WATCH MAGAZINE_October 2021_CSI:Vegas


When I was still playing—I wasn’t even thinking about retiring—I went to the NFL Broadcast Bootcamp because people pushed me to. I remember James Brown being there and them bringing in dierent individuals. They had all of these dierent mock exercises. We were color commentating for a game, we did live coverage at a sporting goods store, we even wrote scripts and delivered them like the nightly news. I thought it was going to be former players hanging out and drinking for three days, but it was like 10 hours a day of hard work. At the end they were patting me on the back. I remember James Brown saying, “Hey man, if you ever need anything, don’t hesitate to reach out.” You know James being James. Just oering himself. They were like, “Look, out of all of these individuals, you kind of had the tools. Not saying you’re exactly where you need to be, but you have the tools.” I looked in the mirror and saw a rookie. There were all of these things that I just wasn’t good at. What were those things? NB: Small things. Very little things. All of these small nuances I knew I needed to work on, whether it’s what I did with my hands, or my eye contact, or how emphatic I was about a point, body language, how I looked at the person with me versus the camera, and how long I did it for. All of these small details. When I did the mock show of the game, I struggled. They were like, “Look, study the roster, wake up the next day and you’re going to do a half.” And I thought, Man, I’m still playing, so I know

“ It’s a dance, the music is the game, and the two people in the booth, we’re just trying to dance along to the sound and the rhythm of the game, and just be the supporting actor to the main

From left: James Brown, Bill Cowher, Boomer Esiason, Nate Burleson, and Phil Simms from The NFL Today

Washington. My dad’s playing safety. This running back catches a ball out of the back- field, and my dad hits him right on the sideline, and the guy slides damn near to the eighth lane—the football field was sur- rounded by the track. And the announcer said, “Al Burleson is all over the field today.” That left an imprint on me. I never forgot that. And I remember saying to myself, “I want

attraction, which is actual football.”

somebody to talk about me like that.” I didn’t necessarily know what I wanted to do. I didn’t know if it was going to be the NBA or the NFL. At one point I thought I was going to be a world-renowned artist, not just drawing and painting, but poetry and rapping. So I just knew at some point I wanted somebody to talk about me the way they talked about my dad. It’s interesting that you were inspired by the color commentator— that was your first TV gig, working Detroit Lions games. Did you ever think it’d be your voice on TV that kids imagine hearing in their heads? NB: No, I did not. I remember two guys specifically who worked for the Lions—Galen Gordon and Mo Kelly. They said, “You have a gift for gab. And if you really work on that, you can be on TV for decades.”

the roster. How hard can color commentating be? It is dicult, man. It is dicult . He says, “All right, first and 10, we got Peyton Manning, he drops back. He hits his wide receiver, Demaryius Thomas.” OK, cool. Now I jump in, and I’m just supposed to say, “Hey, Demaryius Thomas blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” At that time I didn’t have a rhythm of how to do that. He kept alley-ooping me, and I just kept blowing the layup every time. Stuttering, messing up, blowing it. Now I realize it isn’t just alley-ooping to somebody for the big dunk. It’s a dance. It’s a dance, the music is the game, and the two people in the booth, we’re just trying to dance along to the sound and the rhythm of the game, and just be the supporting actor to the main attraction, which is actual football.

Not to blur sports metaphors here, but you talked about commenta- tors throwing alley-oops. How do you build that chemistry? And are




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