ESPN hosted a media availability on Thursday, Jan. 5, with Emmy Award-winning analyst Kirk Herbstreit to preview the College Football Playoff National Championship Presented by AT&T.
Herbstreit will call the championship matchup – TCU vs. Georgia – on Monday, Jan. 9 (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles with Chris Fowler and reporters Holly Rowe and Molly McGrath in addition to being part of the College GameDay Built by The Home Depot pregame show (5 p.m., ESPN & ESPNU).
Kirk Herbstreit: I’m fired up like always. We get to this final game, and man, I don’t know if we could have asked for much more in the semifinals with the way those games played out. Michigan and TCU going back and forth, looked like Michigan might find a way to pull it out late, and then to the credit at TCU, the way they’ve done it all year, they once again win the game late, which has been their theme all year. And then with Ohio State and Georgia, man, Ohio State off of that Michigan game, I don’t know if they could have executed any better in most areas, and with the way Ryan Day was calling it and with the way CJ Stroud was playing. But again, credit to Georgia, heart of a champion up against the ropes and just made enough plays there late to be able to get an opportunity to repeat, something you just don’t see very often in this sport. So fired up to be here. I went home after the Rose Bowl and came back today, and fired up for Monday night and all the buildup and the hype to get us ready.
What are your thoughts on SoFi hosting its first national championship game?
KH: Yeah, I obviously watched it, especially last year when the Rams were on a big run and then ended up in the Super Bowl. I’m an idiot, I thought it was a dome until I got there this year. And it’s the most unique setup that the architects did. When you see it in person, it’s fantastic. It’s got to be, along with, I don’t know, whatever other NFL stadium you want to put out there, state-of-the-art facility. But it’ll be, I think for fans that come out here, even though there’s some wind and rain even though it’s sunny out right now, I think people will be fired up to have a chance to get in the stadium. And what better setting than SoFi for the national title? It’ll be great.
A couple for me. First of all, a little over a year ago at this time, Georgia had lost in the SEC championship and there were a lot of people calling for Kirby Smart to make a quarterback change, go back to JT Daniels, Stetson Bennett can’t win a national title. I’m just curious looking back on that, what does Kirby’s decision to stick with Stetson say about Kirby and what he’s done with this program and his confidence and making tough decisions? I don’t know, that seems to epitomize what he’s done to build Georgia into this new dynasty in college football.
KH: Without a doubt. I think what an opportunity they have Monday to be the new bar in the sport if they’re not already. Kirby’s created a very consistent brand. The decision on Stetson, he’ll be the first one to tell you, and I’m sure he’s told you, Paul, this because he is pretty open about it, that he and all the offensive coaches struggled with the idea of him being the guy last year and really was hoping JT Daniels would get healthy and get back and be the guy to lead them to wherever they were going last year. And All Stenson Bennett did was keep making plays and keep making plays. And like you said, he came up short in Atlanta, and I didn’t realize that there were a lot of people questioning if he was the guy at that point. I thought that was more middle of the year.
But regardless, whenever the decision was made and however much noise was on the outside of the program, the little guy just kept battling and kept making plays. And I think even the coaches threw their hands up in the air and said, “Man, this guy gives us our best chance to win.” And I think last year in that championship game against Alabama, that second half, they went from, “Oh gosh, what are we going to do?” to, “Put the ball in his hands.” And I don’t want to say he won it for them, but I know his playmaking ability and a lot of those throws late in that game had a lot to do with how they won that game. And then he comes back this year as a seasoned veteran, and I think now he’s the face of the offense in the program.
It’s incredible, the journey. You could honestly write a movie script on his story. I’m excited to see if he gets an opportunity to write this final chapter the way he wants. But it’s been a lot of fun to watch this guy against all odds proving everybody, including his own coaches and his own fans, wrong to the point of potentially winning back-to-back national titles. For me personally as a college football nut, I’ll never forget what he’s done and how he had to prove people wrong along the way.
With TCU being in this, there was a thought that the championship game had become kind of stale or the same teams in it every year, a few SEC powerhouses, Clemson and Ohio State. How much excitement do you think it brings having somebody like TCU in this game, and do you think we could see more of this when we go to the 12-team playoff?
