As much as famous broadcasters like Howard Cosell and Don Meredith were identified with “Monday Night Football,” now too is Hank Williams Jr., the 62-year-old country star who popularized the lyrics “Are you ready for some football?”
Williams originally signed a one-year contract to be a part of the production in 1989.
His song “All My Rowdy Friends Are Here on Monday Night,” is a remixed version of his 1984 hit song “All My Rowdy Friends are Coming Over Tonight.” The retooled version of the song won him four Emmy Awards in the early 1990s as the opening theme to “Monday Night Football.”
“You think about it, 22 years, there’s a whole generation of kids that are just getting out of college that don’t know ‘Monday Night Football’ without Hank Williams Jr.,” said Bob Toms, an ESPN vice president who was with ABC when Williams was initially hired. “That song has become an anthem and that line has become the catchphrase that says Monday night. Hank’s face and outfit, etc., kind of says ‘Monday Night Football’ to a lot of people.”
ABC last produced the show for network television in 2005 before handing it over to fellow Walt Disney Company property ESPN full-time for the 2006 season. It was a seismic shift for a show that thrived outside of cable television for 35 years.
“I’m the only one, everybody else is gone. The true ABC Monday Night Football — they’re gone,” Williams said.
He said he hasn’t always been a fan of all the bells and whistles that have been tried during his tenure.
“I’m not gonna name any names, but when they used some of those other things … some of the hosts they had — it didn’t go over,” Williams said. “But it’s still great, no matter if they have Frank (Gifford) or Al or Mike Tirico hosting.”
Toms said it isn’t lost on anyone involved with the production of the show that the sight of Williams enlivens their football spirit, in the wake of a four-month contract dispute.
“I think the line ‘Are you ready for some football’ means more this year than it has in a lot of years,” Toms said. “And when he says ‘Are you ready for some football?’ I think a lot of people are ready to stop the business discussion, and start talking about teams, games, talent, and get into the fun part about football and the part we all love about it.”
No matter when the next Monday night game is broadcast, Williams said he will be watching from the comfort of his couch at one of his homes — in Montana, Alabama and Florida. He said he plans to keep enjoying his job, for as long as he has it.
“I don’t run to the TV anymore, I just wait for one of my kids to say ‘Daddy, you’re on!’ ” Williams said. “The people I’ve worked with over the years, they know where I’m coming from and it’s been a wonderful ride. And hopefully it’s been very good for the game.”