Jim Nantz was 26 when he made his CBS debut in September, 1985. Only a few years removed from attending the University of Houston, the young prospect had been tabbed to host the network's studio shows for college football.
Nantz recalls there was plenty of room for improvement on Day 1.
"If I looked back at my first broadcast with CBS in 1985, I would cringe," Nantz said. Nantz brings up that memory while discussing his new partner Tony Romo. The former Dallas Cowboys quarterback will make his CBS debut Sunday when he teams with Nantz on coverage of the Oakland-Tennessee game.
Romo is the big NFL TV story for the new season. In a surprising move, CBS decided to have him replace Phil Simms as the analyst on the network's No. 1 team. No working his way up the broadcast ladder for Romo.
Talk about stepping into history. Romo becomes only the sixth lead analyst for CBS since 1962. The others are Pat Summerall (1962-74); Tom Brookshier (1975-81); John Madden (1982-93); and Simms (1998-2016).
Now viewers will get to see for the first time why CBS placed so much faith in Romo. Nantz knows the scrutiny on his partner's performance will be intense Sunday. He expects that some elements of social media will be highly inflammatory regardless of how Romo fares. It is like that for any announcer these days.
For his part, Nantz says he is being "cautious" about expressing his enthusiasm for Romo. It's not because he questions his new partner's ability in the booth. Quite the contrary.
"I don't have any doubts that Tony is going to have a long, successful career," Nantz said.
Rather, Nantz doesn't want to set expectations too high for Romo directly out of the gate. As was the case for a young Nantz making his CBS debut in 1985, he knows Romo will be far from a finished product in his first game as an analyst.
"Tony's done (eight practice game telecasts), but you can't replace what it's like when all the bells and whistles are flying around during a regular game," Nantz said. "This is the first time he'll be doing it for real. It's a lot to take in. I believe Tony is going to be good in his first game, and he's going to get better."
Nantz always knew Romo had a TV future from sitting with him during multiple player-announcer meetings the night before a game. He recalled the quarterback had a knack of breaking down the other team's defense in "an interesting and entertaining way."
"He always packed a lot of punch," Nantz said.
Nantz is seeing the same qualities in their preparation to work as a new team. They have been in what Nantz refers to as "training camp" since May, calling games from last year in a CBS studio and being on site for rehearsal preseason games in August.
Nantz believes Romo's charisma and sense of humor will be evident during the telecasts. From all the time they've spent together, he also thinks they are building a good chemistry in the booth.
"Tony has a great sense of timing," Nantz said. "He's ambitious and has tremendous enthusiasm and work ethic. He wants to be good at this. Don't sell him short."
Nantz, though, just hopes people give Romo some time to settle into his new role. In fact, he points to a Nov. 2 game as a key barometer in judging Romo's progress. CBS and Romo will be on hand to cover the Kansas City-Cowboys game in Dallas. It will be his first game calling his former team.
At that point, Romo will have worked 14 regular-season games (6 on Thursday night and 8 on Sunday). Nantz expects the experience will be huge for Romo.
"It's a process, but that's when people will start saying he's really got it," Nantz said. "We're going to get to Dallas, and he's going to be in a great place."
At Fox, Charles Davis will work with Kevin Burkhardt on its No. 2 team. It was supposed to be a three-person booth, but Jay Cutler decided to play for Miami.
On the studio side, Michael Vick joins the crew at Fox NFL Kickoff.
At NBC, Mike Tirico will be on the call for the network's slate of Thursday night telecasts. He will be joined by Cris Collinsworth. Al Michaels will return to work with Collinsworth on the Sunday night games.
At ESPN, Sam Ponder replaces Chris Berman as host of Sunday NFL Countdown. Rex Ryan joins the panel that also includes Randy Moss, Charles Woodson and Matt Hasselbeck.
NFL Network welcomes Steve Smith Sr. The long-time receiver will be part of NFL GameDay Morning, which now will now start at 7:00 a.m. ET from NFL Films in New Jersey. This replaces NFL GameDay First. At 9:00 a.m. Eastern, NFL GameDay Morning continues from Los Angeles as usual with Rich Eisen, Marshall Faulk, Kurt Warner, Michael Irvin and Steve Mariucci, with Smith joining via remote for the first 2 hours.
Now on Saturday: Premiering Saturday, Good Morning Football: Weekend airs at 10:00 a.m. ET from NFL Films, with host Colleen Wolfe, analyst Michael Robinson and reporter Mike Garafolo. The two-hour show -- an extension of the Emmy-nominated Good Morning Football -- provides the latest news and analysis from around the NFL heading into Sunday's slate of games. Additionally, NFL Network reporters stationed across the league will join with the latest from each game site.
Week 1 announcer lineup:
NBC, 8:30 ET
CBS 1 p.m. ET
CBS 4:05 p.m. ET
FOX 1:00 p.m ET
FOX 4:25 p.m. ET
NBC 8:30 p.m. ET
ESPN 7:10 p.m. ET
ESPN 10:20 p.m. ET