EDITOR’S NOTE: Welcome to “Off Camera with. . .,” a Front Row series that introduces you to some of the studio anchors who have recently joined ESPN. Today we meet Dianna Russini, who joined ESPN in July 2015 as a SportsCenter anchor.
What does it mean for you to work at ESPN?
When you are passionate about sports, love all sports and your career path has lead you to a broadcasting role, then working for ESPN is the only place to work. To be able to combine my passions into this career is the pinnacle of what I always dreamed about as a young girl.Therefore, I don’t feel this has been work, but rather living my dreams.
What is the best advice you ever received?
A close friend of mine sent me the lyrics to a Billy Joel song called “Vienna” before I started at ESPN. The message of the song is to slow down and enjoy today. Don’t burn yourself out trying to do everything at once or be everything at once. The rest of your life is ahead of you. Enjoy the journey. Enjoy the process. You will get there eventually.
What is your favorite team?
I lost track of the number of Yankee games I’ve attended with my late grandfather who happened to live close to Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. Those memories are priceless which bonds me to the Yankees for a lifetime. Those are some of my best memories and for that I will always love the New York Yankees. I was raised Catholic but taught to worship Don Mattingly. Just kidding, kind of. I also root for the Jets, Islanders, Knicks and my alma mater George Mason.
I actually heard [New England Patriots coach] Bill Belichick talk about Mona Lisa Vita during a press conference as he also thinks highly of the movie and Tomei’s portrayal. Actually, my goal is to bring elements of the Mona Lisa Vito character to each SportsCenter – funny, knowledgeable and opinionated. My dream is to interview [Belichick] in full Mona Lisa Vito character on SportsCenter.
Some things we don’t know about you?
I hold the record for the fastest mile time for a 5-year-old in my hometown. I ran it in 8 minutes, 16 seconds. It now takes me 28:16. I also caught a pass thrown by [Buffalo Bills head coach] Rex Ryan at Eric Mangini’s football camp in Hartford. It was pouring rain and I was covering the camp as a local reporter. I was caught mocking Rex’s arm while I was watching the drill, therefore, he challenged my athletic prowess.
Ryan yelled, “I may not be able to throw but I bet you can’t catch!” Little did he know, my brother would love to throw footballs in my direction from the beach while I was in ocean swimming when we were kids.
I learned how to perfectly catch particularly wet, sandy footballs. So, he threw me a long pass with a defender in tight coverage. I laid out like I was back in the water and secured the ball. Ever since that day Rex calls me “Jerry,” as in [former San Francisco 49ers receiver] Jerry Rice.