NFL players train for careers in broadcasting
MOUNT LAUREL, N.J. -- Deion Branch has two Super Bowl rings and a Super Bowl MVP trophy that set him apart from many people looking for a new job.
Not when it comes to an NFL broadcasting gig.
There are plenty of ex-players with impressive resumes on the open market.
So, Branch tried to gain an advantage on some of the competition by participating in the NFL’s Broadcast Boot Camp this week.
"I enjoy this," said Branch, a wide receiver who spent 12 seasons with the Patriots and Seahawks. "This is what I want to do so I’m going to give it my all. I come in here and I sponge because I want to learn everything and take it all in."
The four-day boot camp held at NFL Films headquarters concluded Thursday. Branch was among 25 current and former players who participated in the annual seminar, now in its eighth season.
More than one-third of the 168 players who’ve attended the boot camp in the first seven years have earned broadcasting jobs as a result of their participation in the program.
Branch already has some experience. He hosted weekly radio shows in New England and Seattle. He’s still learning television.
"I find myself trying to be a little louder now as opposed to the past few years when I was more mellow," he said. "I’m sitting upright, finding the cameras, doing the subtle things."
Brady Quinn, a former first-round pick from Notre Dame, seemed like a natural in the studio. Quinn and veteran quarterback Dan Orlovsky debated which division will be the most competitive.
CBS host James Brown surprised both players with questions they didn’t prepare for, but each handled them well.
"One of the toughest parts is trying to fall in line with what they are looking for but also being an individual and trying to separate yourself from everyone else," Quinn said.
Orlovsky compared broadcasting to playing quarterback.
"You go in with the mind-set that I’ve been playing football for 20 years so I can do it easily, not that it’s belittling the profession, but you just have this expectation of yourself that you know the game so well," he said. "But then you realize how much work goes into it preparation-wise. It’s a lot like playing quarterback. You have to be a problem-solver more often than not."
Both Quinn and Orlovsky are well-traveled guys who’ve played for quite a few teams.
They don’t have the star power of a guy such as Ray Lewis, who transitioned to a studio job at ESPN last year right after helping the Ravens win a Super Bowl in his final season. But they offer a different perspective because they’ve been around the block.
"It gives me a wider background to talk about different experiences, different coaches and different personnel," Quinn said.
The bottom line is this: You don’t have to be a Hall of Fame player to thrive in the field. Just ask Glenn Adamo, the NFL’s vice president of media operations.
"Preparation, looking for a way to have their reports/stories catch your attention and stand out and, most importantly, how credible they are in presenting their opinion/story," Adamo said when asked how a player catches his eye.
"Those that have the greatest command of the ‘Kings English,’ as James Brown would say, and speak clearly and at a conversational pace are able to better differentiate themselves initially, regardless of their stature in the NFL world."
Players were trained in various areas during boot camp, including game analysis and sports talk radio. They received special instruction from on-air and production staff from each of the NFL’s broadcast partners.
They also got a lesson from renowned voice coach Arthur Joseph, who has worked with Angelina Jolie and Arnold Schwarzenegger, among many other celebrities.
"Nothing is gained by going too fast but potentially everything can be lost," Joseph told them during a session. "It’s never how fast, it’s how effective. It’s never simply what you say, it’s how you say it -- all the time."
Brendon Ayanbadejo, Sage Rosenfels, Je’Rod Cherry and Donte Stallworth were among the participants.
Each player taped segments as a game analyst and as a field reporter and served as a live guest host on SiriusXM NFL Radio.
"This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time since I was a kid before I got into the NFL," Stallworth said.
Welcome to the real world, fellas.
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