Television viewers are used to seeing Byron Pitts co-anchor the ABC News weeknight program “Nightline,” but Pitts shows his versatility with a move into sports as the reporter on “Chubbtown,” Sunday’s SC Featured story on SportsCenter.
The feature debuts in the 10 a.m. ET edition of SportsCenter and will re-air in other editions throughout the day.
As part of ESPN’s Black History Month programming, Pitts and producer Kristen Lappas tell the story of the historic hometown of University of Georgia running back Nick Chubb. A very small community in the North Georgia mountains, Chubbtown was formed by Chubb’s ancestors — free black families who settled in the area during the Civil War.
“One of the main things I love about this story is that it’s as much about family and faith as it is about football,” said Pitts, whose only previous work for ESPN was as a contributor to 2014’s Outside the Lines Special Report: The “N” Word.
– ABC News’ Byron Pitts on Nick Chubb
“In this age of bravado and cockiness, this is a humble kid who happens to be an honor student and a world-class football player, but who prides himself on being just a country boy from North Georgia,” said Pitts. “When you meet him, he’s physically impressive. You talk to him, and he’s very humble, you see he’s an ‘A’ student, and you wonder where this kid comes from.
“Then when you go back home with him, you see where it comes from, that for generations, since the late 1800s, when the Chubbs first settled in this part of North Georgia, that those are their values: hard work, scholarship, achievement in all aspects of life and humility.”
Chubb’s family made those traits hallmarks of the community 152 years ago, Pitts said.
“And all these years later, you see all those virtues in this one kid,” he said. “And it’s nice to see – the tremendous pride that his relatives have in him, both in his academic achievement and his athletic achievement, and this is a very impressive family.”
Pitts became involved in the project with the blessing of Roxanna Sherwood, executive producer of “Nightline,” who was among ABC executives contacted by Valerie Gordon, coordinating producer in the ESPN Features Unit. He made two trips to Chubbtown, including the final visit this past weekend when many family members returned for a church service held in part to celebrate Nick.
“I consider myself a pretty serious-minded journalist,” he said. “I like stories that encourage people, and this I think will certainly encourage people.
“And ESPN is just a wonderful resource,” he said. “It’s got a great brand, and there are some wonderful storytellers who work at ESPN and produce great work all the time. I’m really grateful and humbled to have the opportunity to tell this story on that platform.”