ESPN's Jenn Brown
has been compared
in plenty of places
to Erin Andrews. It's hardly an unfair comparison -- they both went to the University of Florida, both work the college football sidelines and both are considered easy on the eyes by a male dominated sporting public. It's also a comparison with which Brown has no problem. "I think Erin is great, and so it’s never anything that would bother me," Brown said.
But there is a lot more to Brown's story, as we found out this week during a phone conversation. Brown, who works on ESPN's Thursday night College Football Primetime as a sideline reporter and also contributes to College Gameday on Saturdays, also happens to be ONE OF US by extension. Many of her relatives (including her dad) live in Minnesota, and she spent Labor Day weekend in our fair state. You'll find out more in a two-part Q&A. Let's start right about now:
RandBall: You made your sideline debut a week ago with South Carolina vs. Southern Miss. How would you describe the emotions of the evening?
Jenn Brown: Everybody kept on asking, "Are you nervous, what do you think, are you scared?” The only question mark for me was being the first one. I knew I had prepared, knew my storylines … I even had an extra day to spend talking to people and doing research. For me, it wasn’t about being nervous. It was just the fear of the unknown, not having done it that first time – knowing what’s expected and where I should be. That initial question mark of what exactly it was going to feel like – that question mark has been answered. Now it’s just to keep on studying and preparing and getting better.
RB: Is there a specific method or approach you take when you are the interviewer?
JB: When I go in to a situation, I have an idea of what the big picture is, but I try not to have a set list of questions. That allows me to sit there and listen. If you listen, that’s going to let you get where you want to go. You don’t miss the gold. I remember I had an interview coach tell me that if you’re not listening, you’ll miss the gold – if you’re too focused on the questions. … On the sidelines, it’s a little different. My responsibility is to be the eyes and ears of what’s happening down there, what I can contribute by being down on the field.
Any strange or funny stories so far from your ESPN work – either this year or on Road Trip
last year – that made you think, “What exactly have I gotten myself into?”
JB: (Laughs) Absolutely. That’s so funny because it immediately comes to mind. You mention the Road Trip show we did, which was going to the biggest college football weekends, whatever the biggest matchup was, and spending 3-4 days before the game with great all-access elements. We decided to do the Red River Rivalry (Texas-Oklahoma). It’s during the Texas State Fair there at the Cotton Bowl, and the biggest element and the sign we took the picture in front of was, “Fried Food Capital of the World.” … We went around and tried a lot of that fried food. I’m talking fried Oreos, fried peanut butter and jelly, chicken-fried bacon, fried Coke, fried butter. It was maybe the fourth or fifth fried element they wanted me to try that I said, "Wait a minute: Not only do I not want to have a heart attack tomorrow at the game, but I’m not sure how healthy it is."
RB: Given your Minnesota connection, are you ready to announce that Minnesota is your sleeper team to reach the Rose Bowl this year?
JB: (Laughs) Well, my role is to stay impartial. But I had a chance to talk to one of my cousins who plays baseball, and his dream is to play baseball there. My little brother and my dad are going to go to the USC game. When I have family in those places, I play a little extra close attention to those teams.
RB: People have drawn comparisons between you and Erin Andrews – for career reasons and, let’s face it, appearance reasons. First off, what do you make of those comparisons?
JB: I think Erin is great, and so it’s never anything that would bother me. She’s very good at what she does. It’s interesting that it does come about … they compare us because we both went to Florida, which a lot of people find ironic. But she’s someone I can model myself after and I can base things off her, and I can watch and study. I do that with all the female talent at ESPN: Suzy Kolber, Holly Rowe -- people I can really model myself after.
RB: Second, Erin’s career has taken off in a variety of ways, but there are also some cautionary tales that came with her fame. Have you thought at all about gaining fame in this era and what it can mean?
JB: It’s not something that really crosses my mind, to be honest with you. I’ve been in the television business for six years. I started off in entertainment … and I’m blessed that I’ve had an opportunity to try other things out there where you could take a career. And I know I want to do sports, and that’s where I’m at. ESPN has given me the opportunity to do just that. For me, I don’t think about the fame. I love sports, and when you love sports – which you can surely appreciate – every day you wake up you say, “I get paid to go be on the sideline and report.” … It’s unbelievable. To me, that is the fame. That’s the end result that makes me feel happy.
RB: It got a little nuts with Erin for a while. It just made me wonder if it was something that made people think twice?
JB: I try not to read things on the Internet. For me, the most important thing is being prepared and doing the best job that I can do. As long as I’m doing that, I’ll be happy with myself and my bosses will be happy with me, and the fans will hopefully see my passion for sports is there and I’m doing what I love to do.
Part II next: Tim Tebow, a special pillow and Two Tickets to Paradise.