From College Athlete to Super Bowl Sideline Reporter
By: Shelby Vaccaro
Being a student-athlete in college is rewarding in more ways than one but with college comes the future and a career. As an athlete you play for the competition, hard work and that rush of adrenaline but you always know that it will soon all come to an end. For CBS sports reporter Evan Washburn he found another way to not only stay on the field but to stay a part of the game as well.
Evan attended the University of Delaware where he dressed as a Blue Hen for all four years of his college lacrosse career. After excelling on the lacrosse field, the now Blue Hen alumnus, took all of those qualities and more with him into his current career as a sideline reporter. Currently, Evan is the sideline reporter for CBS Sports, covering the NFL, College basketball and also working as an analyst for college and pro lacrosse. He had the opportunity work as sideline reporter for Super Bowl 50.
Here on The Athlete Book we had the opportunity to sit with Evan and talk about sports, college, and having a career in the sports business. If you are an athlete that was born and raised with sports then you sure will be able to relate to Evan’s story.
What got you playing lacrosse and How did you know you wanted to play for the University of Delaware?
Lacrosse for me, growing up in Annapolis, MD was one of those things where you kind of had to and for me I actually loved playing basketball. That was my favorite sport growing up and my hope was to play that in college. I always played lacrosse in high school for fun but once i came to the realization that I wasn’t going to be playing basketball at Duke or one of those big colleges I decide to go to a lacrosse recruiting camp. Mainly I went because all of my friends did and I realized that I could go to a pretty big school for lacrosse and that shifted my focus.
That is where the University of Delaware came in and once I went to the campus I fell in love with it, and anyone who has been there knows how gorgeous it is, and growing up in Baltimore, it was the perfect location. With it only being about two to two and a half hours away I felt like I was far enough away but if I needed to get home in a pinch I could always get home. But I tell people lacrosse for me growing up was something I played for fun and nothing I really took seriously until I got to college.
When you approached graduation, Did you know what you wanted in a career?
Well that’s the thing I was in a rough spot. I knew that I was interest in broadcast Journalism and sports Journalism specifically but I didn’t do much over my course at Delaware to really help facilitate that for a variety of reasons. I got injured a couple of times so my summers were taken up by trying to get healthy and that was actually what happened my senior year.
I was trying to play professionally in the MLL (Major League Lacrosse) and to have fun for a little while but I tore my ACL the last game my senior year so that changed a lot of things. Not only did I lose the opportunity to play in the MLL but I had to get healthy and so I had to get surgery and go for rehab. That all put off any job sort of focus and I was in a pretty dark spot and eventually I was able to get out of it with the help of a buddy who is in the lacrosse world. I played with him in high school and he knew a contact at a TV station down in DC and he got me his number and I actually got an internship the following spring.
That internship really helped get the ball rolling and quickly I realized not only was I interested but I’m going to chase down the dream of being on television. Now doing all those things that I have been able to do up until this point and to put lacrosse in the rearview mirror. That next summer I had the opportunity to play lacrosse again but I said I’m all in on the television business and lacrosse is in the past for me now.
What was it about sports reporting and broadcasting that really sparked your interest in the first place?
Sports have been my whole life and I wasn’t going to be able to play them going on as an adult so it was about how can I keep engaged in sports in a different role. Then sports broadcasting became the obvious connection but I didn’t realize that there is so much more that goes into it. Beyond what is on the surface and what I realized is beyond all the nuances of the job.
One of the things I was able to keep from playing sports going on into this business was the competitiveness to it and that drive to do it. When you’re on live television and they tell you we are ready to go to you, it is that same kind of nervousness and excitement that I got when I played sports. That quickly made me realize that this is a way to keep some of that juice going in my professional career. And again the competitiveness and the goal oriented aspect of it and for the most part of it you are on your own and if you want to achieve things it is all on you.
There is no real nice track that you will see in other professions whether it be in the financial world or a lawyer or a doctor and all of those are a bit challenging and cannot guarantee that you will be successful but there seems to be a track on how to get from one place to another. Broadcasting in general and definitely sports broadcasting that is not the case so that’s a tough deal to have to manage especially from early on. I found that it is accelerating and still do and even though I have been able to do some cool things and I’m in a good spot I still have that competitive fire and that comes from playing sports and I have been able to keep it hear through my job.
In the world of broadcasting the big companies don’t just hand over a microphone. How were you able to make up for your lack of experience with experience starting out?
That was really the difficult thing in this business. I got that internship working behind the scenes at a TV station doing really all the remittal work from logging games, to learning how to edit some highlights, to running a teleprompter and then I was able to strike up a relationship with a reporter and a photographer, cameraman, in Baltimore. They covered the Orioles the Ravens and some high school college sports and being in Baltimore at the time I basically asked them if i could just tag along. But keep in mind, I wasn’t getting paid, so when they would go out and cover stories and events they would let me come with them and eventually for a couple months, even a couple of years, i would go. I then started to whenever Brent would do his story and after he was done I would replicate it in some form or fashion. It just wasn’t airing anywhere and it wasn’t for the web or tv but it allowed me to get some reps on camera and to learn how to present yourself.
