly’s father played football at Notre Dame. So they wagered on a Notre Dame-Florida State football game where the loser bought dinner. Molly won the bet, they had dinner and soon started dating.
A few years passed and they were driving back from Oregon after a UW basketball game. It was Rondeau’s birthday and instead of eating cake or having a party, he proposed to her.
“He just said, ‘You know what? We need to be together forever. I don’t have a ring but will you marry me?’” she said.
They met 24 years ago and have been married for 20.
Molly said it was her idea for them to get married at the 50-yard line of Husky Stadium.
“Molly is a total sports nut,” said Damon Huard, Rondeau’s color commentator. “She grew up in Indiana and she’s Hoosiers 101. They love sports.”
Huard was a quarterback for the Huskies from 1992 through 1995. Even though Huard and his brother, Brock, starred at UW, they never really knew Rondeau.
Then in 2010, Huard was tabbed to replace Chuck Nelson as color commentator. Rondeau and Nelson, an Everett High School graduate, had been together for 17 seasons.
“I can remember asking him two weeks from the first game, ‘Bob. Got any pointers or anything I should know or study?’ ” Huard said. “He told me, ‘You need to know everything’ and I was like, “OK. Right on.
“So the first game goes by and I was terrible, but Bob covered it up so well.”
Huard said he was grateful for how Rondeau helped him during their first game. He was so appreciative, he presented Rondeau with a bottle of Dom Perignon and added they’ve been “best friends ever since.”
A former NFL quarterback, Damon Huard describes his partner as smart and witty while adding he would do anything for anybody.
On the day Rondeau’s retirement became public, Rondeau called Huard to let him know the news so he didn’t find out second-hand.
“That was very classy of him to do that,” Huard said. “I was driving along the road and he said, ‘This is going to be my last year.’ He’s always been a class act.”
Asked for his favorite story about Rondeau, Huard comically discloses his partner is “soft in the booth” when it’s cold outside.
“That’s rich coming from Damon Huard,” Rondeau said with a big smile. “If you had been in the booth for our last game, you would have seen him wrapped in a letterman’s blanket with gloves on, huddled over in the corner like a guy at a camp fire.”
Rondeau admits he’s not fond of the cold, which is a bit intriguing given his love for fly fishing. He’s done it for a good chunk of his life and its arguably his favorite hobby.
Lorrin said her dad is so into fly fishing, he watches online videos to pick up tips.
“He’ll practice (casting his rod) in the front yard,” she said. “It’s pretty good and the neighbors are used to seeing him do it by now.”
Rondeau also enjoys horse racing. His parents had a horse farm in Colorado and were into racing quarter horses. He grew up learning how to take care of horses and gained an appreciation for how athletic they are.
The Rondeaus actually bought a horse in August that they hope will start racing in 2018. Rondeau said the horse does not have a name and owners must go through an official process to determine if the name is appropriate.
Does that mean we’ll be seeing “Touchdown Washington!” race at Emerald Downs in the near future?
“No. Not so much,” Rondeau said.
Rondeau’s trademark touchdown call is one of the many facets he’s made synonymous with UW football.
It’s one of the reasons why he’s won numerous awards and was enshrined in the Husky Athletics Hall of Fame in 2016.
That’s what makes his story so unique. For decades, generations of Huskies fans have known Rondeau’s voice without really knowing him.
“I have always felt like I am a normal person among a whole lot of normal people,” Rondeau said. “Some of us do it in a more public vein than others.”