The talent merry-go-round is spinning again at 104.3 The Fan. The Denver sports-talk station, which has led the ratings race in key demographics for years, has introduced its third afternoon-drive lineup in less than a year, with mainstay Darren "D-Mac" McKee now joined by a pair of former Denver Broncos: ex-safety Nick Ferguson and onetime O-lineman Tyler Polumbus.
As we first reported in August, station operatives believe the triumvirate represents a national sports-radio first: the only show in the country built around an offensive and defensive player for the same NFL franchise. "I'm looking forward to it," McKee says of the trio approach to The Drive, which made its debut yesterday, October 8. "It's a very positive thing."
If the roster sticks, it will be even better, since stability in the slot has been tough to come by since late February, when former CU Buffs and Denver Broncos star Alfred Williams, McKee's partner for well over a decade, announced that he would be leaving the Fan in favor of KOA, the flagship of iHeartRadio's local division. Williams debuted alongside new wingman J.J. Turnbeaugh last month, after burning off a six-month non-compete clause in his contract.
In the meantime, the Fan paired McKee and Broncos Ring of Famer Tom Nalen this past April with the idea of building another long-term franchise. But that plan went kaboom around six weeks ago, when Nalen revealed that he'd be moving back to his home state of Massachusetts for personal reasons — though he stuck around for what's turned out to be a dreadful start of the season for the Broncos.
Nalen's exit was a blow to D-Mac, whose on-air relationship with the former center "goes back to the late ’90s, when he was a regular on our KBPI show," he notes. "I think he's just an incredible guy, but he needs to do what's best for him and his family. That absolutely comes first, and I respect his decision — and he's proven to be a stand-up guy. I hope I'm friends with him for a long, long time, and if he chooses to continue existing in the sports-talk world, I have no doubt he'd be incredible in the Boston area."
Still, Nalen's departure necessitated another scramble drill at the Fan, with Polumbus quickly emerging as the top option. He'd been a staffer at Orange and Blue Radio 760 ("All Broncos, All the Time") for iHeart. But when the station was euthanized in July to make room for Freedom 93.7, an AM/FM tandem focused on conservative talk to which syndicated star Rush Limbaugh was shifted after the Williams acquisition, Polumbus became the odd man out. And while his own non-compete clause prevented him from immediately jumping to the Fan, the modest amount of time he was required to sit on the sidelines had him available to join up in the fall.
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D-Mac describes himself as a longtime admirer of Polumbus. "On his retirement from football, Tyler put a post on Facebook that was eloquent, elegant — everything the Andrew Luck retirement wasn't," he recalls. "I'd already known Tyler just in terms of interviewing football players, having people on, and after he posted that, we had him on the air, and he was great."
Following that appearance, D-Mac continues, "I reached out to Tyler on social media and said, 'Listen, I think you're incredibly talented, and if you're interested in radio, let me know.' The next day, Tyler got back to me and said, 'I'd love to get together.' A couple of days after that, we had a great lunch, and then Tyler talked to Armen [Williams, the station's program director at the time]. We had the need for a fill-in, and Tyler did it and was amazing. He literally changed his life within three days, going from a football player to a broadcaster, and he was good immediately. It was actually pretty remarkable that somebody could be that good that quick." The demise of Orange and Blue 760 made Polumbus available when Nalen decided to split, "and everybody understood the opportunity and was thrilled to welcome him back," he adds.
D-Mac has considerably less history with the other new recruit. During much of Ferguson's 2003-2007 run with the Broncos, "I was working in Colorado Springs or on KOA doing news talk, not sports," he recalls. "So I didn't really know Nick until he started working here. But he has a relentless amount of enthusiasm and is fun to be around. He's always in a good mood and incredibly energetic." He's also "relatively young in the local talk-radio world, and he's full of ideas: 'Hey, how about this?' or 'How about that?' It's refreshing. We spent time broadcasting in Canton," during the Hall of Fame game that served as the Broncos' pre-season opener, "and he was terrific."
The Drive is heard weekdays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.