Nick Cellini joins Rude Awakening on 680/The Fan, out of two-year purgatory

By RODNEY HO/ rho@ajc.com, originally filed Thursday, October 1, 2015

Veteran sports talk host Nick Cellini is officially out of purgatory after 28 months.

The entire Mayhem in the AM team from the now defunct sports talk station 790/The Zone station is at its former rival 680/The Fan (also heard on the FM dial at 93.7).

After doing fill-in roles for 680/The Fan the past five months, Cellini has been rewarded his first full-time radio gig since that ill-fated June morning on the Zone when he decided to mock a football player with ALS, a two-minute bit that went viral and caused him to lose his job that same day.

He officially started today with Chris Dimino and Chris Rude as part of the Rude Awakening, said David Dickey, who runs the station. Brandon "HomeTeam" Leak remains as a producer and contributor.

Credit: Rodney Ho

Credit: Rodney Ho

Cellini is "talented," Dickey said in an interview today. "He's been in the market a long time. He and Chris have great chemistry together. He strengthens the show and adds another dimension to it."

In a Facebook posting just after noon today, Cellini wrote:

What a journey it's been. I'm finally back to doing what I love. It's been a challenging two-plus years  but there have been so many positives as well. First off, I learned how to be a better father, husband and man. I've also embraced a cause that I will forever be part of and that is to find a cure for ALS. Thank you to family and friends, both old and new, for all the encouragement, love and support. You are the ones who kept me going each and every day. Last but certainly not least, thank you to David Dickey and to the entire 680 The Fan family for giving me a chance when few did. I'll be forever grateful to you all. Now on with the show!!!

Cellini effectively takes a slot the Fan emptied late last year when it dumped Perry Laurentino . There was instant speculation that the Fan would quickly hire Cellini. But Dickey took his time.

He first brought Cellini on as a sub in May, 2014 and began using his more frequently in recent months. In the meantime, Dickey kept the  morning team to Rude and Dimino with Leak producing.

It's been a busy week for Atlanta radio. Jamie Dukes has left 92.9/The Game. The Dickey brothers are out at Cumulus. Tripp West nabbed a mid-day job at B98.5. And Marc James lost his morning gig at 92.9/The Game.

Cellini was blamed most for the Steve Gleason bit because it was his idea and he was the one who played Gleason, using a robotic voice. He also told me that day after he was dismissed that the Zone was a "sinking ship" anyway. Though he was 100 percent correct, his honesty may have placed him in limbo longer than Dimino - who was hired a few months later by the Fan - and "Steak" Shapiro, who was also picked up by the Fan by year's end and now is part of the mid-morning show the Front Row with Sandra Golden and Brian Finneran.

Credit: Rodney Ho

Credit: Rodney Ho

Since the incident, Cellini met with Gleason and his family  in New Orleans and received forgiveness. And as he noted in his Facebook post, he has been active raising money for ALS. He said he has also been humbled by the experience. For a time, he was even an Uber driver to help pay the bills.

Cellini was on the Zone for 16 years, a key figure on the station but his departure was just another sign the Zone was dying. Lincoln Financial, who bought out Shapiro and Andrew Saltzman in 2010, gave up on the station. In recent weeks, 790 has been simulcasting Star 94.

Credit: Rodney Ho

Credit: Rodney Ho

Explore Mike Tierney wrote a piece about Cellini's life last November, 2014.
ExploreMy interview with him a few months after the incident.
ExploreList of AM/FM radio stations in Atlanta