KH: Yeah, I think so. I think it’s great to have a new face. And especially their story, when they were 5-7 their coach stepped down, and they brought in a new coach really across town from SMU. And here he is in his first year. I’m sure you’ve looked at it, there’s five or six different games that a lot of people thought, “Okay, that’s a fun story. They’re gone.” And they just kept finding a way to win games and coming back. And of course, the grand fashion was the game against Baylor, last second walk-off field goal. That’s kind of symbolic of their season, really. And even against Michigan, a back-and-forth game. So not only just a new face, but their story and what they had to do to get here.
And man, it just doesn’t seem that long ago TCU was in the Mountain West and trying to get respect from people around the country, and they had an opportunity to play against Wisconsin and the Rose Bowl and obviously took full advantage of that. And I think that really helped their brand that day and then eventually to join the Big 12. And a lot of people still don’t respect them. And then to have this year, I think a lot of people, if you’re really taking a poll with Georgia fans, they don’t know a whole lot about TCU. To me that’s fun. Because they’re not going to back down, I assure you, and they’re incredibly confident, and I think it’s going to be a great game. And to answer your second question, yeah, I think with the 12-team playoff I think there’s definitely an opportunity not only to obviously see new faces, but for teams like TCU to potentially make a run to get into the big stage like this.
Obviously, Georgia and TCU, their rosters are built differently. And TCU is maybe more involved in the portal than anybody that’s been at this stage in the playoff era. How do you view TCU’S roster makeup? Do you think that more lean on the portal is a sustainable viable model for other teams or if TCU just catch lightning in a bottle here?
KH: Well, I think all of us are learning as we go along here. We saw Michigan State a couple years ago hit it big. We saw USC hit it big this year until the very end where they lost the PAC 12 championship and then lost their bowl game. But obviously had a great year from where they were the year before. I think new coaches in new situations the first two or three years, those are the guys that are really, I think, needing to flip their roster around. And what better way to do it? It’s like the NFL with free agency. But I think your point is, for me as I sit here just a couple years into this transfer portal, I think it’s like the NFL. You build longevity with the draft, and you build your foundation with the draft and in college football recruiting.
But then if you need a right guard or you need a safety or you need a linebacker, you go into the portal and you pick some pieces, I think. I think that’s more sustainable. I think that’s probably where people will eventually get, but these new coaches, they inherit a roster, maybe guys don’t buy into their culture, maybe they have a weakness in offensive line. What we’re seeing is people go out and pick people up as quickly as they can to try to replenish a roster. So that makes a lot of sense to me, but I really think that the future of most programs is going to be still recruiting and still go through cherry-picking and finding different guys that might meet the needs that you have.
You obviously now cover both the NFL and college football. There’s been a lot of concern in college football circles about the NFL encroaching on college football’s territory, the Black Friday game starting next year that you’ll actually be doing for Amazon. But also, this past New Year’s and on January 2nd because New Year’s fell on a Sunday, you had an NFL game in that Sugar Bowl time slot. And it seems like the NFL overshadowed college football on one of its top days of the year, the least watched Rose Bowl ever, least watched Cotton Bowl in many years. As someone who covers both sports, do you think that this competition is going to maybe get to a point where college football is really set back, kind of the way the NBA is on Christmas Day?
KH: My hope, and I don’t know all the answers to the logistics, but I do wish that there was a set date where it was a little bit more fan friendly for college football, like Saturday nights. Like the national championship being on a Monday night, I know I hear from fans all the time how tough that is for people in the East Coast to try to stay up on these games. And I’ve always heard about the NFL and college football trying to be good partners, and the NFL in a perfect world would be respectful of what the college football traditional territory has been.
I’d like to think that the league and the decision makers from college football could get on the same page as we move forward to this 12-team playoff. I don’t know what the answers are, honestly, because like you said, the NFL seems to be growing and looking for different time opportunities to show their product off. And they’re the king, let’s face it. In all sports, you throw the NBA, MLB, anything out there, and the NFL is clearly number one. I don’t think college football, I don’t know, you probably have researched it, John. I think college football’s number two in this country.
