When reports came out this week of ESPN hiring Jordan Rodgers as a SEC Network analyst shortly after he won the final rose on ABC’s The Bachelorette, many saw his reality TV fame and the Disney connection (Disney owns both ESPN and ABC) as reasons for the move. However, ESPN senior vice president Stephanie Druley told Sports Illustrated‘s Richard Deitsch this week that they initially reached out to Rodgers without knowing of his Bachelorette involvement:
SI.com: You told ESPN Front Row that Jordan Rogers was one of your first calls when you were planning the upcoming football season. Why was he one of your first calls and did he actively pursue employment with ESPN?
Druley: Our talent office had Jordan on their radar for some time. His name was in the initial group of names that we discussed when looking at people to bring to Charlotte (the SEC Network home) for auditions. He played at Vanderbilt. He played quarterback. We had seen some interviews that he had done. So we reached out to him. At the time, he was unavailable due to filming. I’m not even sure that we knew what show he was doing. When he became available, he came to Charlotte. He walked into my office and the first thing I said to him [jokingly] was that his hair might be too high for our network. Despite that, it was clear he had a real passion and a deep knowledge of college football. The audition was really good—rare that someone walks in off the street and does an audition that we would be willing to air.
SI.com: Many people will see this as ESPN attempting to capitalize on the popularity of a show that aired on a fellow Disney property. Why or why not is this the case?
Druley: He had been on our radar before the show, he didn’t need the show to get our attention. In fact, I had a real concern with how he would be viewed by fans of the show and what it might mean for him down the line. We waited until the show was a few weeks into its run before we made an offer. He accepted the offer the day I was in an airport and saw US Weekly with him splashed across the cover. Thankfully, the article didn’t live up to the headline nor did a lot of other ones I read, and I’m certain that I read about 90% of what was written because I was vested in what it’d mean for the work he’d do with us. But the fact that my group had spent time with Jordan made us confident in the decision.
Druley went on to say that the on-camera experience Rodgers got from his stint on The Bachelorette was beneficial for him, though:
SI.com: How do you equate a talent’s experience on a reality show versus how they potentially might be on a sports studio show?
Druley: The advantage Jordan had when he sat down in front of our cameras in Charlotte was that he had just spent the past three months in front of a camera or many cameras. I think that’s the advantage it gave him. When you combine that with the fact that he knows college football and can speak intelligently about it, it made him the right fit for us.
Rodgers won’t be the first SEC quarterback to go between the worlds of reality TV and sports broadcasting. Jesse Palmer starred on the fifth season of The Bachelor while he was still in the NFL before doing broadcasting work with Fox, NFL Network, TSN, CTV and eventually ESPN and ABC. Tim Tebow hasn’t been on a dating show, but has co-hosted the reality show Home Free on Fox in addition to his work on the SEC Network and ABC’s Good Morning America. So, apparently being a SEC quarterback is good preparation both for sports broadcasting and for reality TV.