That booming, baritone voice, was similar to that of the legendary John Facenda of NFL Films.

When John Backlund was on the public address system for Brainerd Warriors football, volleyball, boys and girls basketball and baseball games and wrestling meets you probably never had to turn to the person sitting next to you and ask, "What did he say?" That voice had such volume that you couldn't help but hear it loud and clear.

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Backlund, the Voice of the Warriors for about four decades, died of a heart attack early Wednesday morning at the age of 67. Funeral services are scheduled for 2 p.m. Jan. 10 in the Brainerd High School gym.

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Funeral services for John Backlund are scheduled for 2 p.m. Jan. 10 in the Brainerd High School gym.

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Warriors activities director Charlie Campbell said he never had to wonder if Backlund was going to report for duty.

"John was one of those guys that when I came here (in the fall of 2011) you didn't worry about him because he was so reliable," Campbell said. "It was so important to him to be the voice of the Warriors and that was so reassuring to me. There are so many moving parts in an athletic department and I didn't have to worry about that one. That was always such a luxury for me from an athletic administration standpoint.

"Then to get to know John as fun and kind and the fact he's been doing this long enough and doing it in such a good way that people from other communities would come and they too would look forward to seeing John and hearing his voice-you knew that's what you were going to get when you came to Brainerd. I think that was pretty special."

Backlund also stepped in at events that needed a public address announcer.

"He pitched in and did one of our track meets last year with our new track," Campbell said. "John just knew how to do it. He just had confidence behind the microphone. Some people are willing to help and do anything but when you say 'I need you to announce' they're like 'No way.'

"John just had great confidence. Even if he was not 100-percent sure how it went, like with track, he would jump in and do it and he always did it well."

Backlund retired May 31, 2005, from teaching mathematics in the Brainerd school system for more than 30 years. He coached various sports at various levels. He was inducted into the Warrior Athletics Hall of Fame in 2013.

"John was among the cadre of middle school coaches who served so willingly and effectively for so very many, many years," former Warriors athletic director and current Warriors football coach Ron Stolski said. "But he may best be remembered as the voice of the Warriors. That voice will always remain in our hearts, that baritone voice, that 'Now for the Warriors' or 'Here are your Warriors.' That will always be remembered and probably more importantly be cherished."

Backlund will also be remembered by those working at press row and by visiting game officials for bringing a bag stuffed with candy and sharing it with everyone.

It's just too bad that those attending Warrior events will never again hear his signature closing statement at the end of a contest: "Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming and have a safe trip-on your way home."

 

MIKE BIALKA may be reached at mike.bialka@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5861. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bertsballpark .