PROVO — When BYU hosts Tulane on Saturday, Gary Crowton won't be the only one making a conspicuous debut.

While Crowton begins his first season as the Cougar coach after LaVell Edwards' 29-year career, KSL radio's Greg Wrubell begins his first season as the Voice of the Cougars, a title that belonged to Paul James the past 35 years.

"By no means am I equating my talent with that of Gary Crowton, but I can relate to Gary in that we are both attempting to fill the shoes of a legend," Wrubell said. "At the same time, I know we're both excited about the new era in BYU football, and we're both planning on doing our jobs to the best of our abilities. I just think we have to be ourselves and then hope to be as successful as our predecessors."

At 33, Wrubell is about the same age James was when he began broadcasting play-by-play of BYU football and basketball games. While Wrubell would rather be doing nothing else, he realizes it won't be easy. "It's a dream job, but it's still a job," he said. "Like any job, you have to work hard at it to be good. That's my challenge."

While Wrubell has called only one football game in his life, he is a seasoned veteran when it comes to covering Cougar sports. In addition to hosting a KSL sports talk show for six years, he served as KSL's sideline/locker room reporter the past nine years. He has also been the doing Cougar basketball play-by-play since 1996.

Color commentator Marc Lyons, who was James' broadcast partner for 18 years, looks forward to working with Wrubell. "Greg is very bright and has an excellent memory," Lyons said. "He's witty. He's done a good job studying football. Those things are going to help him."

It's been an eventful journey so far for Wrubell, a native of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Like most Canadian kids, Wrubell grew up a rabid hockey fan. His dad, Allan, was the public address announcer for the Saskatoon Blades, and Wrubell frequently accompanied him to those games and sat in the press box. "That's when I first got used to the notion of speaking in front of a microphone," Wrubell said.

When he enrolled at BYU in 1984, Wrubell had decided to pursue a career in sports broadcasting. At the time, he knew everything about Calgary Flames hockey but precious little about Cougar football. That changed quickly. "My freshman year, BYU happened to win a national championship, so I just figured that was the way that it went," Wrubell said. "I learned about BYU in a hurry. It was a great year to start getting immersed in the tradition."

Wrubell became immersed in play-by-play broadcasting even more suddenly. In 1996, James suffered a heart attack in the press box just before the BYU-Utah football game. Days later, as James was undergoing sextuple-bypass heart surgery, Wrubell was calling the BYU-Washington basketball game in Seattle.

"I had never done play-by-play of any kind until that night," he said. "It was memorable, but not for my debut. BYU lost by 50 points. During the broadcast I remember thinking, 'I can do this.' "

A couple of weeks later, Wrubell called his first — and, to this point, only — football game, the WAC championship between BYU and Wyoming. The Cougars won in overtime on a field goal, which propelled them to their first New Year's Day bowl game.

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Wrubell took over full time as the voice of BYU basketball the following season. Now, his opportunity to describe Cougar football action has arrived.

"That time has allowed a good transition period, so it won't be as big a shock for people on (Saturday)," Wrubell said. "It will still be a shock to the system for BYU fans who only know the voice of Paul James. I hope they'll enjoy hearing me, but I know they'll miss hearing Paul.

"I'll miss hearing Paul. Hearing Paul in my headset for the last nine years . . . was a comforting rhythm, a comforting voice. That's his legacy. That's the pressure part, living up to that, to that image he created over 35 years. But you've got to start somewhere."


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