I think college football’s number two in this country, and I know as an avid fan of both the leagues or the sports, I would love to see them be able to work behind the scenes. I just feel that college football right now, who are the leaders? Who’s making the decisions to ultimately try to have those kind of conversations? It’s most definitely not the NCAA. I’m very anxious to see where our future goes as we get ready for this 12-team playoff as we still wait for more realignment. There are so many unknowns right now in college football. John, we might have a commissioner like Roger Goodell. We might have… Who knows, maybe that’s our future. Maybe breaking away from the NCAA and creating its own governing body and creating its own world and partnering with the players association and creating a CBA, if that is the future, which I don’t know if it would be because it’s just such an unknown.
So right now, I think it’s just a mess. I think the sport of college football across the board is a mess in a lot of different areas, and I think trying to find one person to represent the sport, to talk on its behalf to Roger Goodell and the league, I don’t know if that exists right now. I think college football has to get their world kind of aligned and figure that out and then figure out who the leader is and then go forward with trying to find a way to partner with the NFL and try to work together on dates and times and things of that nature.
Could you ever remember a Cinderella quite like this? TCU, I mean a team that didn’t get a single vote in the preseason, was five and seven last year, was basically counted out all year. Eight-point underdog in the semis. Now they’re a 13-and-a-half-point underdog. Could you ever… I’ve been trying to think back. It feels like in the last 20, 25 years we’ve never really had a story quite like this.
KH: Not to this level, no. And I wish The Bear [Chris Fallica] was on here. He could probably tell us off the top of his head who these big underdogs have been that make it. Cincinnati of course was in a semi, but not all the way to the title. I can’t remember this big of underdog off the top of my head. I remember when Ohio State played Miami in ’02, they were a pretty big underdog, but they were still Ohio State, still with that big brand. So, no man, I really can’t, and not to mention if you go back, not just to this week, but you bring up a good point. If you go back to August, how many people were in Las Vegas saying, “Yeah, let me put $10 down on TCU to win national title”? I don’t know if anybody was, including their own fan base.
And think of their story. Max Duggan is a guy that’s been around for four years, and he doesn’t even start with a new coaching staff to start the season to break camp. They go with Chandler Morris, and he gets dinged up and they go back to Duggan. That gives you an idea of what they thought of Max Duggan. And then he becomes the leader and the face of his team and a Heisman finalist. So yeah, this is a team that’s kind of been against all odds all year, and don’t tell them they don’t have a chance Monday night. Actually, tell them that. I think they like to hear it, because it seems to fire them up. But if anybody does an article on how many four stars and five stars are on the two rosters, you would think, “Why are we even playing the game on Monday night?” But as we all know, it’s more about how a team comes together and what it ends up becoming. And TCU’s a great example of that.
With Georgia, when you see them and what they now have accomplished the last few years, do you see them almost as a new… Do they remind you of what Alabama was?
KH: I think Alabama is still Alabama. I know they’ve been off here or there a tick here. They lost in the last play of the game to Tennessee, last play of the game to LSU. I’m still a huge believer in Nick Saban and Alabama. But I know what you’re saying because I agree with you, and I do think that Georgia… I already feel that Georgia’s right there. Now if they win Monday night, game day travels all around the country and these teams always say, “We want Bama, we want Bama.” They’re going to have to update that to, “We want Georgia.” I mean Georgia is recruiting at as high level as anybody since Kirby’s been there. Most importantly, they’re developing players as well as anybody. To his credit, I think he learned a lot of this when he was a young coordinator. He’s found a way to not take your foot off the gas.
He’s found a way to keep the motivation and find a way to get a chip on your shoulder and get pissed off at the world the way teams that win all the time. It’s unique to try to do that. It’s hard. That’s why we don’t see teams repeat very often, because you just lose a little bit of an edge. And Georgia, man, how many times have they shown up flat over the last two or three, four years? Sometimes they get beat, but it’s not because they laid an egg or showed up flat. So no, he’s doing… Kirby is doing an amazing job, and I think most people that follow the sport on a national level would recognize that and definitely put him either equal to Bama, or if he wins Monday, yeah, like you said, he’s the new standard in the sport.
You touched a little bit on Max Duggan. Both quarterbacks have overcome significant adversity to get to where they are today. I hope you don’t mind me saying, but you also had adversity in your college career. Can you talk to the mental toughness required to overcome these obstacles for student athletes?
