The Next Class: The NFL Broadcast Boot Camp Wraps with Attendees Learning Valuable Lessons and Skill
By Vince Agnew, Former Player
First Published on NFLPlayerEngagement.com
The month of May is the time when the battles of the NFL off-season are revived. Locker rooms are filled with teams looking to come together and lay the foundation for a new season. Players arrive ready to fight for their NFL livelihood and legacy, and meetings are full of fresh-faced rookies—who range from being college idols to the overlooked and undrafted—all eager for the opportunity to suit up come fall.
At the headquarters of NFL Films in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, meeting rooms have been filled for four days with players and coaches of a different kind who are also making a commitment to improvement. The 10th annual NFL Broadcast Boot Camp for current and former NFL players wrapped up on Thursday, May 19th with a graduation ceremony for the 19 first-time attendees and for six others who have attended and graduated in previous years.
Along with the players there are over 30 talent coaches, production executives, mentors, faculty, and staff from many major media outlets. During the week they have helped to develop the participants and challenge them to blend their newly acquired skills with an already-instilled work ethic and ability to accept coaching.
Kevin Boothe, an enthusiastic nine-year offensive lineman (Oakland Raiders and New York Giants) and two-time Super Bowl Champion, is enjoying the challenges of attending the boot camp for the first time. “I look at this camp as a way to improve my skills,” he said. “Whether it leads to a career in broadcasting, sports media or elsewhere, the communication skills that I’ve acquired over the course of this week will help me tremendously.”
Moved by the opportunity to learn, have an opinion, and speak their voice on the game and the issues surrounding it, attending this demanding training and networking event is a player investment that deserves note.
Braylon Edwards, a former veteran wide receiver of the league (Cleveland Browns, New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks) looking to expand his base of knowledge, came motivated to learn and create change. “Being in broadcasting gives us a chance to get our voice out there, show how intellectual we are, how well we speak, and that we aren’t a representation of the stereotype. I’m here to help defeat the stereotype,” he said.
Regardless of the players’ current status in the league, it requires some form of sacrifice for many of them to attend. Some vacated their highly coveted positions at practice facilities; others are forfeiting time with their wives and children. However, ultimately they came to invest in their futures during a crucial time when many could be occupied elsewhere.
Ross Tucker committed himself to the inaugural broadcast boot camp ten years ago while on injured reserve as a member of the offensive line of the Washington Redskins. His injury triggered his retirement. Attending the camp was a critical decision that helped to alter his future before he knew that it would. The connections, networking and information he received at the first camp are a direct correlation to the status he has achieved now. Tucker currently works for Howard Deneroff, a regular coach and mentor of the boot camp, on Sirius XM Radio, NFL Radio, NBC Sports Network and more.
Similar to the football careers of most NFL players, Tucker had to earn his way into this arena. It was not given to him. Ten years later his life and career decisions brought him full circle as he returned to the Broadcast Boot Camp to share his insights along the way to becoming a year-round radio host. He even flashed the original copy of notes he was given by Deneroff back then. Deneroff credited Tucker as a great example to other players hoping to take this career path. He is just one of the many players thriving in their transition into broadcast as a result of this camp. Many of the players that attended this year are already involved in some form of broadcasting, or hope to be in the near future.
Former linebacker Adalius Thomas (Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots), who is attending for the second time, doesn’t have the broadcast experience of the aforementioned but has a championship pedigree and work ethic to match—winning two AFC Championships and a Super Bowl during his career. He sees the boot camp as his opportunity to bridge the gap. “I feel I owe it to myself and to viewers to fine tune my skills,” he explained. “This gives you an opportunity to test everything. The analyst side, radio, color, play-by-play. This allows you to get a feel for all of it and then get some feedback from some of the best in the field.”
Many of the current and former players leaving the boot camp today are looking to crack into a business that has been mastered for years by people more polished or well-known—very similar to the hopefuls reporting to an NFL training facility for the first time this month. In the case of broadcasting, the players gained an advantage this week because of the opportunities being on camera and being groomed by many of the best to have done it.
This NFL Player Engagement event will continue to create more opportunities for players, inspire growth, and expand the reach of these men’s voices just as past participants voices have gone on to be heard across the world. Today another group of former players leave Mount Laurel looking to inspire others to invest in themselves and to put their own mark on sports media.