Behind The Scenes

Versatile Jemele Hill reflects on her first season as a sideline reporter

First-year ESPN sideline reporter Jemele Hill. (Phil Ellsworth/ESPN Images)

Earlier this year Jemele Hill embarked on a new chapter in her professional career: She became a sideline reporter for ESPN and ESPN2 Friday college football games with Carter Blackburn and Rod Gilmore.

The columnist and on-air contributor has had plenty of adventures during her first regular season on the college football sidelines. Now she’s slated to cover four bowl games, the first of which is Thursday’s San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl between BYU and San Diego State (8 p.m. ET, ESPN). [Hill will also work the Little Caesar’s Bowl (Dec. 26) and the Music City Bowl (Dec. 31) on ESPN and the Outback Bowl for ESPN Radio (Jan. 1, 2013).]

Hill shares some of her standout experiences thus far.

Biggest surprise from the season:
That we watched film. I enjoyed that, because you learn nuances of the game that you wouldn’t have otherwise. I can draw formations in my sleep, thanks to Rod Gilmore.

What information have you taken the most pride in passing along to viewers?
In general, I always take more pride in giving out injury information. The majority of schools on the schedule don’t share injury information, so it’s up to me to use my powers of observation to relay to the viewer what’s happening.

What’s the most memorable game you’ve covered and why?
The MAC Championship between Kent State and Northern Illinois was probably the best game, but the Utah-Utah State game will stand out a little more for me because not only was it an overtime game, but I nearly was trampled when the fans stormed the field. I just kept thinking to myself, “Don’t be afraid to use the Holly Rowe elbow.”

Were there some rookie mistake(s)?
Numerous. First game of the season, Michigan State at Boise State, I was shaking my microphone as I talked. Forgot to bring my gloves to Central Michigan, where it was a balmy 20-something degrees.

Three things you learned about the position:
1. It’s even harder than I thought it would be.
2. Being comfortable and warm is better than trying to look cute.
3. Uptempo offenses are the bane of every sideline reporter’s existence.

Little-known facts about Carter Blackburn and Rod Gilmore:
Carter has never seen Remember the Titans. And no, he doesn’t live in a closet. Rod might be as good of a wine connoisseur as he is a college football analyst.

Favorite interview:
[Washington State coach] Mike Leach. You know going into it that he loves to antagonize reporters. I like that. I did a pregame interview with him when Washington State played at UNLV and even though we were moments from kickoff, he refused to tell me who was starting at quarterback. And, he’s also a “walker,” meaning he walks as you interview him. I’m just glad I didn¹t trip over anything.

What’s the best meal you had on the road?
It’s a tie between Roast, a restaurant at Detroit’s swanky Book Cadillac hotel, and these two restaurants in Monroe, La. that were spectacular, Sage and Warehouse. Very underrated food city.

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