Former MNF producer tags Gruden to help promote Wrestlemania

MNF analyst Jon Gruden has a passion for pro wrestling.
MNF analyst Jon Gruden has a passion for pro wrestling.

Though it’s NFL offseason, fans have seen a lot of Monday Night Football analyst Jon Gruden this week.

First, two of the top quarterback prospects in the 2015 NFL Draft – Baylor’s Bryce Petty and Colorado’s State’s Garrett Grayson – visited his Gruden’s QB Camp in Florida. Then, there was the WWE video that went viral of the Super Bowl-winning coach previewing this weekend’s WrestleMania Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal.

Brian Pellegatto, director of digital video and production for WWE, came up with the idea and reached out to Gruden and ESPN. Pellegatto, who previously worked at ESPN from 2002-12 – including three seasons traveling with MNF as a graphics producer (2010-11) and lead tape producer (2012), discusses with Front Row how this came about.

Jon Gruden (r) with Brian Pellegatto. (Photo courtesy Brian Pellegatto)
Jon Gruden (r) with Brian Pellegatto. (Photo courtesy Brian Pellegatto)

What made you think of Gruden for this WWE video?
Jon helped us out before with a fun, ‘don’t take ourselves too serious’ webshow. The first cameo was just a shout-out to the hosts during a period of time where we’d always get a celebrity shout-out. A second cameo was when WWE was in Tampa for a live “Monday Night Raw” and Jon and his entire family came backstage to meet all the Superstars and Divas. Jon helped us out again for one of our webshows and was a natural. When we walked Jon out to his seats, the whole arena started chanting “Gruden, Gruden, Gruden!”

Did he need any coaching?
Jon did great and while I sent along a loose script, it was Jon infusing his personality and way of communicating to the audience that made this such a fun piece. Jon speaking about Andre the Giant or a wrestling bunny sells itself!

What’s the response been among the wrestling community?
Much like WWE and some of our larger-than-life personalities, Jon fits right in. The response was all positive and a lot of our fans were surprised to see Jon in his QB Camp office breaking down WWE. The Superstars that were featured in the piece all were excited to have Jon talking about them.

Editor’s Note: The 2015 season of Gruden’s QB Camp debuts Tuesday, April 7 (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2). Complete QB Camp TV schedule.

Gruden: 'I’ve gotten more calls on this than the Super Bowl win'
On his wrestling background…
“I have three sons, I’m one of three sons myself, and my brother Jay has three sons. I grew up watching professional wrestling, and we all had our favorite. Seamus is my favorite. We have Seamus t-shirts and we slam each other into the couches in our living room. We really enjoy watching him.

“When Pelle – who was on our Monday Night Football crew — got the job at WWE, he invited me to come to wrestling events a couple of times. I got to go backstage and actually meet some of the wrestlers and sit ringside. I just had a lot of fun and so did my brother’s kids and my kids. I’m a fan. It’s great entertainment.”

On the reaction to the WWE video this week…
“I’ve gotten more calls on this than the Super Bowl win.”

On who will prevail in this weekend’s WrestleMania event…
“When you meet Ryback, you can’t help but think he’s the hands-on favorite. That guy’s built unlike anything I’ve ever seen. He’s a man of steel. If he doesn’t win this, I’ll be surprised.”

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