BGSU plays host to 13th annual NFL Broadcast Boot Camp
State-of-the-art Kuhlin Center is ideal draw for NFL
By Bob Cunningham '18
More than three dozen current and former NFL players descended upon Bowling Green State University last week for the 13th annual NFL Broadcast Boot Camp.
The Boot Camp participants benefited from a robust collection of industry experts of top broadcast and radio networks, beat writers and BGSU faculty. Led by Dick Maxwell, a 1970 alumnus of BGSU, leaders from the sports broadcasting world served as mentors and teachers to the 39 current and former NFL players April 1-4.
Maxwell worked for the NFL for 36 years, including 29 seasons in the league office, and was the NFL's senior director of broadcasting when he retired in 2006. He founded the Maxwell Center for Sports Media at BGSU to assist students in the sport management and media and communication programs.
He is pleased his alma mater has stepped up to the task of hosting such a high-profile event.
“Bowling Green State University embraces the challenge of hosting this event and it made a huge difference to the NFL when the new Kuhlin Center (the home of the School of Media and Communication) opened up,” Maxwell said. “To have a modern broadcast center on campus makes a big difference in the decision-making process of where this boot camp is held.”
On-hand industry specialists included James Brown, CBS Sports; Jay Crawford ’87, formerly of ESPN; Greg Cosell, NFL Films; Booger McFarland, ESPN; and Howard Deneroff, Westwood One Radio. BGSU faculty — Drs. Terry Rentner, Lori Liggett and Jim Foust — also lent their expertise to several sessions.
“Over the years, we’ve built a group of ‘outside faculty’ and BGSU faculty who are good teachers and can talk about the things in the broadcast industry that are changing so much,” Maxwell said. “We’re pleased that many have been here over the years and will continue teaching.”
The players were impressed with the collection of experts at the boot camp who helped them start transitioning into their next career.
“You want to surround yourself with the great ones because it’s infectious,” said Vernon Davis, Washington Redskins tight end. “When I was in college, I used to watch Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez religiously, from their blocking to their pass catching to the way they run routes. All the details I could learn to try to implement those details into my game, to help me perfect the tight end position. You take that same formula here and use it: You find the great ones and you learn from them. You watch them on film, you ask questions and you repeat the process.”
Mark Sanchez, a free agent quarterback who played for the Redskins last season, is thinking about adapting after his football career is over.
“Nothing is like playing football, and I’d like to play as long as I can, so we’ll see what happens,” Sanchez said. “It’s nice to be around guys going through the same decisions. One of the best things about this boot camps was being able to interact with Gene Steratore — one of my favorite referees during my career. I mean, to have an open session like that, you can’t get that anywhere else.
“Plus, James Brown gave us some tips, too. He talked about messing up: ‘It’s going to happen live on the air, you’re going to mess up, I guarantee it. But you keep talking and you keep going.’ Those kind of things were encouraging.”
For Andre Fluellen, a retired defensive tackle who played several seasons for the Detroit Lions, the boot camp was the first step in realizing his dream of becoming a sports bradcaster. He majored in English with a film minor at Florida State University.
“There’s a process to everything,” Fluellen said. “I was doing some color commentary for some high school football games last year. Just being able to see that process of how you advance to the next thing is helpful. It worked the same way in football. I like to write too, but I like being on camera more because I really get to show my personality.”
Joique Bell, a running back who played the majority of his career with the Lions, took this opportunity to see if broadcasting is right for him.
“This is something I’m definitely interested in,” he said, “so, I wanted to take this workshop to make sure it was the right fit for me. I’ve learned a lot this week, like how important research is, as well as body posture and not to use filler words. Every day, I’ve learned something I can use in my future career.”
Having played in the NFL gives the future broadcasters a perspective that can’t be taught in the classroom.
“It gives us, players who have been there before, an edge because you know what to expect, we know how a play should be drawn up and how it should be run,” Bell said. “There are a lot of things we know just from having played the game that we can iterate to the public, and that gives us an advantage.”
Matt Cassel, a free agent quarterback who played for the Lions last season, hasn’t yet closed the door on his playing career.
“You always have to look to the future, and I think this was a great opportunity for me to come get experience in this industry and understand what it’s all about,” he said of the boot camp. “This week, I’ve been able to educate myself about the different social media platforms and different facets of sports media — and also be able to inform myself about of a potential new career.
“They do everything from production meeting prep to on-camera work to having seminars on how it may be difficult to ask questions to old teammates. They’ve educated us on podcasts and the different social media platforms you have from Twitter and Instagram, which I’m not as familiar with. It’s a great approach because it gives you an overall look at the industry in its entirety, and you can utilize your skills in all of those different areas.”