Brock Huard On His New Gig at Fox Sports and Coming Full-Circle
By Kyle Koster
Brock Huard his embarking on a new chapter in his broadcasting life. In May, the former Washington Huskies quarterback joined Fox Sports after 12 years at ESPN. He’ll be the analyst in the No. 2 booth alongside Joe Davis, replacing Brady Quinn, who joined the network’s much-anticipated pregame show. Bruce Feldman will serve as the sideline reporter for the new team.
Huard spoke to The Big Lead about his fresh start, pregame preparation, and finding validation in the right places.
Kyle Koster: This is your first year with Fox Sports after a long run at ESPN. Can you tell me about the sequence of events that made you decide to make the change?
Brock Huard: The opportunity just presented itself, the doors opened with the gameplan and the strategy. Here’s the schedule, your play-by-play man, here’s your producer. It was honestly check, check, check, check, every which way.
There was very little convincing to do. It was just a matter of making it happen.
Obviously, I said goodbye to some pretty special people. Bob Wischusen is a tremendous play-by-play man and as good a football guy as there is. Jimmy Platt, our director from our crew, went on to be the director of Monday Night Football so that speaks to how talented he was. He and I worked together for at least eight years, which is about unheard of in the TV business. Saying those goodbyes was the most difficult part. Saying yes to the opportunity I could not have done fast enough.
KK: When you look at what Fox is trying to do this year, specifically the pregame show that’s taking on College GameDay directly, it’s bold. Does it excite you to be a part of that strategy?
BH: I don’t think there’s any question about that. And then you follow up that hour pregame show with the top game in that noon ET window. Joel Klatt and Gus Johnson are two of the best and they’re going to crush it. I love that gameplan. It gives us the opportunity to wrap it up, whether it’s following them or in primetime.
KK: You’ll be working with Joe Davis, who is as good a voice as there is out there right now if you look at his college football and baseball performances.
BH: So, obviously you studied the Middle Tennessee State-Mississippi State game from eight years ago, right? That was the breakthrough for Joe Davis and Brock Huard. I don’t know if you know that story but Mark Jones had a family situation come up and they called Joe from ESPNU, I think. They called him literally that Thursday night to come to Starkville Friday. Man, we looked at each other after Saturday night in the truck and said, ‘How did that kid do that?’
He was just phenomenal. He had such a grasp and a big voice even at that early stage of his career. The talent was evident. Now it’s come full circle and we get to work together for a full season.
KK: He must have been, what, 12 at that time?
BH: I think he was 11.5. You know the movie Big? He had that big suit on. Now he’s all tailored.
KK: You guys worked together that one time eight years ago, but how do you get up to speed for this year? Are you calling practice games or firing up the Playstation or how does it work?
BH: Thankfully at this stage of both of our careers we’ve worked with enough different people. Even during that game, and I didn’t know him at all, we didn’t step on each other at all. There was some real comfort there and some confidence that the other knows what they’re doing, like a pilot and a co-pilot on a plane. I think we know good TV, how to make it work, and bring out the best in each other. I’ve watching him grow with Brady Quinn over the past few years.
For me personally, doing radio with a lot of different co-hosts over the years or working spring games, that timing and rhythm is not that hard, I’ve found. The chemistry, on the other hand, is something that does need to develop. He and I have stayed in touch over the years. He’s come on my show to talk baseball, the Dodgers, and I reached out to him when all of this started to unfold. Having a relationship will help. This isn’t two guys who don’t know each other and are new to calling games. I think we should hit the ground running.
KK: Have you stepped up your workout routine knowing you’re filling Brady Quinn’s shoes?
BH: That’s a good-looking man. My wife and I got in our first marital fight in like 15 years a few years ago when she was watching a game and said, ‘That’s a good looking suit that guy has on. That’s a good look.’ That caused some real strife in our marriage so I’m hoping this opportunity can bring us full-circle.
I have to up my suit game. Every once in a while when I pick something out she tells me it’s for an old man, so she’s my wardrobe consultant and yes, I know I have some big shoes to fill.
KK: You’re colorblind, right? Does that have any impact on your job?
BH: I’m pretty massively colorblind. Red-purple, blue-green. It never comes into play on a broadcast because you always have a light team and a dark team, so I’ve never felt that problem other than maybe a color rush game in the NFL. But it does come into play for attire so I don’t leave the home without a thumbs up or thumbs down. There’s actually quite a few of us in the industry who are colorblind.
KK: What about during your playing days?
BH: Definitely in high school basketball when there was a blue and a purple penny but that’s about it. I wish I could use that as an excuse for some of the interceptions I threw, you know, five in the Apple Cup in 1997, but it’s not a viable excuse unfortunately.
KK: What is the position do you get more negative feedback from fans in: starting quarterback of a team or color commentator?
BH: We were talking about this on our show this morning. The danger of validation and where that validation comes from. As a player, if you seek it from your coach and you’re constantly seeking it, that’s a real dangerous game to play as a player versus just seeking it from your teammates and playing the game. I think the same can be true in this broadcast world, too. If you’re just seeking the validation of a Twitter audience or your bosses, if you’re constantly concerned with validation, you’re in the wrong business.
As a player, that was a challenge of mine. Over 12 years of doing this, though, I would say it has not been. I just feel like my biggest weakness of a player was being over-analytical, thinking too much. Thankfully, as an analyst that curiosity, those questions, I hope is a strength I bring to a broadcast.
