30 years? Hard to believe…..
A journey full of potholes, pink slips, a wealth of press passes, life-long relationships, and after three decades a wealth of gratitude. I’m grateful to be celebrating my 30th year as a sportscaster in 2022–a career I wanted to pursue much further than 30 years ago.
You see, the light bulb went off around the fourth grade when I discovered it was possible to get paid to cover sports…..??!
Sign me up!
I knew I would never get paid to “play” sports, so this was the next best thing for my money. Interning in college and working for the campus radio and TV stations at the University of Florida reaffirmed my passion moving forward but there was one problem.
I had to find someone to hire me??
My career path seemed to be off and running when I sent out my very first “resume tape” to a startup station in Nacogdoches, Texas. The sports director (I’ll never forget his name) Kyle Langley called me and said they would fly me out, and I was likely to be their weekend sports anchor.
But reality set in just over a week later when Langley called back and said while he wanted to hire me, the station’s brass brought in media consultants who thought I “looked too young.”
The consultants were right. I looked like I was 18 (maybe younger), so it was back to square one.
I spent the next few months interning for the St. Louis Cardinals, doing odd jobs and sending tape after tape where I had a collection of close calls but still no job….frustration took over and so did my support system.
My dad had this idea that I should dub off lots of resume tapes, jump in the car and find that first job. I thought he was crazy….he ultimately would be a genius.
After debating with him, I hit the road—and boy, did I put some miles on that Honda Prelude. I started in Tallahassee and preceded to blaze a huge triangle around the middle of the map of the United States. From Tally to Minneapolis, down to Lubbock, Texas, and back home, I must have talked to over 30 stations and collected a variety of contacts.
My many stops included working for the Cardinals in St Louis, at Wrigley Field and in Houston. I stayed with lots of friends and a wealth of Red Roof Inns!
It taught me the power of asking. If you never ask? You never know who may help, as remarkably, most of those I reached out to wanted to meet with me. I would call news directors a day or two before I drove into town, and often they were friendly and made time for this wanna-be sportscaster. I recall memorable meetings in random locations like Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Topeka, Kansas.
Making the Trip made me stronger and hungrier to attain my dream, but after miles on the road, I pulled back into my driveway in Tallahassee, still an employed sportscaster for hire.
That would change a few weeks later as the second stop I made on this life-defining trip called with an offer. It was the CBS station in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, whose Sports Director David Lamb (whom I still keep in touch with today) offered me a sports anchor and reporter job.
I couldn’t believe it.
Father knows best—the trip was what I needed to jumpstart a career that would employ me for the next thirty years.
Amazingly eight years later, I was working for Fox Sports Net/Florida covering the Orlando Magic’s playoff series in Milwaukee where after the game, me and my crew went out with the local media, and I amazingly met the reporter who got the Nacogdoches job I would have cut my right arm off to get eight years prior.
I often wonder how my life would have been different if I would have gotten that job and hadn’t “made the trip.” I’m not sure I would have appreciated everything the way I do today.
Making the trip inspired me always to work harder moving forward. It’s a trait I took with me at every stop in the next thirty years….the lesson is that getting out of your comfort zone and unconventionally going after your dream may seem crazy at the time but ultimately makes the journey so much more rewarding.
Six years after making the trip, I was up for a job in Jacksonville, and instead of just waiting for a call, I made another trip to show them how badly I wanted this position. I dubbed off a new and improved resume tape, drove from Tallahassee to Jacksonville, and delivered it in person. I rolled the dice and bet they would appreciate the gesture –and they did.
Getting that job in Jacksonville took my career to a new level and set the tone for all the moves I’ve made sense!
Whatever obstacles you have in your career—think about “making the trip.” It’s a metaphor for going the extra mile in a variety of ways. It doesn’t have to be getting in a car and driving all over the country…. it could include making the extra phone call, sending the extra email, any extra effort put into anything to jumpstart your career.
Making the trip, our first stop in another few miles around the Naborhood. As always, thanks for stopping by.
MY FAVORITE QUARTERBACK: There are a lot of great young quarterbacks in the NFL. How can you not appreciate the skill set of Patrick Mahomes, the coolness of Joe Burrow, and the athleticism of Josh Allen? I have always been a fan of Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts in how classy he handled his demotion at Alabama in getting benched in favor of Tua Tagovailoa. Hurts has proven to be a better pro and an MVP candidate with the Eagles.
But as much as I respect Hurts, my favorite guy is now leading the Niners’ huddle. How can you not love the story of rookie quarterback Brock Purdy??
First off, his name is marketing gold, perfect for a quarterback, but the most inspiring element is the story behind the name. Purdy was the last, the dead last player picked in the 2022 draft. When that happens, you are dubbed Mr. Irrelevant and nobody expects you to do more than hold a clipboard for the rest of your career.
Purdy instead stepped in for the injured Jimmy Garoppolo and has looked better than the veteran! Two starts and two victories–he has thrown for four touchdowns and only one interception while the Niners have outscored their opponents 68-24 in his two starts. I don’t know what was better about Purdy’s story so far, the fact he outdueled Tom Brady or the reaction from his emotional Dad in the stands watching it all unfold.