That really was the beginnings of everything and then I was lucky enough to be at those places at Comcast sports station when things really started to pick up and they needed people to go out to cover stories. They weren’t going to have their full time reporter do it because they didn’t really know if it was airing anywhere or if it would air anywhere it just wasn’t a high level of importance. I was willing and able to do all of those things so i really got a ton of experience that way. In front of the camera and getting reps, and like you know a resume reel. Which in our business no one cares where you went to college, to be honest but i know i have been presented to a lot of college kids and college is important and they probably want you to know that you went to college but it’s all about what you can present and what you look like, sound like, and your repetition so building a reel is difficult.
The hardest part was getting in the door in terms of that experience level because even the lowest job in the lowest market and people are desperate for it and you still need experience for that job. If you’re not from Syracuse or a big broadcasting journalism school you don’t have any of that so finding that out of college was really challenging for me and really I give a lot of credit and I am extremely thankful to some people that I met early on that were willing to help me and those two guys in Baltimore were just as important as anybody
You had the great opportunity to be on the sideline for the super bowl, What was that like and did you get to enjoy it at all as a fan as well as work it?
It was a unbelievable experience as you would imagine and i have said it a couple of times the coolest part for me was there was so much build up and so much hype before the game. So many people telling me this is a really big game and that there is going to be so many people watching. There where so many more meetings then there usually are and all my bosses where there it was a massive undertaking and a huge production. All something that i have never experienced before and the nervous were heightened.
The coolest part was after the national anthem, which was unbelievable by Lady Gaga, and the game got started. I got to do a couple early reports and things that I would normally do. Then it all slowed down and it almost felt like it was just a normal game. I have done enough now that I feel comfortable doing a normal game. There were some exciting moments about the Super Bowl when i was able to sit back and say this is the Super Bowl.
It is a phenomenal experience but it’s just like doing a normal game and that allowed me to be comfortable on air and allowed me to have fun with it. That wasn’t the experience that i excepted because I thought that I was going to do the game and be like man that was so different then doing any other game but it was only different for all the obvious reasons. The nuances and the real detail that I’m used to and aspects for every Thursday or Sunday, or even Saturday basketball game were still there and that to me was refreshing.
Do you think that being an alumni of a lacrosse team and playing in college has prepared you for this field?
I do. I think that it has helped in the way that I approach, especially with athletes, the healthy balance that you result them and admire them but you also just realize that they are normal guys. I try not to be overwhelmed by who it is no matter how big of a star that they are and I do think it comes from playing sports.
I don’t know because I never played on a stage like the NFL or big time college basketball but just the confidence that comes from playing college lacrosse and that pressure and having a respect for the work that goes into it and knowing certain angles that are important and what is important to the athlete. I think that it’s universal whether you have played lacrosse, basketball or football and I have tried to use that.
I think what has helped me by playing college sports and sports in general is that you learn how to work with other people on a team. I see so many people in our business that have gone to the best colleges and did a lot of things and think they have this entitlement that they wouldn’t have if they played sports because that gets wiped away from you pretty quick in a sporting scene.
I always harden back to where I am now in my career and the people that I get to work with like I am a freshman in college on a team and you’re the bottom of the barrel and you got to do some of the grunt work. You got to clean up the bus and there are times that I’m the youngest guy on a crew and I’m not going to get the attention or respect necessary, I’m going to have to earn it. Those are the things that I think I take from sports and I do think it improves the way I speak to the athletes as well.
What advice would you give your younger self or someone like me that wants to go in your footsteps?
I think that the biggest thing that I would tell my younger self or even myself now is that at times I need to be more patience. That’s really hard to do especially starting out and there are times where you going to be like I don’t think I’m doing the right things, it’s draining, it’s so subjective.
I don’t know again it goes back to the track thing and am I on the right track in what I’m suppose to be doing I would preach patience and tell anyone who is trying to get into it don’t let people tell you, oh its to hard don’t do it. If you really want to do it then give it a shot and be patience.
You have to think about it all the time because there are so many times that you’re by yourself or your not working or you’re not getting paid and your thinking i guess i can go hang out with my buddies. To me you have to approach it like a nine to five job where all throughout the day, even if you’re not working, What are you doing to make yourself have a better chance to get to where you want to be. Okay I’m not at work right now but I’m going to work on my resume, I’m going to edit that and send out this and search jobs. To always be thinking what can I be doing to be utilizing my time well. When there is going to be down times and there is going to be time that you don’t have anything going on. How can I utilize that time to get a better understanding of the business maybe have a better chance of being successful at it and in that regard I think if you feel like over the course of the day, whether you worked or not, that you did things that could help your career then that would probably speed up the process