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JJ Jansen heads to the radio booth for inaugural Keep Pounding High School Classic

JJ Jansen

CHARLOTTE – He's the steady long snapper going into his 15th year here, and he holds the record for all-time games played with the Panthers.

He's often roaming around after practice with a microphone on, interviewing his teammates for the “Cart Talk” series.

He played the director in the Panthers’ show-biz themed schedule release video this year.

And he's the kind of guy who loves a good talk by the coffee machine, in the locker room, or anywhere he finds people.

JJ Jansen is about to add a new skill to his deep repertoire, serving as a color analyst for the Panthers' radio broadcast of the first-ever high school football game played at Bank of America Stadium this weekend.

Images from the inaugural Keep Pounding High School Classic Press Conference at Bank of America Stadium, which will feature Rock Hill’s Northwestern High School of Rock Hill versus Charlotte’s Providence Day School.

"It's a thrill for me," Jansen said. "I'm really excited about it. (It's) something I'm really interested in for when I'm done playing, so a great opportunity. It all worked out, right? We have an off day; it's 20 minutes from my house. There's a lot of things that really came together. So it's a cool opportunity."

The inaugural Keep Pounding High School Classic features two prep superpowers in the Northwestern Trojans (Rock Hill, S.C.) and the Providence Day Chargers (Charlotte) and will be played 7 p.m. Saturday at Bank of America Stadium.

Jansen will accompany play-by-play announcer Brian Hall for the iHeart broadcast, which will air on Hits 96.1 FM. iHeart, the official flagship station of the Carolina Panthers airing all Panthers programming on WRFX 99.7 FM, partnered with the team to provide listeners the game broadcast of the Keep Pounding High School Classic on Hits 96.1 FM. The game will also be broadcast on 100.1 WRHI-FM in Rock Hill. The matchup will be streamed on WMYT-TV in Charlotte.

Jansen said broadcasting is something he's always enjoyed, and the interest has continued to grow within the last four to five years as he considered what he'd like to do after football.

Johnny Hekker, Carla Gebhart, JJ Jansen

"I want to keep taking some steps because I enjoy it," Jansen said. "I like watching the games. I like talking about what's happening, explaining things, and hopefully educating fans on not only what's happening, but maybe why something's going on, so you get a little bit smarter as a fan.

"And I've just enjoyed learning, not only the process of broadcasting, but also learning football. You get to watch more games and talk about it, think about things that are happening on the field, you learn a lot personally. So all of those things kind of come together and makes this a fun thing to continue to learn and educate myself on."

Seeing his former teammates get into the broadcast side of the sport has also inspired Jansen.

Former linebacker Luke Kuechly got in the booth for a handful of Panthers games last season. Greg Olsen, the former tight end who has quickly risen to one of the NFL's top color analysts with Fox, called Super Bowl LVII with Kevin Burkhardt last February, and won a Sports Emmy this spring.

Jansen said he worked closely with Olsen throughout last year's playoffs up to when he called the Super Bowl, going through prep work and learning how the broadcast came together.

One of Olsen's top tips to Jansen came to light in this year's NFC title game when San Francisco quarterback Brock Purdy sustained an injury, switching up the storyline.

JJ Jansen, Greg Olsen

"The number one thing that he's shared with me is you've got to call the game that's being played," Jansen said. "There's all these storylines, but you still have to call the game that's being played. You prepare for maybe a quarterback to have a big game; all of a sudden, it turns into a running game.

"The San Francisco-Philly game, Brock Purdy's a huge storyline. He gets hurt. Well, in the middle of the second quarter, you can't talk about throwing the ball anymore if you're San Francisco. So learning how to prepare for a lot of stuff, but then still call the game."

Jansen also said he'd look to pick up Olsen's ability to educate fans as the game goes on, explaining why a play broke down the way it did or why a particular team is having such success.

Jansen's a natural fit for the booth, as he's already gotten to show his interviewing chops in "Cart Talk," taking rides and talking with teammates, such as Adam Thielen, Hayden Hurst, and Sam Franklin Jr.

Jansen said he enjoyed being interviewed on former iterations of the series, and he was excited to help bring it back to hone in on his skills while also introducing his teammates to the fanbase.

"There are so many cool benefits," Jansen said of the series. "But ultimately, it was selfishly to work on my interview skills and get a little bit better, and hopefully, to the benefit of the city, it's get to know our new players. Because we've got a great environment with a bunch of great people, so slowly but surely, hopefully (we) peel back the onion of who this group of guys is."

As for this weekend's radio debut, Jansen will have two teams coming off state championship appearances, as Northwestern made it to their title game last year, and Providence Day is in pursuit of its third state title in a row.

Jansen said he'd expect to dive into heavy prep work before the game, learning the roster, analyzing the teams' top college prospects, and talking with head coaches Page Wofford (Northwestern) and Chad Grier (Providence Day).

"Hopefully this is something we can build on, tradition-wise, through the Panthers and the city of Charlotte," Jansen said. "One of the really cool benefits of the stadium is the ability to, obviously, put on NFL games, college games, now expand it to high school. I would have loved to have had this opportunity as a high school kid playing. …

"To be able to add in the opportunity for these kids to play here. I think not enough can be said about David and Nicole Tepper. Putting this on, understanding that's such a big part, not only for the community, but also growing kids up in the football, which helps high school football, college football, the NFL. And then just the opportunity to be able to call this and be a part of it. It'll be such a cool, different perspective for me. I'm looking forward to it."

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There will be plenty of firsts during the inaugural Keep Pounding High School Classic. Jansen will take his first journey up to the radio booth in Bank of America Stadium, getting a different look at the field he's called home for so long.

"I've never been up there, so this will be a brand new perspective," Jansen said. "Working with Greg a little bit, I've seen a few games from up in the booth and kind of that perspective, but obviously, it's very different. Being the guy with the headset on, that will be a completely different sort of perspective and challenge. So that'll be a lot of fun.

"This is a new thing, and I want to see how good I can get at this. But there's very much learning (to do), and I imagine that learning process will take many, many years. So the opportunity to keep playing, and play for another four or five years here, and then keep getting these opportunities along the way, will be a cool deal for me."

View photos from Monday's event as Panthers coach Frank Reich met with Northwestern's Page Wofford and Providence Day's Chad Grier to officially announce this year's high school football matchup at Bank of America Stadium in the fall.

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