KH: Yeah, everybody has a different story. There are some guys that come in as a five star, they walk right on the field and play right away and go off to the NFL three years later. That’s not the norm, but it happens. I think most people have a story where they hit some adversity. That’s why the transfer portal is such an interesting thing. I think it’s good for people, and sometimes I wish guys would be willing to stay in there and kind of fight the fight and really grow and develop as a person. But I think everybody, not everybody, but again, going back to my earlier comment, I think most people face whether it’s playing time or it’s an injury or it’s something that prevents you from right away, or a better player ahead of you, whatever it is, you face it.
And either it’s a great assistant coach, a position coach, a coordinator, a parent, high school coach, family members, whoever it might be, these guys go in with such pressure and such expectations that when they don’t live up to those initially, I know it can be really hard for a lot of these guys, especially in this social media era that they live in. And yeah, I know from talking to guys every week that they rely on whoever their support staff is to help them get through those tough times. It could even be a starter like CJ Stroud who has a bad game, not even really a bad game, but the team has a bad game against Michigan and then you deal with it then.
I don’t think you’re ever immune to dealing with it. There’s nothing you could ever do to protect yourself from it. You’re going to have to learn to cope with adversity. And these guys are no different today than they were going back in the sixties, seventies, eighties. It’s always kind of been the case. I think the difference is now the coverage and the attention on the sport. And of course, social media and how toxic that can be that these guys have to be able to cope with.
The over/under for this game is around 62. Watching the semifinals, they may get that by halftime, but sometimes things are played a little tighter. What’s your take on that, as to what you’re seeing?
KH: Man, I’m with you. I would see points. And Kirby, when we sat down with him leading into last week’s game against Ohio State, we were asking him kind of the same subject just about Ryan Dave made it pretty clear that he thought he’d have to score the mid to high forties to win the game because of the respect he had for Georgia’s offense. And I also think that Kirby brought up a good point about the wear and tear of a season and how you get a long layoff and how the tackling is always a concern and how tough it is to stay sharp on the defensive side of the ball for this kind of run. Now maybe it’ll be better because they just finally played a game last week. Maybe they’ll be able to make some corrections off of the mistakes that the defense has made.
But I’m with you. I think these two quarterbacks, the style of offenses that they run, I see a lot of points. I think if you get a stop in this kind of game, I think it’s a win. If you get a stop in the red area, it’s a win. If you can get a punt, obviously it’s a massive win, or a turnover, because I see a lot of speed for TCU on the perimeter and in the backfield. I haven’t heard the latest on Kendre Miller if he’s going to be able to go, but they’ve got great backs even if he can’t. And obviously they got speed at receiver. And this Georgia’s secondary the last couple times out against LSU and Ohio State, they’ve been vulnerable. And here comes another team that can make you pay for that. And we always know what Georgia’s capable of doing on the other side of the ball offensively. So yeah, I’m with you, man. I think it’s a back-and-forth type of game with a lot of playmakers and a lot of speed and a lot of points.
What are your thoughts on Coach Dykes coming in and succeeding at this level in his first year? And also, how much credit does Gary Patterson deserve for the team’s success right now?
KH: Yeah, I think Gary obviously for what he did there, the recruiting that he did, the culture that he created that Sonny Dykes inherited, even though they didn’t win a lot of games last year, he inherited a roster not full of guys that you would think were capable of winning a ton of games. But it was good character, good substance, good foundation. And then I think the timing of Sonny Dykes being in that area, knowing the players, learning the players pretty quickly, he credits his strength staff for coming in and really getting after it, kind of set a new standard for the direction that they were going to go. Maybe some new juice, some new blood. I think maybe it was good for the returning players, but how much credit does Sonny Dykes deserve or what can he say about the job that he did? TCU, not just last year, in the last few years, they’ve had some decent games, but they just lacked consistency.
And to be able to have this kind of run is a major credit to Sonny Dykes, who I’ve known for a long time, going back to even before Cal, watching him as a young assistant. And he’s got… I’m sure you’ve been around him, he’s got a competitive spirit about him, what most of these coaches have. But he’s just got a way about him that I think relates to the current player. It’s not shocking to me that he’s doing well. A little bit surprising I think for all of us in his first year and considering some of the obstacles they’ve had to overcome that they’re here in the national title, but you know, you look at what he’s already doing with the portal moving forward into next year. I don’t think this is a one and done thing for TCU. I think Sonny Dykes has got something right now that’s pretty unique and I’m excited to see where it can go, not just Monday night, but moving forward after this.
