When most men or women turn 70 years old, they might take up golf or tennis — sports that don’t take a big toll on the human body.
But Andy Laird, Journal Broadcast Group’s CTO, isn’t your typical human. Or your typical engineer.
This November, the 70-year-old broadcast veteran has a strong chance of shattering multiple national powerlifting records for his masters age and weight group. Measuring in at 5’10” and 198 lbs., Laird has squatted 331 lbs., bench pressed 237 lbs. and deadlifted 452 lbs. He currently holds Wisconsin state records for all three lifts in the 65-69 year age group, and the state record for a combined lift of 815 lbs. at a single competition, according to the Natural Athlete Strength Association.
“And I pulled the 452 lbs. deadlift a few weeks ago at a regional meet,” says Laird. “The national record total for 70-plus is 890 lbs. and I didn’t have that good of a regional meet and still totaled 946 lbs. So, I do believe I can have a bad meet in November — I’m not planning on that, by the way — and still take home some national records.”
But ask him what his proudest moment of his powerlifting career is, and he’s quick to say his wife of nearly two years, Donna, who’s also a national-caliber powerlifter. The two met at a competition a few years back and will celebrate their second wedding anniversary in August.
Laird has spent more than 47 years as a broadcast engineer — a career that includes two different chief engineer positions, audio design consulting and for the last 25 years, VP of engineering at Journal. He holds a bachelor’s degree in physics with math and music minors from Principia College.
While his broadcast resume is impressive, it’s his Renaissance man approach to life that turns heads. In addition to powerlifting and his engineering career, he’s a lifelong musician, specializing in lower brass instruments, bass and keyboards. He recently hung up his racing leathers after several years of MotoGP racing, and is also an avid diver.
About four years ago, Laird and seven of his friends chartered a 55-foot sailboat from Ushuaia, Argentina to Antarctica’s peninsula islands, and spent a month kayaking, diving and hiking on the world’s coldest continent.
“I have photos of me under icebergs,” says Laird.
“It actually dawned on me while wandering around the middle of nowhere for a month, ‘I wonder if there’s a sport I can do around weight training, where I can actually compete?’ This was after deciding that the motor sports racing was a good thing to abandon.”
Today, Laird is busy at Journal, readying a few stations for HD transition that he hopes to finish by early next year. He remains active with ATSC and is excited about what a next-generation standard — ATSC 3.0 — could mean for TV broadcasting.
As for retirement? Laird says his plan to leave the daily grind keeps getting pushed back.
“2013 was the most recent retirement plan, but the business has gotten so interesting,” he says. “With all of the things that are going on — the spectrum auction, technology in general — I keep asking myself, ‘What else would I be doing?’ I really enjoy this job, and I’m now committed through next year.
“We’ll see what happens when that rolls around.”