ESPN History

#TBT: As he prepares for his 35th NFL Draft, Chris Berman shares memories

Chris Berman is shown interviewing guests during his first time at the NFL draft in 1981.
ESPN’s Chris Berman interviewed a guest during his NFL Draft assignment in 1981.

The 2015 NFL Draft marks ESPN’s 36th consecutive year of presenting the league’s annual Player Selection Meeting. Chris Berman, who first worked the event for ESPN in 1981 as a reporter assigned to a restaurant in New York City, will host Round 1 coverage again tonight (8 p.m. ET, ESPN).

On the verge of his 35th NFL Draft (28th as ESPN’s host), Berman shares his draft memories in this week’s #TBT.

On his first NFL Draft in 1981…
We blew out the power of an entire restaurant. We had extra lights, extra cameras and an extension cord running from the street. It was too much. The whole place went dark. They couldn’t cook a meal; they couldn’t do anything for about 15 minutes.

On ESPN’s first team reporter assignment for NFL Draft…
In 1982, I was at the [headquarters of the San Francisco] 49ers the year after they won the Super Bowl. I was the only reporter with a team. The draft began at 5 a.m. on the West Coast, so my wake-up call was at a quarter to three. These teams were drafting players at 5 a.m.! They traded for Russ Francis that day.

Editor’s Note: By contrast, ESPN has reporters at seven team sites and with two top players tonight.

On working alongside [ESPN NFL Draft Expert] Mel Kiper, Jr….
In my fourth year, 1984, I met Mel for the first time. He was earnest then and he’s earnest now. No one had ever seen a big board before. That was news. It was as if we were uncovering how to get into Fort Knox, showing a draft board.

On how the event has evolved through the years…
In 1986, I reached Allen Pinkett of Notre Dame, drafted by the Houston Oilers. In a live interview I asked him, ‘You’re a Houston Oiler, what does it feel like?’ He said, ‘I am?’ Turns out I reached him before the team did. We thought he knew. Now look. We’re live in Honolulu.

Editor’s Note: ESPN reporter Shelley Smith will be with Oregon’s Marcus Mariota at his home in Hawaii tonight.

On the NFL Draft moving to Chicago this year…
Even though it’s one of the biggest cities in the United States, the beauty of Chicago – this is an ‘atta boy’ for them – there’s a little small town in them. They are treating this draft as the biggest circus has come to town. I give them credit. I see what they’re doing and I embrace their spirit.

Allison Stoneberg contributed to this post

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