iHeartMedia, the No. 1 podcast publisher globally, and McClatchy, a leading local media company with 30 newsrooms across the country, today announced “Return Man,” a new narrative podcast investigating the mysterious death of former pro-football player Jim Duncan. The first episode of the eight-part series will be available January 26, distributed through the iHeartPodcast Network and available on iHeartRadio and wherever listeners get their favorite podcasts. The remaining seven episodes will post weekly each Tuesday beginning February 2. Listen to the trailer now.
Duncan was drafted by the Baltimore Colts in 1968, nearly two decades before the team moved to Indianapolis. According to the official account of his death, he entered the Lancaster, S.C., police station on the morning of October 20, 1972. Police said the 26-year-old Duncan walked up behind a lieutenant, and without saying a word ripped the officer’s revolver from his holster, stepped back, and shot himself in the head. For half a century, his family and an entire community have searched for answers.
Duncan was an NFL star as a kickoff return man and defensive back for the Baltimore Colts. He led the league in kickoff return yards in 1970, and that same season helped lead the Colts to the Super Bowl title. Two years later, authorities say, Duncan died by suicide inside the police station of his small hometown of Lancaster, S.C. “Return Man” is based on the reporting of Bret McCormick, former sports editor for McClatchy’s Rock Hill, S.C. news outlet, The Herald. In addition to the podcast, The Herald has created a seven-part text series and short documentary video about the case.
“Even though he died nearly 50 years ago, Duncan’s death and the events that followed remain relevant in light of current events,” said McCormick, who also narrates all eight half-hour episodes. “Officials seemed to wall off any hope of finding out exactly what happened on that day. And for decades, the remarkable life and perplexing death of Lancaster’s only Super Bowl champion has been almost completely erased from the town’s history.”
And, there was never any charge of wrongdoing.
“This investigation represents a significant investment for our small but ambitious newsroom, while also demonstrating the power and importance of local journalism,” said Cliff Harrington, Executive Editor of The Herald. “Bret’s dogged determination and perseverance are emblematic of the way The Herald has proudly served our community for almost 150 years.”
“The depth of reporting presented in ‘Return Man’ is what makes this podcast and ‘Longshot’ series so powerful,” said Kristin Roberts, McClatchy’s Senior Vice President, News. “The listener hears directly from Mr. Duncan’s family, his coaches and his neighbors. We hear their voices tell the stories of his life. And through them, we take a journey that grapples with the great unanswered questions surrounding the death of a man who was both local hero and a national athlete. We look forward to working with iHeartMedia to bring this important local story to listeners nationwide.”
“This is an exciting collaboration with one of the country’s premier local media companies that has a rich history of outstanding narrative journalism,” said Conal Byrne, President of the iHeartPodcast Network. “This is one of the things that podcasting does best: longform storytelling around layered, complex subject matters that may have fallen off our collective radar. We are so excited to collaborate with McClatchy to bring ‘Return Man’ and the ‘Longshot’ anthology to podcast listeners across the country.”
“Return Man” is the first season in a new anthology of character-driven audio documentaries co-produced by iHeartRadio and McClatchy, called “Longshot.” The series focuses exclusively on the intersection of sports and social change.
Listeners can visit iHeart.com/apps to download the iHeartRadio app and listen to “Return Man” on their favorite devices. Plus, fans can follow “Return Man” to be alerted when new episodes post.