'Familiarity With Your Partner': Kirk Herbstreit on Working With Chris Fowler and Al Michaels

Kirk Herbstreit and Chris Fowler
Kirk Herbstreit and Chris Fowler / Mike Zarrilli/GettyImages

Kirk Herbstreit and Chris Fowler will be in the booth for Monday night's College Football Playoff National Championship. The two represent a very familiar pair of voices for fans. Herbstreit and Fowler have called every Saturday night primetime college football game since 2014 and have overseen the last few National Championships. Their partnership at the four-letter network runs far longer; they've worked together for 26 years as two of the central figures of ESPN's college football coverage.

That level of familiarity shows on the broadcast. Herbstreit feels it in the booth, too. Speaking on an ESPN conference call ahead of the National Championship, Herbstreit explained to The Big Lead the advantages he and Fowler enjoy in the booth thanks to their extensive history together.

"It’s a lot like your job, just the familiarity with your partner," Herbstreit said. The cadence of a broadcast. Just the look of an eye. You’re looking at each other, there might be an eyebrow raise, little things that you sometimes hear quarterbacks and receivers talking about. They just kind of know each other. They kind of feel each other.

I think that’s the best way to describe it. On GameDay I’ve been working with [Fowler] for over two decades. The Saturday night game, I’ve been working with him since ‘14. You work with somebody for that much time and that many games, it becomes very natural, very comfortable."

Herbstreit knows Fowler as well as he does because they've worked together for so long. That was obviously not the case with Herbstreit's other job this fall, working Thursday Night Football with Al Michaels. It was an adjustment for Herbstreit to come in and work with not just Michaels, but his longtime producer Fred Gaudelli too.

"I was working Thursday night with Al, who is maybe the greatest to ever do it, and Fred Gaudelli was the producer," said Herbstreit. "Fred and Al go back to John Madden and then Cris Collinsworth. So for me to step in with not a new producer and a new play-by-play guy but a producer and a play-by-play guy who had been together for a long time and done so many big events, it wasn’t all of us learning something new. It was me learning Al and Freddie.

That was a challenge within itself, not just calling the game. Then to leave that and to go to Saturday, it was almost like going home. It was very interesting to go through that. And then as I got more and more reps with Al, as we did 15 or 16 games, you could just start to feel his rhythm and his cadence."

It's been quite a football season for Herbstreit with his packed schedule and the challenges of a new broadcasting partner. Monday night's CFP National Championship game will mark an end to his first year pulling double duty-- and will probably again feel like coming home with his longtime partner Fowler at his side.