You’re going to be on the call with Chris Fowler again this Monday for the national championship game. You guys have had obviously a ton of experience with each other in the booth and that kind of stands out to what you were doing this fall, building a partnership with Al Michaels for Amazon. Can you speak a little bit to the advantages that the kind of familiarity you have with Fowler gives you when you’re in the booth, especially for a game like Monday’s National Championship game?
KH: Yeah, it’s a lot like probably your job or if we’re talking about football, just the familiarity with your partner, the cadence of a broadcast, just a look of an eye, you’re looking at each other. It might be an eyebrow raise, might just be little things that, you know, sometimes hear quarterback and receivers talk about. They just kind of know each other. They kind of feel each other. I think that’s probably the best way to describe it. I’ve been working with him on … On GameDay, I’ve worked with him for over two decades and then on the Saturday night game, I’ve been working with him since 14. When you work with somebody for that much time and that many games, just it becomes very natural, very comfortable. Something … My first year with Al, it’s very interesting to work Thursday night with Al, who is maybe the greatest ever do it and Fred Gaudelli was the producer and he, Fred Gaudelli and Al go back to John Madden and then Cris Collinsworth.
For me to kind of step in, not a new producer and a new play-by-play guy, but a producer and a play-by-play guy that had been together for a long time and done so many big events, and then to kind of step in line with them, it wasn’t all of us learning something new. It was me kind of learning Al and Freddy and that was a challenge within itself, not just calling the game. And then to leave that and then to go to Saturday. It was almost like going home. When I would go to Saturday, it was very interesting to go through that. And then as I got more and more reps with Al as we did … I think it ended up being I think 15 or 16 games, you could just start to feel his rhythm and his cadence and so I got more and more comfortable working with Al as well. But getting back to Chris, without a doubt, I think all this time we’ve been together allows us to really feel one another and feed off of one another as well.
Of both teams’ weaknesses, is there one that’s more glaring than the other?
KH: The biggest concern I have for Georgia is going to be can they get pressure on Duggan? Can they get to Duggan before those wide receivers can make plays against the secondary, which is an obvious concern for Georgia? Especially after the last couple games. And I would’ve said against TCU, if you and I would’ve spoken before the TCU Michigan game, I thought, okay, like everybody else, man, how are they going to hold up at the line of scrimmage? They don’t have the biggest people at the line of scrimmage, especially in the defensive front. How are they going to be okay? But somebody forgot to tell Dee Winters and the TCU defense. And I know they ended up giving them some scores up, but I didn’t look at it like, oh my gosh, they’re getting blown off the ball. I didn’t really sense that. That 3-3-5 that they were playing with their hair on fire, kind of anxious to show that they could stand up against the run.
And Donovan Edwards got out early, but for the most part, I think Michigan made some plays through the air. And that would be my other concern for TCU is how do they match up also against Stetson Bennett and those tight ends and even the receivers. I think it’s both teams are going to be able to have opportunities to throw the football. TCU does a pretty good job of getting pressure on the quarterback, so I think can they corral Stetson Bennett? Or is he going to be able to be back there creating, making plays. It’s kind of both team’s biggest Achilles to me is defending the quarterback’s creativity and then the big play ability through the air is I think going to be something to watch for both these defenses.
Can you speak to TCU being the first Texas team to one, make the playoff and two, make the playoff national championship game? Also, I know you’re really good friends with Pat McAfee and you love to go on his show a lot. Just what has he brought from a chemistry standpoint and what has he added to that College GameDay show throughout the season from your perspective?
