At 50 Years Behind The Mic,
Rusty Hilst Had Fun Calling Blue Dragon Games
It is amazing to think that Rusty Hilst’s broadcast career actually started with the words: “I don’t want to say anything.”
Little did Hilst know at the time, but a fill-in spot to do statistics for a Hutchinson High basketball broadcast would turn into a 50-year broadcast career – that came to a close in 2019 – of calling Hutchinson Community College basketball and football games.
As a member of the Class of 2014, Hilst is the first member of the Hutchinson Community College Quarterback Club Hall of Fame who isn’t a coach, player or administrator.
“I’m a lot better at getting into things than getting out of them,” said Hilst jokingly when asked about calling Blue Dragon games for 45 years at the time of his induction. “It’s fun. There are times when I’m so incredibly busy, I wonder why I’m still doing it. But I’ve gotten really intrigued with athletics over the years, but mostly because this job is still fun.”
Hilst’s career started when Fred Phaby needed a fill-in for a Hutch High-Derby basketball game. Hilst thought he was there to do stats at the request of Hutch High coach Dan Justice.
“I was good friends with Dan and he asked if I could help Fred out at Derby,” Hilst recalled. “I asked ‘what does he want?’ Dan said to keep scorebook. I said ‘I can keep scorebook, but for God’s sake, I don’t want to say anything.’ And that’s how it started.”
Hilst started with KWHK in 1969 and called Blue Dragon games there until 1980. Hilst then went over to KWBW where he teamed up with another long-time Blue Dragon broadcaster in Jerry Kershaw. Hilst and Kershaw were a wildly popular team and that partnership lasted until Kershaw retired in 1995.
For the next few years, Rusty was Blue Dragon football and basketball play-by-play and had several different personalities with him until his current partner, Glen Grunwald started with KWBW in 1998.
Simply known as “Glen and Rusty,” Hilst and Grunwald worked together for 21 years. Hilst was Blue Dragon Football’s play-by-play announcer and analyst for men’s and women’s basketball.
“When you think about it, you have to go way back, but it’s either been Rusty and Jerry or Rusty and Glen,” Grunwald said. “Rusty loves kids and that’s why he’s been at the high school for so long. He also respects the athletes and especially the coaches at the college.”
Consider these numbers when speaking to the longevity of Hilst’s career behind the mic with the Blue Dragons (these numbers are at the time of his retirement:
+ Rusty called 270 Blue Dragon football wins in 492 games called;
+ He has watched Blue Dragon football win four Jayhawk Conference championships and 10 of 16 bowl games;
+ Rusty has called 1,625 Blue Dragon men games, of which 1,248 were Hutchinson wins;
+ He broadcast 22 Jayhawk Conference Championships, 12 Region VI Championship, 15 NJCAA Tournament Appearances and 3 NJCAA National Championships.
Through it all, Rusty has demonstrated professionalism, poise, attention to detail and made sure Blue Dragon fans were entertained throughout all 50 years of broadcasting Hutchinson Community College games.
“I’ve been really lucky in my life that every that I do really has not ever been a job,” Hilst said. “It’s been something that I get paid for and I enjoy doing. There is no real reason to slow down.”
When asked about his favorite broadcast moments with the Blue Dragons, Hilst immediately said the Blue Dragon national championship seasons of 1988 and 1994. When quizzed about the most memorable Blue Dragon players, Hilst mentioned All-American and current NFL player Cordarrelle Patterson and Blue Dragon men’s basjetbakk and current professional player, All-American Kadeem Allen.
“I remember being in the booth with Jerry Kershaw (for the 1988 national championship game) and he’s standing up and screaming, I thought he was going to jump out of the booth a time or two,” Hilst said. “Cordarrelle Patterson is clearly the best HCC players I’ve seen play football and Kadeem Allen is the best basketball player I’ve had the privilege to see.”
Hilst also continued to broadcast Hutchinson High football and boys and girls basketball as broadcast play-by-play announcer as well as assisting with the NJCAA National Basketball Tournament.
When not working with the Blue Dragons or Salthawks or with students in his calculus classes at Hutch High. An avid golfer, Hilst is also a tournament administrator for the Kansas Golf Association and was an integral piece of the team that helped bring the 2014 NCAA Men’s Division I Golf Championships to Prairie Dunes this May.
Hilst was elected to the Kansas Golf Hall of Fame in 2002.