Victor Villalba always has the best seat in the house, and that means what he sees is what you get.
Understand, though, there was no path of least resistance for Villalba from earning a finance degree at Texas Tech University to the bright lights of an NFL broadcast booth where he and his team are generally recognized as the gold standard among Spanish-language broadcasts.
“Victor has an infectious energy,” says longtime friend Chino Chapa. “It goes beyond his booming voice. It's innate to him and he spreads the joy. He invites others to be part of the moment by the way he talks, the words he uses, and frankly, the natural talent he has.”
Villalba may be the best radio play-by-play announcer you've ever heard without realizing that's who you heard. His scintillating play-calling sometimes makes its way onto national television broadcasts, giving the huge audience breathtaking snippets of what's happening on the field of play. Villalba appreciates the unique perspective he has and treats it with unabashed humility and respect.
For the past two decades, he has been the voice of the Dallas Cowboys on the team's Spanish broadcasts. For nearly as long, he has done the same thing for the NBA's Dallas Mavericks.
“Victor has been a staple not only of Mavericks broadcasts, but as a connection to Spanish-speaking Mavs fans everywhere,” says Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. “He has been an important part of who the Mavs are in the community and on the air.”
Villalba's journey is a tapestry of talent, passion, perseverance and unwavering attention to the smallest of details. Put it all together, and you have a consummate professional who can look back at life without regret and look forward to the promise of the future with equal enthusiasm.
“Every broadcaster who ends up getting a gig and having it for a period of time has a story to tell,” Villalba said. “I don't think anyone just ends up in the position of play-by-play announcer for a major league team. I'd like to think that I'm worth my salt from the standpoint of having been with the Cowboys and Mavericks for some time now.”
Indeed, Villalba has an inspirational story replete with twists, turns and unexpected bumps along the way. It is also filled with career successes and mountaintop moments that accrue from devoting significant chunks of his life to television broadcasting and public relations.
It was while pursuing his finance degree that his true talent originally might have been identified.
“I remember taking a multimedia class and the teacher telling me that I should look into multimedia because they thought I had something,” he said. “I went home and told my dad, and he said, ‘What you need to do is get your degree in business and then go do whatever you want.”'
And so, what eventually has become a remarkable broadcasting career all began in a seemingly unlikely way following his graduation from Texas Tech with a degree from what is now known as the Jerry S. Rawls College of Business.
“I was definitely immersed in the Texas Tech experience,” he said. “I remember it as a really good time. I lived in Murdough Hall, and my senior year I was part of the soccer club that we had in the old Southwest Conference.
“Lubbock was a town where you could find a lot of things to do. It has everything you need, and it doesn't have the things that maybe you don't need. I had a lot of friends, and all things considered, I was able to get out in four years and move on.”
Villalba grew up in Mexico City, the son of Colombian parents, and moved to Monterrey, Mexico, prior to his freshman year of high school. His initial exposure to Texas Tech came because of his older brother, who walked on to the Red Raider baseball team under former longtime head coach Kal Segrist.
“We went to visit one time and surprised him by showing up at the game,” Villalba recalled. “And eventually he convinced me to go there. I had some other college options because I was a good student, but Texas Tech was a very good school, and I was accepted. Then my brother decided to transfer out the next semester and moved to Dallas.”
Victor stayed at Texas Tech, thoroughly focused on earning his undergraduate degree and then deciding to move to the Dallas area after graduation. His brother was already there, but employment opportunities were challenging. After a few jobless months, he packed up and moved to Pennsylvania, where his father was working for York Air Conditioning.
“I ended up in Pennsylvania for a little while,” he said, “and I was thinking about going to New York City to see what I might find there. Then I met a gentleman who worked as a stockbroker looking to grow the insurance side of his book, and he was looking to bring someone in as an assistant. It wouldn't just be filing things and stuff like that. I would also work on getting my insurance license.”
For a time, Villalba worked in the insurance business and had enough success that he decided to move back and build a career in Dallas, where he went to work for a large firm – and experienced a difficult time getting comfortable.
“I was young and was expected to contact people and talk to them about their money and those kinds of things,” he said. “I was there for a while, but it was just not the right time there for me.”
Instead, the time was right for a course correction, one of several Villalba would make while navigating a rewarding career that ultimately brought him to the sports world.