KH: I never even thought about TCU being the first team in this playoff era to make a run here. You would think about obviously the high-profile schools that get all the five-star guys and you would think that they would be the teams that would be out front. And here’s TCU. I think it’s great. I mean, we’ve been around the TCU program it seems like for a long, long time, since the Mountain West Days and watched him really build that program up and see what it was capable of doing. Man, I remember doing a TCU game when LT was there. They were playing Southern Miss in the GMAC Bowl. I’ve watched him take it from here all the way up and then I saw him kind of come back down with Gary. Because you know, I love Gary and I love that program. I love the town. It’s just one of those places you enjoy. I’ve always kind of pulled for them. But to see them here, I’m sure you covering them, can’t believe it yourself… just to watch these guys make this run. 8-4 would’ve been a great year this year to me after where they were last year. And to think that in that state where football means everything and the amount of money that these other programs put into their programs and think that they’re going to be the one, it’s funny how culture and chemistry and love and belief, all those old school principals for this TCU team, they really matter. And to the point where they made a run all the way to an undefeated season a bit and … or not undefeated season. Into the Big 12 Championship and then an opportunity to play in the national title. It’s been fantastic, but it is crazy to think they’re the first team in the state of Texas.
As far as Pat, it’s my 27th year on the show. I love all the guys on our show have. We’re very lucky that we have great chemistry. Lee Corso, he and I have been together for so long. He means everything to me. Everybody on that show does, I’ve gotten to know Pat before he came on this year. I would kid him about, “When are you going to come over and join us for real?” And he’s, “Ah, you know,” back and forth and then I evidently got things worked out. And I can just tell you he, he’s a rowdy, fun guy jumping into the water and all that kind of stuff. But that guy has a genuine heart of gratitude. He is a very humble guy. I think people lose what his heart is about because of how wild he is. But he’s a great teammate. He’s incredibly respectful of the GameDay brand to almost to a fault because he grew up watching it and just kind of appreciating what that show has done in the sport for a long time. And he kind of had his hat in his hand when he came into these meetings and to join the show. And I think that’s pretty genuine of him.
And off the air with me, he’s been a game changer. He’s been like an Energizer bunny for me personally in my 27th year with ESPN, especially with the schedule that I had, not sleeping a lot and to just be around him. As you can tell, that’s how he is off the air. For me to be around that energy was reinvigorating for me and my personal career on College GameDay. I can’t thank him enough for what he brought to the show on the air, but also what he brought to the show off the air and just hanging out and vibing with him. Hopefully he’s a part of that show for a long time.
Hey Kirk, just wanted to touch base with you as a quarterback and the role of a color commentary still, and I think you just said 27 years later, however long you’ve been doing it. Do you still find yourself reading the defenses as they break their huddle and then do you try not to talk over let’s just say Chris because you see what they’re doing and want to share your knowledge and experience, and if you just don’t mind elaborating on how you watch the game?
KH: That’s a great question. When I first started doing games, I was lucky enough to be with Mike Tirico and a producer named Tim Corrigan and I was in my 20s and I’d never called a high school game, let alone calling a game on a Thursday night on ESPN. And Mike and Tim, they just said, listen, all we want you to do is tell us how or why the play unfolded. Just stay in that lane. That’s all we want you to really think about to help the viewer watch the game. And so that’s kind of how I started. I’m not really big on interrupting the play-by-play guy. As a fan, when I sit on a couch and I watch the game, if I’m watching local telecasts or radio, I don’t mind the guy in the background yelling If it’s a local game, I think that’s kind of fun and it provides some passion.
But if you’re doing a national game, it’s just the way, my personal preference, I like to give the play-by-play guy his time and his lane to set the scene, to call the game. If you ever notice when a touchdown, especially if it’s a home team, scores a touchdown, I immediately lay out, not because I’m happy or I’m sad or whatever, it’s more of I lay out so our director can cut shots and show the emotion of the game. And then either right before the extra point or right after the extra point, we might hit a replay and kind of talk about what just happened on that touchdown. But I’m very… Because I’ve done it for so many years, I’m so tuned in to not just my role as an analyst, I’m tuned into the play-by-play guy. I’m thinking about the director. I’m thinking about everybody because I don’t want to get in the way of anybody in doing their job and trying to make it the better broadcast that we can.
