Molly McGrath Oct 17, 2019; Stanford, CA, USA; ESPN sideline reporter Molly McGrath during the NCAA football game between the Stanford Cardinal and the UCLA Bruins at Stanford Stadium. UCLA defeated Stanford 34-16. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

On May 22, 2023, the 44th Annual Sports Emmys commence. On that night in New York City, the Sports Emmys will recognize the outstanding work and achievements of the networks and their personalities. This year’s Outstanding Personality/Reporter category features five terrific reporters. The nominees for the category include Fox’s Tom Rinaldi, NBC’s Melissa Stark, and three others from ESPN: Holly Rowe, Lisa Salters, and Molly McGrath.

ESPN hired McGrath in 2016 to join its college football and basketball coverage. She had previously held that role with Fox Sports, along with a role as co-host of America’s Pregame with Mike Hill. McGrath climbed up the ladder and eventually landed with a premier crew. Last season, McGrath worked with longtime play-by-play man Sean McDonough and color commentator Todd Blackledge.

Amid all her successes, McGrath didn’t anticipate an Emmy nomination. In fact, at first, she was sure that people were congratulating her for another reason.

“Imagine this: I was in my son’s nursery, in a chair, nursing him. I was breastfeeding. I start getting all these texts saying, ‘Congratulations!’ So I thought everyone was texting me ‘Congratulations!’ for having a baby,” McGrath told Awful Announcing.

McGrath gave birth to her second child, Pierce, with her husband on April 2, she revealed on her Instagram account. So while McGrath had received a nomination, she was highly unaware. She recalled, “I’m sitting there like, ‘Oh, alright. They’re a little late to the announcement. But yeah, that’s nice.’ I didn’t respond to anything. I was confused. Why am I getting these texts?'”

According to McGrath, she hadn’t realized what happened until ESPN PR team member Amanda Brooks sent a congratulatory text about the Emmy nomination. And McGrath said at that moment, “My heart just fell out of my body. I looked at my phone like, ‘What?'”

She explained that she had no idea her Emmy reel made it through submission. McGrath said her bosses at ESPN had been “super respectful to taking this time off” for her newborn, so she “literally had no idea.”

McGrath said she then received a phone call from her producer, Josh Hoffman, who congratulated her. It was then that it truly hit her.

“It felt so surreal,” she said. “The second that it hit me, I’m sitting there nursing my son; I started crying. Just because… it was kind of a full-circle moment for me. Everything on the Emmy reel that was submitted was work I did while pregnant with my son. So to be recognized and be nominated for something while holding him, feeding him… was one of those full-circle surreal moments where I saw the intersection of both my dreams coming my way.”

“It felt good to see I’ve done both with the company. Having children hasn’t hindered me. It’s only helped me and made me better at my job. That was one of those moments where I felt validated. I was postpartum; it’s a very vulnerable place to be, sitting there in a diaper, breastfeeding my son… you kind of forget who you are when you’re in that place. Then to be reminded, like, ‘Oh yeah, you’re actually well-respected and good at your job. And you’ll be back at that.'”

McGrath said she heard from several people, including her ABC/ESPN college football crewmembers McDonough and Blackledge (who is leaving for NBC this season), and fellow reporter Kris Budden. McDonough was someone Molly credited with making her a better reporter.

McGrath discussed how it felt that the Emmys featured her among the notable reporters in the category.

“It’s surreal. I still don’t believe it,” McGrath said on being featured amongst them. “I look at those names, and those are who I aspire to be.”

McGrath pursued respect from her peers like Rowe and Salters. She spent the last two years at the CFP National Championship Game and said that Rowe, like McDonough, made her better at her job. She said an Emmy Award was always a goal, but something that she never thought far enough to do.

Salters was on the ground during the challenging Damar Hamlin situation on Monday Night Football. Molly praised her for her work and predicted that the longtime ESPN NFL field reporter would win the award. She also offered praise to the veteran Rinaldi and to Stark, who, of course, patrols the sidelines on NBC Sunday Night Football.

Molly tidied up the moment and conversation with AA with perspective on how she climbed up the ladder and approached her job. She specifically cited McDonough and her ABC/ESPN crew.

“Being a good teammate, taking that feedback, and having this be a collaborative effort. It’s not about me, it’s about creating the best broadcast for our audience,” McGrath said.

In the chat with AA, McGrath included an example of this perspective. She explained that on her Emmy reel was a segment at the Clemson Tigers-Wake Forest Demon Deacons game during the 2022 college football season. However, that was far from easy.

Clemson star defensive lineman Bryan Bresee suffered a horrible loss in his family the week before. Bresee’s 15-year-old sister tragically died earlier that month after a battle with brain cancer. On Saturday, she would aim to tell the story of the funeral, which occurred Tuesday. All the while, McGrath explained that she was five months pregnant and hadn’t informed anyone on her ESPN crew except for Hoffman, her producer. When she got into the truck, McGrath said she “broke down in tears” for the pain she felt for her family.

“The amount of pain I felt for that family was so real. I couldn’t imagine losing a child. I did so much research; I felt so invested. Josh was like, ‘Whoa, maybe you shouldn’t tell this story today,'” she said. But she continued as she sought help from her crew to help her get it down pat. So McGrath, Hoffman, and director Scott Johnson rehearsed the segment until she felt comfortable.

“They took time out of their schedule and routine till I felt comfortable where I could separate my emotions enough to tell the story. I didn’t want me to be the story. I didn’t want to be the crying reporter on TV, I didn’t want to make it about me,” she said. McGrath added, “I literally couldn’t have done it without the support of our truck and our crew. I just wouldn’t have told the story because I wasn’t in a good place.”

So, in the end, a Sports Emmy nomination comes on the heels of another year of impressive work for Molly McGrath. Her perspective will no doubt keep her star shining brightly. But for her, while she expressed her surreal feelings, she also showed extreme gratitude and thankfulness for the support and helpfulness of others around her. Win or lose, that won’t change anytime soon.

About Chris Novak

Chris Novak has been talking and writing about sports ever since he can remember. Previously, Novak wrote for and managed sites in the SB Nation network for nearly a decade from 2013-2022