“He's successful because he has earned it, and even after so much success, he respects others,” said Chapa, a fellow Texas Tech alumnus. “Victor is special, but he treats everyone with humility and respect.”
Villalba transitioned out of the brokerage business and took a job as corporate treasurer for an international company based in Monterrey following a tip from his father-in-law.
“They needed someone who was in finance and who was bilingual,” he said. “I went down there, interviewed and got the job. It was the late 1980s, and that was a really, really cool time there. I got to do a lot of fun things working as treasurer of a multibillion-dollar company and got to watch it grow.”
Still, though, Villalba wanted more out of life. This chapter delivered more than a little personal satisfaction, but he thought once again about perhaps finding a path into the world of sports.
“I have always been a big football fan,” he said. “I used to hang out with my wife's cousin, and we would sit down, watch football and act like we were calling the games. I had always watched sports. I can remember watching big fights, the Super Bowl and World Series.”
In those early days of U.S. sports broadcasts in Mexico, the audience could hear both the English and Spanish announcers.
“They couldn't split the audio signal,” Villalba said. “Being a kid who went to an American school and grew up speaking English and Spanish, it was really cool. I would watch these sporting events and hear the English broadcast under the Spanish. It was like listening to them at the same time. It might sound like it was cacophonous, but that's just the way it was then.”
At that time, there was a television station broadcasting weekly NFL games in Monterrey, taking the U.S. signal and rebroadcasting it locally. Working through his contacts, Villalba inquired about possibly helping with the TV broadcasts, but was told there wasn't an opening. However, they were looking for someone to handle the radio version of the rebroadcast.
He landed an audition for the job with Rafael Carreon, who oversaw production of the radio broadcasts. He sat down with Villalba, put a game tape on and told him to provide commentary for what he was hearing. In less than 30 seconds, Villalba had the job.
“He puts in a tape of a game and wants me to audition by announcing in Spanish what I'm seeing,” Villalba remembered. “And I just started going in Spanish, and this guy goes, ‘OK, OK, you're in.'”
It was an early indication of one of Villalba's strengths – perfectly describing what is unfolding in front of him with accurate, on-the-spot passion and doing so in real time.
“Victor is a very spontaneous person,” said Luis Perez, who has worked with Villalba as part of the Cowboys' Spanish-language broadcast team for 20 seasons. “In this business, more than anything, you need the ability to be spontaneous with your thoughts and words. The way you articulate it has to entertain people. Radio gives you the chance to describe what you see with your vocabulary, and Victor is a quick thinker on his feet.”
It was the opening Villalba needed. It led to hosting a call-in radio show on a local station and soon providing play-by-play for local college games. Still, the sports gigs were secondary because he was serving as corporate treasurer to the Mexico-based company.
“I was having fun with it, but there came a moment where I was feeling stagnant,” he said. “I didn't see much future where I was for a lot of reasons. My wife and I prayed about it, and I just decided I was going to Dallas and would find work in TV, radio or wherever.”
He moved back to Dallas, found a job at a local television affiliate and also was hired by the FleishmanHilliard public relations firm. That is where he and Chapa originally crossed paths.
“When he decided to change careers and join the marketing and communications side, I encouraged him to join me at FleishmanHilliard,” Chapa said. “It is one of the largest PR firms in the country. We worked together for several years, scoring many wins for clients while enjoying being coworkers.”
During his first year at the firm, Villalba met Mario Montes, a television sports anchor who handled Cowboys Spanish-language broadcasts at the time.
“I told him I had done football before and if he ever needed someone to let me know,” Villalba said. “I didn't think much about it at the time. I just kept on in what I was doing, but one day in 1995, I was called and asked if I would like to help them out with some of the Cowboys' games.”
Villalba's skills and work on that first game between the Cowboys and Atlanta Falcons impressed enough that he was asked to stay on as the analyst for the team's home games through the NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers.
It wasn't a terrible time to be covering the Cowboys as it was one of the team's most successful runs in franchise history with three Super Bowl victories in four years. The 1995 season culminated with Dallas defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XXX in Arizona.
When the group controlling the Cowboys' Spanish-language broadcast rights changed after that season, Victor was asked back for the 1996 season and the early part of 1997. It was then he was approached by representatives from a Hispanic marketing firm and asked to serve as vice president of public relations.
“I moved my family from The Woodlands to Los Angeles,” he said. “And we were in L.A. for four years. I'm glad my kids were able to get a sense of what L.A. is all about. The company was a very novel concept, but it just didn't work out.”