I try to a fault of not get in the way of Al or Chris or anybody I’ve ever worked with, but to answer your question, I’m right away, as soon as the huddle breaks, if there is a huddle, I’m looking at the safeties. I’m seeing if the corners have depth, that they bring in a blitz. I’m looking at it. And then, because if you think about it, Charlie, I have, I don’t know, six seconds to think of a thought and about eight seconds or 10 seconds to say that thought for three and a half or four hours. Anything I can do before the snap to help them understand analytically and schematically what just happened, and then to try to say it in layman’s terms so my mom can understand or my wife can understand. That’s the other thing is, I’m not going to say three technique or inverted safety or too high shelf. If I say anything that’s football terms, I always try to follow it up with what I mean by that, just because I think so many people don’t really understand what some of those terms are. I try to do it in a way that a coach can understand and enjoy it and also someone who doesn’t understand it can hopefully learn something and enjoy watching the game. But I definitely want to stay out of the way. That’s for sure.
Who do you think will be the quiet game changers on Monday night’s game? Maybe some guys who have made a big splash thus far for both TCU and Georgia?
KH: I’ll say that probably Adonai Mitchell for Georgia, who has the potential at any moment now that he’s healthy to make a play. And I’m going to say Emari Demercado at TCU. He’s the backup back who obviously he had a great year. He is averaged almost six yards of carry. I think Demercado and Mitchell I think have the best chance to like… I don’t want to say off the radar, but guys that maybe don’t always have their opportunity to be the showcased name. With Miller’s potential injury, hopefully he’s good to go now. But when he didn’t play as well because of the injury last week, it opened up the door for Demercado and he obviously stepped up and had a big game. I think he had 150 yards last week. So those would be the two I would say.
I know you had touched on the experience that you’ve had with Al Michaels up in the broadcast booth, and I wanted to ask you, what’s that experience been like for you? What maybe feels different from a college booth to an NFL booth? And you said he’s one of the greatest that have ever done this game. What’s that been like? What’s that experience been like for you?
KH: Wow, I appreciate the question. In my career, I’ve worked with Mike Tirico and then I worked with Brent Musburger and then Chris Fowler and now Al Michaels. And it was very similar when I first started to work with Brett Musburger because when I eight or nine years old, I watched Brett Musburger on the NFL Today Show, and now here I am standing right next to him, hearing him say you’re looking live. And I’d get chills when he would say that in a big game we were getting ready to do. I had to pinch myself when I first started to work with Brett. And with Al Michaels, I go all the way back to the Olympics like everybody else. When he said, do you believe in miracles? And I was about 11 years old when he did that. And then I watched his career all the way through the Olympics and obviously Monday night football and Super Bowls and Monday night doing World Series, Monday night baseball with Jim Palmer.
Just I’m a huge fan of his and I love his voice. And now here I am standing next to him. It was quite a moment, even though I’ve been around for a number of years now. It was still, oh, my gosh. And I’m working with Al Michaels and I’m not shy to tell him that. I tell him that all the time just because I have such… Just my generation, I feel like I have a great deal of gratitude and appreciation for the people that came before me. And I’ve just been lucky enough to work with some of the best to ever do it. And so Lee Corso I would throw in there as well is a guy that is a mentor of mine and somebody that I’ve been with for a long time. I try to learn as much as I can from all these people that I work with.
Calling the NFL was a big enough challenge, especially in the schedule that I had. But when they put me Al Michaels, I worked even more to another level of prep because I didn’t want to let him down or I didn’t want him to think that I couldn’t do it. And I felt internally an immense amount of pressure to deliver, not just for my job with Amazon, but for Al Michaels, because I wanted him to feel good about what we were doing. And hopefully I did okay. But yeah, it was an incredible experience and looking forward to working with him for a number of years and calling those games on Thursday night.
Are you happy with your performance from this season?
KH: Yeah, I’m happy I survived it. I was confident that I could do it. I’m a big prep guy, so the amount of prep that I did this year is unprecedented for me. And at the end, it’s almost like asking Sonny Dykes or Kirby Smart if they’re happy with what they’ve done. I almost can’t step out of this world that I’ve been in, in preparation to even look to see if I feel good about it because I’m just like… The best way to describe it, Katrina, is like, I’m on a treadmill, not at seven miles an hour, but at 15 and I can’t really get off of it until Monday at about midnight eastern. I’ll step off that treadmill and it won’t go down to seven, it’ll go to zero because just everything stops for me at midnight on Monday night, and then I’ll have a chance to unwind and look back and see how things went.
I felt really good about it. I hope people enjoyed it. I tried to make it a good experience and I think learning at the NFL this year was a lot of fun for me and hopefully there’ll be many more years for me doing games at that level.