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How is Dick Vitale feeling ahead of ESPN return? 'I’m back to being me again'

USA TODAY SPORTS 11/15/2022 Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY

Dick Vitale has no off-switch.

On his way to hit tennis balls for the first time in over a year near his house in Lakewood Ranch, Florida, the 83-year-old said he’s feeling extra "youthful" this fall.

"I finally feel like I’m back to being me again," Vitale told USA TODAY Sports. "Instead of 83, I feel like I’m 23. I just have to avoid a mirror, that’s all."

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The legendary announcer has no plans to retire as the most recognizable voice of men’s college basketball. He’s signed to an unofficial lifetime contract with ESPN. The "awesome, baby" and "diaper dandy" sayings that he’s made famous over the last four decades won’t be going anywhere in 2022-23.

Vitale is poised to return to the broadcasting sidelines Tuesday for the Kentucky-Michigan State game at the Champions Classic in Indianapolis after a grueling battle with cancer throughout 2022 caused him to miss most of last season. Bouts with lymphoma and melanoma saw him lose his signature voice. He was limited to conversing with others via a dry-erase white board.

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With his wife, Lorraine, and two daughters, Terri and Sherri, by his side, Vitale rang the cancer-free bell this past summer and has been resting up – trusting doctors’ orders – so he can call big games on ESPN over a long five-month season. Vitale worked several games to start last season, while undergoing chemotherapy, before having to step away and focus on his health.

"I can’t wait to get back, to be honest with you, it’s going to energize me even more," said Vitale.

"ESPN will have me start slow, one game a week, then maybe two later on so I can be there throughout the season. I’ve already won my national championship by getting cancer free. Everything else I do now will be a victory on top."

There were times during his cancer treatment, lying alone in hospital beds once his family left the room, where Vitale said his usually positive thoughts would naturally drift toward the negative and he didn’t think he’d get to the stage he’s at now.

"It’s been a tough year, I can’t hide it," he said. "But I know many people have it a hell of a lot tougher than me. I got a vision of what others go through with the scans, the blood work, the chemotherapy and all the doctors. It’s made me more obsessed than ever with helping kids who go through this."

Vitale said passion for college basketball comes a distant second to his main purpose in raising funds for pediatric cancer, his own battle intensifying his passion in helping cancer-stricken children and their families. Vitale’s 18th annual Gala, benefitting the V Foundation, is slated for May 5, 2023 in Sarasota, Florida.

"We may not solve this problem (of curing cancer) in my lifetime, but I won’t rest," Vitale said. "You can’t roll over when you hear those words.

"My message to people battling this disease is to be active mentally and physically. You’ve got to fight."

ESPN broadcaster Dick Vitale enjoys a moment with Michigan fans prior to the start of the team's game against Loyola-Chicago in the 2019 men's basketball Final Four. at Alamodome. © Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY Sports ESPN broadcaster Dick Vitale enjoys a moment with Michigan fans prior to the start of the team's game against Loyola-Chicago in the 2019 men's basketball Final Four. at Alamodome.

In his speech accepting the Jimmy V Perseverance Award at this 2022 ESPY Awards this past summer, Vitale spoke of his late friend, Jim Valvano, and how he inspired generations for his speech that encouraged those battling cancer to "never give up."

Dispatching any off-switch in his personal, fundraising and professional life, Vitale has continued to take Valvano’s advice to heart.

"Dick’s career has been about catchphrases and he’s known for what he’s meant to college basketball, but I feel his true calling has been raising money for cancer with these kids,” Baylor coach Scott Drew told USA TODAY Sports. “What he’s doing for these kids defines him as a man.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: How is Dick Vitale feeling ahead of ESPN return? 'I’m back to being me again'

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