Behind The Scenes

Rare reunion for Fitzgerald, ex-Pitt mentor, ESPN analyst Williamson

On any given day, there’s no telling what popular sports figures will visit the ESPN campus in Bristol, Conn., roaming the halls of our buildings.

Occasionally, these visits provide an opportunity for athletes to reconnect with people who knew them before they hit the big time.

Wednesday was one of those days for Arizona Cardinals All-Pro wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.

While photographing Fitzgerald’s “Car Wash,” I followed him from the First Take set through the halls of the ESPN Radio corridor.

Suddenly, he hesitated. He started waving almost reflexively through a huge glass window before changing direction and marching into a studio that wasn’t on his schedule.

Inside the small room was ESPN Scouts Inc. NFL analyst Matt Williamson, who was recording his Football Today podcast.

Williamson abruptly pushed the mic aside to say hello to an old friend.

Before arriving at ESPN in 2005, Williamson was an assistant football recruiter at the University of Pittsburgh when Fitzgerald starred for the Panthers in the early 2000s.

“I haven’t seen Larry since he was drafted [in 2004] and I did not know he was coming,” said Williamson.

“I am only here in Bristol a few days per year. I saw him doing one of the TV shows and was going to do everything possible to say hello, but he beat me to it.

“He noticed me through the glass while I was taping the Football Today podcast — a very pleasant surprise!”

The gallery above includes photographs from this impromptu reunion. (Fitzgerald’s stylist Arturo Castañeda is seen shooting the scene on a cell phone.)

Williamson recalls that after Pitt practices, “Larry never wanted to leave the facility. So, he would park himself next to me and we would watch [tapes of] recruits together.

“Larry asked about my family, noticed that I have put on a few pounds and asked where in Pittsburgh I was living. He’s a great guy. I was really lucky that he was here while I was.”

Listen to the Football Today podcast. At about the 12-minute mark, you’ll hear an interruption and then Williamson’s story.

Back to top button