40 Under 40: Cumulus host Josh Ward's sports radio career began in high school

Josh Ward, 33, got a half-decade jump on most radio talent his age.

At a young age he knew he liked sports. He was fascinated by sports media and knew it was a competitive field. Why wait until college or after to get started?

“I do think that I’m in a lucky position to get to come to work and talk about sports every day,” he said.

At 16, he became a producer of the WNML afternoon talk show “Sports Talk” with co-hosts John Wilkerson and Jimmy Hyams. He did it for six years, along with on-air opportunities covering sports for WNML and WIVK.

“If I were to hear what I was like at 16, 17 or 18 years old, it probably would not sound radio worthy,” Ward said. But it was a chance to grow his on-air skills, to try different things.

In 2008, he began hosting Sports 180 on WNML, the top-rated midday sports-talk show in the Knoxville market, covering everything from UT athletics to SEC sports to pro teams. He writes daily stories, plans topics, schedules guests for each show and manages a team.

“The fact that (Cumulus) gave me a chance to prove myself and a chance to grow on the air, I think …that’s an example of me being really lucky,” Ward said.

Today, he’s also the host of Rocky Talk daily podcast covering UT athletics, makes appearances as a sports analyst and a panelist on “The Sports Source” with WATE-TV. He’s been a writer for MrSEC.com and the Knoxville News Sentinel.

“When you meet people that listen to the show and they talk about how they listen every day or they listen every chance they get, or people who tell us that they’re in their car every day … and it helps entertain them in their long drives, that’s a really cool thing, so I try to not take that for granted,” he said.

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