The validation comes from your peers who you’re working with, doing that game. Bringing the best out of the game. I’m now probably more sensitive to the players than I’ve ever been as I’ve gotten teenagers who are aspiring athletes. As I’m doing my broadcast, I want to do the best I can for their families, their friends, and those coaches. I know that sounds cliche but 12 years later sitting there worrying about what everyone thinks and their validation, much like a quarterback, you’re going to struggle.
KK: Heading into the season, what is your preparation like for the games in the short- and long-term?
BH: That’s one of the things that’s been really unique in this transition is I do know my first four games. Back at ESPN it was week-to-week. We’d get our first one a few weeks out at the seminar and then it was really land and figure out what you had five days later. You didn’t really know where you were going to be and if you spend a ton of time worrying about that than you’re just chasing.
This is a bit different. I know my first four games so I have an opportunity to get ahead. I read stories, read what’s going on locally. I was down at Stanford yesterday. Bruce Feldman and I flew in and spent the day sitting in meetings, spending time with coach [David] Shaw, watching practice. First games are always a bit tricky because of personnel change and there’s no preseason to watch. There’s not quite as much film to watch, though you go back to the year before. It’s about trying to engage with the players and coaches. There is ample time to do as much preparation as you want, especially for the first couple.
I enjoy time with the coaches more than anything else. I’m the son of a coach. My brother is a coach at Texas A&M. If I wasn’t doing this I would probably be coaching. I really enjoy the relationships I can build, the trust I can build with those guys doing that job. There are some of my peers that don’t really care for coaches meetings because of cliches and coach-talk. Some of them barely do them, but for me that is the most valuable real estate I have. I want to walk in that room and have a sense of equity and trust. I want to present where they’re at as accurately as I can.
There’s been some hard conversations with coaches through the years, but honest. Getting that back and forth has been one of the biggest keys in my 12 years.
I remember when I got in looking at Todd Blackledge and Kirk Herbstreit and the relationships they had with coaches and thinking, ‘Man, I hope one day I get to that point where I can have real conversations.’
KK: How do you toe that line of not being their friend, of being capable of being critical, balancing that professional relationship?
BH: Doing a decade of radio in the mornings has been a huge help for that. A consultant said to me to never say anything on the radio you wouldn’t say face-to-face. If you’re able to say it face-to-face, then you should be willing to say it on the radio. I draw that same parallel with football on the television as well. I’m not going to say something like a personal attack but I’m absolutely going to have a professional opinion.
KK: When those times do happen, when there’s friction, are you happy because your opinion matters that much or does it agitate you?
BH: Probably the No. 1 piece of advice that I give to younger guys getting into this is to do live radio. Do as much talk radio as you can because it helps massage all of these things. I don’t ever — and never have — had a phony topic, take or argument to make a headline. At the same time you have to have a strong opinion. There is some of that balance.
When Jim Mora attacked me, that felt personal. I was saying the same things that I would say to someone’s face and he was taking real personal shots. I know this because we still play them during the opening of my radio show.
He felt like I was taking a personal shot at Josh Rosen so he was defending Rosen when I think all the while I was having a professional opinion. Those are things that you massage in radio every single day and I think it helps give you some substance to stand on. You’re doing your job and giving your opinion.
If you want to come full-circle on that, about six months later, I was talking with my co-host Mike Salk about Rosen in the draft. I said, ‘we’ll get Mora on the show.’ Mike’s like, ‘no way, he’s not coming on the show.’
Sure enough, he did and he was great. You have to be willing to bring that on, have a face-to-face, and have those conversations.
KK: What do you have in front of you for reference during the game?
BH: Joel Klatt and I were just talking about this, comparing notes on our call sheet and how different that can be, what it looks like. For years I wrote my own with my own pencil. Over the last few years, there’s a great consultant who puts together the names with the boxes and numbers and then I still do a lot of handwriting.
KK: College football games are too long for a broadcaster? Yes or no?
BH: I think for anyone’s attention span. Calling a game now, if it’s a six-overtime, 4.5-hour game, I’m good. I’ve done a few of those and never walked out thinking it was too long. If it is we’re going to throw it 65 times a game and the clock stops and it takes 4.5 hours to play 60 minutes, yeah that’s problematic. I think that’s a challenge for everybody involved.
KK: Do you start to lose a rhythm if it takes 2 hours and 15 minutes to get to halftime? Is there a certain pace of game that helps it go smoother for you?
BH: Wisconsin-Iowa takes 2.5 hours to play versus West Virginia-Texas Tech that takes four hours? You know that going in so you know gameplan-wise, everything you need to get to. I do these preseason NFL games with Curt Menefee and the Seahawks and I’ll tell you when you don’t throw to studio, have a sideline reporter, and all these pieces to the machine, that game feels like really heavy lifting.
When you’re doing a college game and have so many of these moving pieces and promos and studio, there’s rarely been a game where I walk out feeling like it was arduous or heavy lifting. No, I don’t think in my experience the pace throws us off.
Davis, Huard and Feldman kick off their season with a pair of games on opening weekend, beginning Thursday, Aug. 29, with South Dakota State at Minnesota at 9:00 PM ET on FS1. The three then head to Palo Alto for a battle between the Pac-12 and Big Ten, as No. 25 Stanford hosts Northwestern Saturday, Aug. 31, at 4:00 PM ET on FOX.