For the first time in a long time, Villalba was unemployed. However, he had kept the lines of communication open with the Cowboys, who were in a transitional process of their own.
“At that time, the Cowboys were looking to bring a lot of what they were doing in terms of broadcasting and marketing in-house,” he said. “I still had a relationship with them from when I left, so I was offered the opportunity to go back.”
It was the right decision at the right time for Villalba and the Cowboys. He joined the operation in time to cover the team's training camp in San Antonio prior to the start of the 2002 season.
“I did the training camp and then the season started,” he remembered. “I was doing color commentary for the Cowboys on the radio, co-hosting and co-producing the TV show. I was helping out, doing a lot of different things.”
Then came 2003, which is when the Cowboys decided to place all aspects of the team's marketing efforts under the umbrella of internal operations.
“Based on the changes they were making and the decisions the team made leading up to then, they not only offered me the chance to do play-by-play,” he said, “but also to figure out who I wanted to have as a sidekick in the booth and handle affiliate relations.”
Villalba has been a Cowboys fixture ever since. Cowboys radio broadcasts can be heard in the Lubbock area on KXTQ (106.5 FM).
“Victor Villalba is well known by our fans as the Spanish-language voice of the Dallas Cowboys and has been a treasured part of this organization since he joined our team in 1996,” said Jerry Jones Jr., the team's chief sales and marketing officer/executive vice president. “His talent and skills are always on display as a valued member of our play-by-play team in the Spanish radio booth.
“But he has also enhanced our team's brand by managing the Dallas Cowboys Spanish-language radio and television affiliates, which has grown to over 30 affiliates throughout the southwest through his hard work and relationships. We are tremendously honored and grateful to have someone of Victor's charisma, dedication and loyalty not only to the Dallas Cowboys, but to each and every one of our fans as well.”
During these past two decades, Villalba has watched as the Cowboys, one of the NFL's most revered and recognized brands, have continued to expand their reach and fanbase.
“There was a point early where I was basically doing everything,” he said. “But that was invaluable from the standpoint of understanding the functions of a sports franchise.”
His all-around, on-the-spot efforts have not gone unnoticed by the Cowboys.
“Victor has been a tremendous resource and friend over the past 15 years that I have worked with him,” said Brad Burlingame, senior director of corporate partnerships sales and service for the Cowboys. “His passion is second to none, and without his ability to connect with the Hispanic fan base we would not be where we are.”
In addition to the Sunday broadcast, Villalba and his team host weekly shows and monthly specials. They also manage Spanish-language social media platforms.
“I like to think that I have played a part of getting to the point where the Dallas Cowboys, when it comes to Spanish language, are recognized as the gold standard,” he said. “I am not saying that myself. I have heard people who listen to our broadcast say that.”
Villalba has had a huge hand in helping the Cowboys consistently expand their reach into the growing Hispanic market.
“Victor Villalba has been an integral part of this organization for well over 20 years,” said Scott Purcel, the Cowboys' director of broadcasting. “While Victor is the Spanish voice of the Dallas Cowboys radio and television, he is also an integral part of our English broadcasting, voicing many commercials for English Radio Broadcast as well as managing our ever-growing Dallas Cowboys Spanish-language radio and television affiliates.”
Villalba's reputation for excellence played a large part in how he landed the Mavericks' job, and it is also why he gets the call as the public-address announcer for high-profile events at AT&T Stadium in Arlington like a recent soccer match between Spanish powerhouses Barcelona and Real Madrid. Over the years, he also served as the first PA announcer for the Dallas Burn of Major League Soccer and the LA Galaxy at the Rose Bowl.
“I have other responsibilities that I handle with the Cowboys, but with the Mavericks I basically only do games,” he said. “I have also done a couple of soccer games at AT&T Stadium, which has been great, and then the Mavericks' gig came along.”
When the professional football and basketball seasons overlap beginning in October, Villalba's first priority is the Cowboys, so he manages the conflicts.
“I've been able to make it work,” he said. “I have people who will sit in for me when there is a conflict and I handle the Cowboys, whether they're at home or on the road. The Mavericks have been a great experience. They've gone to the finals. They've won a championship, and I've had the opportunity to see those things.”
Villalba downplays the verbal skills and gifts that have helped him stand out from the crowd, but those who have worked with him through the years know he's something special behind the microphone.
