Brandon Walker joins the Glass Half Empty podcast this week; we taped this at the Barstool hotel in Miami Beach during Super Bowl week.
It's been less than a year since Walker's life changed forever. In 2018, he'd been let go from SEC Country when Cox Media Group abruptly shuttered their seemingly successful college sports sites, and in early 2019 was doing videos for the offshore betting site MyBookie for a modest digital audience.
In a frenetic series of crazy events last April, Dave Portnoy happened to be beefing with MyBookie. The views for Walker's live Twitter video skyrocketed exponentially as stoolies hopped in to roast him, and Walker handled the heckling with aplomb. Portnoy noticed that, sought to hire him, and did so that week.
In under 10 months, Walker has become one of Barstool's most prolific stars. He appears on The Yak with Dan Katz at 1pm ET and as of this week hosts Picks Central at noon ET on Barstool Radio's daily SiriusXM lineup. He also does sketch videos for social media and the website, and is a member of the site's weekly college football show with Portnoy, Katz, and Kayce Smith.
As Walker explains, he wasn't exactly at rock bottom when he landed at Barstool but he was approaching 40 years old with four kids and accomplishing his dream as a sportswriter -- he grew up reading people like Rick Reilly and John Feinstein -- was no sure thing. Out of college, in 2004, he landed as the sports editor of the Daily Times Leader in West Point, Mississippi (population around 10,000), covering high school sports, junior high softball, and little league for a newspaper circulation of 2,000.
Walker moved around newspapers for about a decade, moving throughout Louisiana and had stops in Fort Walton Beach, Florida and Meridian, Mississippi. He thought SEC Country was his "big break," but then Cox pulled the plug on it when everyone in the building, including the lead decision-makers of the digital network, thought they were on a five-year plan and exceeding all their goals.
Walker has fit in at Barstool because he has great comedic timing, is willing to be self-deprecating, and he knows his football. Given his roots all over the South, he is an asset as the company -- which has strongholds in the Northeast and Midwest -- seeks to expand its foothold in the region.
"I've absolutely thought that," Walker says. "Let's be honest. I got hired as a stunt. I got hired as a complete screw-you from [Portnoy] to MyBookie. He [presumably] planned to hire me, let me do whatever for like a year, and then quietly let me go, but he would've won that battle with MyBookie. What he didn't know was I was gonna bring it. I was coming."
Walker continues: "So a couple days after he hired me, I sent him an email that said, 'Alright. The stunt's over. This is what you have. You have someone who's covered SEC football for 10 years. You have someone who lives and breathes SEC football, who's gonna change your college football coverage, and who knows the football language we speak down here in the Southeast.' His wheels began turning [about how to capitalize on it]."
So, as we sat less than a year later, Walker had moved his family from Mississippi to outside New Jersey and his profile has really been rising. As we discussed about around the 9:30-mark, he's become so recognizable that right before we spoke he happened to be walking down the street in South Beach, about 15 feet away from Mark Cuban. A teenager got out of his car and asked for a photo. Walker kept it moving, assuming that the teen was asking for a picture with the billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks. And then the teen goes, "Brandon Walker! Can I get a picture with you?"
Because it was right outside where Barstool was taping their radio shows in Miami, the sequence was caught on video. What a wild time to be Brandon Walker.
Listen and subscribe on iTunes. Previous guests have included Jason Fitz, Joe Thomas, Ethan Strauss, Deirdre Fenton, Asaf Peled, Jon Rothstein, Nick Kostos, Logan Paul, Andy Staples, Jenn Decker, Adam Lefkoe, Dan Orlovsky, Adam Amin, Jimmy Traina, Prince & Cecil Fielder, Eric Bischoff, Rob Perez, Conrad Thompson, Bill Pidto, Arash Markazi, BJ Armstrong, Jeff Passan, Pat McAfee, Chris Russo, Nick Friedell & Malika Andrews, Michael Mulvihill, Jeff Goodman, Buster Olney, Kayce Smith, Ryan Ruocco, Patrick Crakes & Bob Seidman, Tim Kurkjian, Matt Vasgersian, Dianna Russini, Albert Breer, Matt Jones, Stugotz, Jorge Sedano, Nancy Faust, Chris & Kyle Long, Lanny Poffo, Greg Norman, Richard Deitsch, and Kevin Negandhi.
And: Tom Haberstroh, Jason Barrett, Steve Levy, Bo Ryan, James Jones, Nate Robinson, Dave Finocchio, David Ortiz, Deandre Hopkins, Lisa Byington, Dave Portnoy, Nick Wright, Darren Rovell, Erika Nardini, Cassidy Hubbarth, Jim Ross, Joel Klatt, Rachel Nichols, Dan Patrick, Brandi Rhodes, Joe Davis, Sean McDonough, Jay Bilas, Bruce Feldman, Aaron Taylor, Josina Anderson, Alexi Lalas, Seth Davis, David Kaplan, Michael McCarthy, Ramona Shelburne, Ira Berkow, Ozzie Smith, Bryan Curtis, Dave Kindred & Michael Kornheiser, Vince Wilfork, Dustin Johnson, Mike Florio, Andy North, Chad Millman, Tracy Wolfson, Ernie Johnson, Grant Hill, Joe Buck, AJ Hawk, Dan Wetzel, Adam Schein, Aaron Nagler, Jeff Van Gundy, Jalen Rose, Kevin Burkhardt, Cari Champion, Scott Van Pelt, Colin Cowherd, Kristine Leahy, Ryan Satin, Big Cat, Woj, Peter King, Urban Meyer, Peter Mehlman, Ahman Green, Michael Wilbon, Kenny Smith, and Dan Le Batard.