They say timing is everything in life. For WWL Radio’s Kristian Garic, it was downright serendipitous in some ways.
Garic, who lives in Luling, learned he’d be assuming the mantle of WWL sideline reporter for the New Orleans Saints just a week prior to the preseason of his first year on the job … in 2009.
Saints fans might remember that year fondly — it so happens to be the year of a 13-0 start, Hartley’s kick, two historic Tracy Porter interceptions and, yes, the first Super Bowl championship in the history of the franchise.
“Jim Henderson and Hokie Gajan are such veterans in the broadcast booth, and they’ve been doing it a long time,” Garic said. “They’d tease me and tell me, ‘Kristian, you know, it’s not always going to be like this.’ It was a huge thrill. I got to cover a team I grew up watching go out and win their first ever Super Bowl.”
Garic made it his goal to work in radio after growing up a fan of longtime WWL sports commentator Bernard “Buddy D” Diliberto. Garic’s father joined the U.S. Army when the future broadcaster was just 10 months old.
Family travel came with that occupation, and Garic would not stay in New Orleans throughout his childhood.
But at least one thing kept him connected to his roots on a daily basis.
“I’d always listen to WWL,” he said. “It always amazed me how powerful they were and how they affected the community.”
He began with the station working a variety of different jobs, including Friday night call-in updates from Friday night prep football games as well as promotional work.
“I was willing to do anything to get my foot in the door,” he said. “
After I had been there for a while, I expressed interest in moving into sports. Fortunately, Entercom and WWL like to promote from within. In 2009, I had no idea it was coming. I worked hard and made a lot of sacrifices.”
His role as a sideline reporter allows him to view the game from a new perspective.
“You see NFL football up close and the brutality of those collisions,” Garic said. “I used to be one of those guys who thought, ‘maybe those guys are overpaid.’ And don’t get me wrong, they’re very well-compensated. But they take blows that make your body rattle from just watching so close.”
Not surprisingly, the gameday experience is what pumps up Garic the most about his job.
“The city of New Orleans is so connected with this team, and in other cities you feel that connection between those teams and their fans,” Garic said. “When you’re getting ready on game day, it feels like you’re in the center of the universe.”
Garic said that covering Drew Brees has led him to almost expect the extraordinary. Outside of the Saints, the players he’s been most impressed by have been quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers, Brett Favre and Peyton Manning.
Listing three quarterbacks was no accident, Garic notes, because he’s gained an added appreciation for what it takes to play that position at the NFL level.
“Quarterbacks get the most attention, credit and blame,” he said. “But when you watch a really, really good quarterback orchestrate an offense, it’s unbelievable what they have to navigate through. Sixty thousand fans in your ear, a defense full of guys trying to rip your head off, dealing with different personnel groups, getting the play you’ve memorized from the coach, getting everyone lined up properly, and then executing. It’s one of the hardest things to do well on a consistent basis, and the ones who can are pretty special”
When recounting the Super Bowl run, he noted the Saints’ comeback win at Miami as one of the most memorable moments of his broadcasting tenure — “That was when I really began believing this team had a chance to be something special,” he said — and he also recalled fond memories of the pure emotion he saw from players and coaches on the sideline of the Super Bowl when Tracy Porter’s interception of Peyton Manning became reality.
“It was jubilation,” he said. “Those guys knew they had just won the Super Bowl. I’ll never forget after that game, the confetti falling and the celebration ongoing … I ran into Carl Nicks and asked him how he felt, and he says, ‘I’ll tell you how I feel, I’m going to expletive Disney World!’ Then he says, ‘sorry, I shouldn’t have said that.’ But it was great. It’s one of those funny things that sticks out and shows raw emotion.”
For this season, Garic said he expects the offense to continue rolling along and to achieve more balance via the run.
Defensively, he believes Saints fans are in for a treat via the play of rookie linebackers Hau’oli Kikaha and Stephone Anthony, each of whom he feels could be defensive cornerstones for the next few years.
Still, he preaches patience with that side of the ball, which is undergoing a youth movement.
“They’re going to be relying on four or five rookies to play a lot on that side of the ball,” he said. “There will be growing pains, but they’ll be better for it down the line.”
Garic has lived in St. Charles Parish since 2006, calling it a quiet place, but one with a lot of energy about it.
“It just feels like home, almost as soon as you arrive,” he said.
While the Saints’ season could prove to be a winning or losing one, the smart money is on Garic continuing to be the team’s voice from the sideline for many years to come.
“I’ll tell you this, I love what I do. Without a doubt, I have one of the best jobs in all of the Gulf South,” Garic said. “I want to do this forever.”