“I've never met anyone who can do it the way Victor does,” said Perez, who along with producer Manny Bazan and engineer Ivan Zuniga bring broadcasts to life each week. “The way he responds. The way he is able to recognize what's going on in the game and also be able to call the play is an ability a lot of people don't have. And then to have the pipes to do it. Because you can be a quick thinker and all that and not have the voice. He is golden. In my opinion, Victor is the best NFL Spanish play-by-play broadcaster in the United States.”
That's high praise for someone who has time after time made the most of every opportunity that's come along. Villalba may not have seen himself as a professional sports announcer all those years ago, but he saw himself doing important work that would inspire others.
“I see an opportunity, especially for those interested in sports media, to become part of a new paradigm in Spanish language sports marketing in the U.S.,” he said. “Many teams have Spanish properties across the spectrum of leagues and conferences, but there is a moment when the mere existence of Spanish media can and will go from promotional to commercial.”
He and his team have seen it firsthand with the Cowboys, who have committed resources to establish numerous points of contact for Spanish-speaking fans. Radio broadcasts differ from the national television counterparts in important ways because they are the property of the team (rather than the league).
“All of the teams have a commitment to Spanish broadcasts,” Perez said. “But nobody has the commitment the Cowboys have and the resources they provide us. The fact we can get on the charter and travel with the team, the access we have to players and facilities, the digital presence, our own website. No one has done it the way Mr. (Cowboys owner Jerry) Jones has.”
Villalba and his team have worked diligently to connect Cowboys fans to the team through their broadcasts and other means of engagement.
“Victor has a passion for this craft,” said Bazan, who produces each week's Spanish-language programming. “He puts those broadcast headsets on, and he is all in on entertaining the audience. You are truly going on an emotional roller coaster ride with our broadcast.”
It's been an amazing ride as far as Villalba is concerned, and it's still not over. Like all of those fans he treats to play-by-play of their heroes' every move on the field, he'd like to see another Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl win.
“I still have a few chapters to write,” he said. “I think things might have been different if I had dedicated myself to doing what at the end of the day is a real gift. The gift is to be able to start talking without knowing what you're going to say and let it rip.
“I've been able to do that in Spanish. As a matter of fact, I've worked on the English side too and done a number of Maverick games to fill in. I've had the opportunity to work with the great Brad Davis (former Mavs player and current broadcaster). It's not all a dream-come-true thing because I feel like I'm good at this, and it feels natural.”
That's not bravado talking. It's simply the way Villalba approaches what he does. He is a professional who gets to do something a lot of people dream of. A lot of experiences have shaped him from parental influences to the various jobs he's held through the years.
“I want people to be entertained by my play-by-play,” he said. “I've been able to do this for a long time, and I've been able to meet a lot of interesting people as a result of what I get to do. I want to let my work speak for me.”
Toward that end, Villalba believes Texas Tech, which became a Hispanic Serving Institute in 2019, is a place where students can get hands-on training and classroom experiences that will prepare them for careers like his.
“There is now a platform for Spanish-speaking students to begin a renaissance in Spanish broadcasting,” he said, “understanding they are now the generation that can and will take this platform to levels not just of being on the air but of monetization that up to now had not been possible for a variety of reasons.”
For as long as he can, Villalba will continue to set the bar high for the competition, working hard, preparing thoroughly and injecting a fan's passion into a job he is proud and humbled to do.
“The thing about broadcasting is you can either do it or you can't,” he said. “And if you can do it, you're only going to get better. And the only way you get better is by really understanding and paying attention and working at it. Everyone has their own style, and that's what you have to find.”
And when that happens, you've found your way to the best seat in the house.
“We are the four lucky guys in the world who get to do this,” Perez, his sidekick in the booth, said. “We're not going to cut corners. We are like four little kids having a great time, and we love what we do.”
Each member of Villalba's team feels the same way, sharing sentiments that they understand what a special operation they have built together.
“I wouldn't say we have a team,” Zuniga said. “I would say we have a family. We have a brotherhood that I have not experienced anywhere else. Just like a family, we have ups and downs, but that's what makes our family great because no matter what, we know we can depend on each other with anything that is happening.”
That's why Villalba packs up his bags and goes to work every day.
“I am surrounded by good people and doing something that really invigorates me,” he said. “I have this great job and I get to do it.”