“Team Player”: Sage Steele with Tom Engle

EDITOR’S NOTE: Today, Front Row continues its “Team Player” series where ESPN commentators honor some of the company’s terrific behind-the-scenes employees who make invaluable contributions to ESPN’s success each and every day.

It’s been a dynamic year for popular ESPN commentator Sage Steele.

After adding a lead role on ESPN’s SportsCenter on the Road initiative last fall, it was announced earlier this month that Steele also will host the morning edition of SportsCenter.

As her role has continued to grow and evolve, Steele has pointed to an ESPN behind-the-scenes employee who has been there to guide her through her transition.

Steele’s pick for “Team Player” is veteran SportsCenter producer Tom Engle.

SportsCenter producer Tom Engle on working alongside Sage Steele

“Sage and I have been all over the country together and even journeyed to Mexico City over the last nine months with SportsCenter on the Road. We covered a variety of events from Veterans Day at Arlington National Cemetery, the College Football National Championship, the Super Bowl, NCAA Men’s Final Four and most recently the Masters. What I learned about working with Sage is her ability to seamlessly cover a variety of ever-changing events and not miss a beat. Sage has a contagiously positive attitude and is a pleasure to work with.”

What makes Tom successful in his role?
Aside from all of the requirements a producer must have, one of the things I appreciate the most about Tom is his demeanor. He is extremely calm, even in the most chaotic situations. My very first SportsCenter on the Road assignment was at Wrigley Field last October during the historic Cubs run and I admit that I had placed a ton of pressure on myself because I knew that it was my one and only chance to make a good first impression with my new bosses and teammates. I’m pretty sure that Tom realized all of those things were on my mind, and his sense of calm, and ability to make me laugh during the chaos is something I will forever appreciate, and never forget.

How does Tom help you do your job to the best of your ability?
Tom’s communication is excellent. He’s great with giving fair, constructive feedback after every show, and sometimes, even during the shows. Tom knows that I am a perfectionist, sometimes to a fault, so he makes sure to evaluate each part of our show by letting us know what we did well, and what could have been better. As simple and basic as that may sound, not everyone is willing and able to have conversations like that so I appreciate it more than I can say.

Could you describe a specific instance when Tom went above and beyond to help you?
When I took the SportsCenter on the Road job last fall, I was thrilled that the Masters was on my list of events. However, I was also intimidated. Not only was this going to be the first PGA Tour event that I had ever covered, but I’d also never even attended one. Alongside researchers Chris Fallica and Zach Jones, Tom made sure that I was schooled on all aspects of Augusta National and that I developed the proper context and perspective required with an event like the Masters. Tom and the crew went above and beyond for me, and it paid off.