It amazes me that in a billion-dollar business like the NFL, which pours so much into scouting players from expanded staffs to analytics. Conducting countless interviews and evaluations to how they continually swing and miss on quarterbacks. How does Purdy fall to the last pick in the draft??
To put this into perspective, check out nfl.com’s pre-draft evaluation of Purdy, here were his perceived weaknesses:
- Pocket setup lacks quickness.
- Field blinders occasionally rob him of seeing the big play.
- Delivery is labored.
- Lacks timing to beat NFL corners outside the numbers.
- Shies away from tight-window throws.
- Ball needs to come out sooner on deep-ball shots.
- Confidence and consistency have been issues.
Detailed yet seemingly flawed. This same evaluation had Purdy’s strengths being his leadership where he was a four-year starter at Iowa State “and” he was a “generally accurate passer between the numbers.” How many times does the NFL need to learn accuracy is paramount? It seems they continually go after the big arm and the combine superhero over guys who just make plays.
Guys like Brock Purdy.
RALPHIE RETURNS: We all have our favorite Christmas movies, and growing up, our family’s was “A Christmas Story,” which was released in 1983. A great cast, but the star was “Ralphie” played by then 12-year-old Peter Billingsley who is now 51 and just released the sequel on HBO Max.
I haven’t seen the sequel but thought it was interesting hearing Billingsley talk about the new movie and the role which put him on the map. He said in the original, the exteriors were shot in Cleveland, but the interiors were in a studio in Canada. The sequel was shot in of all places, Bulgaria, where they rebuilt the only neighborhood, which included eleven houses.
While some child actors shy away from iconic roles, which made them famous, Billingsley embraces his Ralphie role and the attention he routinely gets from fans of the movie. “It’s pure joy, if you don’t like receiving that, you’re in the wrong business.”
Grown-up Ralphie says his favorite line of the original was when his dad in the movie mispronounced “fragile.” He also let us know is the curtain that the Christmas classic was a well-thought-out production. The script was 12 years in the making, and every scene was specifically scripted, with little ad-libbing. “Very little, in fact, even the swearing I did when I’m beating up Scott Farcus was scripted on notecards.”
Billingsley was given three weeks before shooting the iconic fight scene and instructed when it came to his lines to “commit these to memory.”
Funny side note, Ralphie was homeschooled because he traveled so often that he got his GED at 15. One of his best friends is actor Vince Vaughn who helped produce the sequel.
And (oh by the way) Billingsley still has the original bunny suit and BB gun and it’s locked away in a very safe place.
NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT…… This holiday season, we welcome back “The Christmas Story,” but we had to say goodbye to a true one-of-a-kind —the pirate-loving, offensive-minded, and law school-educated Mike Leach.
He was different than most college football coaches in history in that unlike many these days, Leach wasn’t buttoned up watching every word that would come out of his mouth—he was as unfiltered as they come. Ask any reporter, and many will give you countless stories of Leach’s access to them and his long conversations on the phone or before, following his many press conferences.
Leach was one of the few college coaches who never played college football, but he didn’t have to as his passion for coaching was evident dating back to the start when he coached little league baseball at the age of 15.
His dad hated lawyers and got a kick out of his son grinding his way through Pepperdine law school only to not practice with a major law firm and head into the unstable waters of a career as a college football coach.
I always enjoyed hearing Leach ramble on various subjects where you could feel his sincerity at all times. I saw a recent interview he did where picture the head coach at Mississippi State doing a zoom interview with law school alums from his rival “Ole Miss” that was Leach.
I enjoyed the discussion where Leach talked without interruption for over half an hour. Most of what he said had nothing to with football, but they are lessons both his players, law students and frankly, any of us can learn from.
(1) Follow Your Passion (Leach wanted to be a lawyer but knew in is heart that being a football coach was his true calling and he chased it from the bottom only to reach the top)
(2) You never stop learning (Leach was always evolving as an offensive-minded coach turning around programs like Texas Tech and Washington State-it would have been interesting to see how he would have done at say a Texas or LSU?)
(3) When you start in your career, work so hard where your employers develop the mindset that “they can’t do without me.” (Leach made it a point to do everything working up the ladder and encouraged these students to do the same)
These lessons were great, but Leach, who loved the history of Pirates, would often say, “Swing Your Sword” meaning—take your best shot—he backed it up in a life where he never took himself seriously and had time for everyone around him.
A powerful legacy indeed.
EXTRA POINT: Congrats to my FSU friends on beating my alma mater to close out quite the turnaround season. I don’t get as excited about college football as I did in my younger years, but this rivalry always fires me up.—especially when I see the Seminole fans storm their field after beating a 6-6 Gators team??
That would never happen in Gainesville!
Many of my Seminole buddies claim it was more of a celebration of their breakout season? Sorry, not buying it!
UNTIL NEXT BLOG,
PHOTO CREDITS: Pro Football Talk, The Spun, The U.S> Sun, CBS Sports, and Texas Monthly.