By Jeff Sherman Staff Writer Published Dec 17, 2001 at 5:59 AM

Bill "The Big Unit" Michaels is a breath of fresh air for Milwaukee radio. Appearing on the scene in March 1999, Michaels brought a humorous, tell-it-like-it-is style to a station that needed a more youthful and fun voice, WTMJ-AM 620.

Unit shook things up a bit at Milwaukee's gold-standard AM and quickly earned a spot as one the city's favorite radio voices.

Michaels hosts 620 WTMJ's popular sports talk show, "Sports Central," weekdays from 6-8 p.m. and also is the host of "Wisconsin Sports Weekend," "Badgers Saturday," "The Greenhouse", "Packers Sunday", "Brewers Roundtable" and "Bucks Central with Coach George Karl."

But the big news for Bill these days is that The Big Unit is getting smaller. He's working hard with his trainer, Gary Jackson, at The Wisconsin Athletic Club and Unit is well on his way to accomplishing his weight loss goal. He began his workouts and diet on November 16 and as of December 5 he had dropped 14 pounds. He wants to drop 130-150 pounds, and has set a goal of shedding 75 pounds by Feb. 16, 2002. sat down with Michaels recently and talked weight loss, sports and life.


OMC: Give us the quick Bill Michaels story. Born where, first job.

BM: I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. My first job in radio was at WRCR in Rushville, Indiana. (A multi-format station including weekend trader radio). My grade school basketball coach yelled at me once for not setting a proper pick . His exact words were, 'You Big Unit, get that big body down on the darn blocks and screen the defender' (at least that's the clean version)....and that's where it started.

OMC: How long have you been doing sports talk?

BM: I have been doing sports talk for almost six years now. I've done it all in radio though -- hard rock, light/easy listening music, country, sex talk, news and sports.

OMC: What were your perceptions of Milwaukee when you moved here?

BM: The reason that Milwaukee was so appealing to me was the fact that, first and foremost, it was still close to my kids in Cincinnati. Secondly, I was familiar with all of the teams...The Brewers were in the NL Central and so were the Reds.

My dad is a huge Bart Starr fan so I grew up watching the Packers every chance we got. I went to Ohio State and obviously have Big 10 ties that would link me to Wisconsin. I also was a huge Cinncinati Cyclones fan and that was my link to the, then, Admirals of the IHL. first real love was basketball. So, with Marquette being in the same conference as Cincinnati, coupled with me following Oscar Robertson and the Bucks...Milwaukee seemed like a natural fit.

Then I visited Milwaukee in January, 1999 and saw all of the snow...I thought forget this! Then I went to interview in Phoenix for a sports talk job there and while playing golf was told not to retrieve an errant shot because of snakes. I thought to myself, "Hey, that snow thing isn't so bad after all."

The city is beautiful and has so much potential. The people welcomed me right away. The lakefront was an attraction since I'm a huge boater. Milwaukee just felt like home.

OMC: What are they now?

BM: It's a city that is struggling to grow but has the will to do so. There is a wonderful life here in the city if you just get out and experience it. Between going to as many sporting events as I can, I love the night life, Water Street, The Third Ward, the new addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum, the great suburban communities and most of all, I love getting to the high school and grade school games. The youth here is great. It's a city that can truly change and grow for the better and will always keep that home town, small town feel.

OMC: So, you want to shed some pounds. What's the plan and incentive?

BM: Yes, the pounds must come off. I need to and want to lose 75 pounds by February 16th, the date of my listener cruise to the Western Caribbean. I was gaining weight at a rapid pace and just felt that I needed to get healty....not to mention, Judy (Michaels' fiancee) and I, casually one day, made a bet that I couldn't do it.

I told her that I knew I could and she said put your money where your mouth is. So we bet a new Lexus SUV. If I lose 75 pounds, I win...not really sure what I win yet but I'll figure something out. If I don't lose 75 pounds by February 16, 2002, she gets a $38,000 SUV. Doesn't seem fair, I know, but I'm confident that I'll do it.

OMC: When were you last at your "playing weight?"

BM: The last time I was at my playing weight, 248 pounds, was probably when I was playing ball in 1986 But I was extremely close and healthy only five years ago at 254 pounds. I was running five miles a day and ran in two mini marathons.

There was another time (1994) when I was extremely heavy (388 pounds) and decided to shed the pounds. I had just had my knee trouble and my son had passed away. I was extremely down and gained weight at a rapid pace. One day, I woke up and felt that enough was enough. So from September 30-December 25th 1994, I dropped 131 pounds. Granted, that wasn't the healthiest way to do it but it was an obsessive concentration on health and fitness that got me there.

OMC: What will be the biggest challenge for you?

BM: The biggest challenge for me is the timing. The holiday season isn't the easiest time to decide to shed weight but if you can just get through it without depriving yourself, you can do it anytime.

OMC: What will you miss the most?

BU: The biggest thing I'll miss is mashed potatoes, second and third helpings. I did enjoy some fast foods but it becomes more of a mentality once you start working out. The best way that I can describe it is this: it's like rebuilding a vintage car. Polishing it up. Waxing the paint. Shining the chrome. You don't then drive it through a mud puddle. You begin to read labels and care about all the hard work that you put into yourself and suddenly a life change comes about.

OMC: Tips or advice for others trying to lose weight?

BU: The best thing I can say to people who want to do it like I am, don't deprive yourself of anything. Just moderate everything. Only eat until you are full then stop. Nothing after 8 p.m.

A lot of water, six to eight glasses or more a day. Try to cut back on the breads and starches (bread, pasta, rice, crackers, cakes, etc.) and your body won't have the fuel to turn calories into fat. But the biggest thing I think is to get up and walk. Just start out walking. A little further each day. Then a little faster. Breathe deep. Feel your stamina grow. Then begin working out with very light weights. Just to tone your muscles.

Walk around the block after your dinner. Move about in your home. Take your stairs two at a time if you can....anything...just move. Suddenly, after a week of feeling miserable and worn out, your body reacts to the exercise and "WOW" your feeling better. Fit. You want more. It's an amazing transformation. If there's anyone that needs an example of how to do it or in need of phone number is always available.

OMC: Will we have to call you the less big unit?:

BM: As for my nickname, at 6'6'' and an anticipated weight of 260 to 270...I don't think that I really have to worry about losing the title "The Big Unit"...maybe it will evolve into "The Healthy Unit."

OMC: Back to sports, how far are the Packers and Bucks going this season?

BM: Last but not least, I keep my fingers crossed everyday for the Packers and the Bucks. I'm a true Wisconsinite...I really seem to live and die with the team's ups and downs. Being a fan is what got me into this business to begin with!

Jeff Sherman Staff Writer

A life-long and passionate community leader and Milwaukeean, Jeff Sherman is a co-founder of OnMilwaukee.

He grew up in Wauwatosa and graduated from Marquette University, as a Warrior. He holds an MBA from Cardinal Stritch University, and is the founding president of Young Professionals of Milwaukee (YPM)/Fuel Milwaukee.

Early in his career, Sherman was one of youngest members of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, and currently is involved in numerous civic and community groups - including board positions at The Wisconsin Center District, Wisconsin Club and Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.  He's honored to have been named to The Business Journal's "30 under 30" and Milwaukee Magazine's "35 under 35" lists.  

He owns a condo in Downtown and lives in greater Milwaukee with his wife Stephanie, his son, Jake, and daughter Pierce. He's a political, music, sports and news junkie and thinks, for what it's worth, that all new movies should be released in theaters, on demand, online and on DVD simultaneously.

He also thinks you should read OnMilwaukee each and every day.