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Huddle up: Go inside the storytelling featured on Postseason NFL Countdown this weekend

ESPN's reporters, analysts and producers tackle the NFL divisional playoffs with interesting angles on Brees, Foles, Donald, Goff and more

ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez (L) interviews Rams star DT Aaron Donald. (Jenna Contreras/ESPN)
Entering one of the biggest weekends of the NFL season, ESPN has produced a variety of features to air on two editions of Postseason NFL Countdown (Saturday and Sunday at 10 a.m. ET, ESPN) and SportsCenter this weekend. Front Row spoke with reporters and producers who shared interesting tidbits from their upcoming pieces. Reporter Alden Gonzalez sat for a conversation with Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald that will air on SportsCenter this weekend. Gonzalez was particularly intrigued about Donald’s loyalty. “Aaron was so thankful for the lessons his dad taught him that he basically spent his entire life pushing himself to return the favor. I think placing that phone call to his mom and dad to tell them they can retire was one of the most genuinely happy moments of his life. People will tell you it meant more to Aaron than it did for his parents, but it isn’t just that,” said Gonzalez. “Shortly after he broke the record for sacks by a defensive tackle, he sent long, drawn-out text messages to everyone who helped him along the way. He could spend his offseasons basking in the Southern California sun; he chooses to spend them in Pittsburgh to train with the same guy who trained him in high school.” Producers Chris Duzan and Justin Vorensky spent time at Westlake High School in Austin, Texas, the alma mater of Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks Drew Brees and Nick Foles — who face off this weekend — for a Countdown feature airing Sunday. ESPN spoke with the current Westlake quarterback and Sam Ehlinger, the current University of Texas quarterback who also starred at Westlake. They discussed what they learned from Foles and Brees. The principal, who coached Foles, and former head coach Derek Long, who coached both Foles and Brees, are also part of the piece. “We learned of an amazing story about Nick’s former teammate, Matt Nader, whose heart stopped on the field during their senior season. [Current Baltimore Ravens kicker] Justin Tucker’s dad used an AED [Automated External Defibrillator] to bring Matt back to life and Nick stayed at the hospital with him all night,” said Duzan. “Former coach Derek Long said he felt that witnessing that showed Nick there is more to life than football and following the incident Nick learned to become a leader.” ESPN analyst and 18-year NFL quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said he enjoyed spending time with Rams quarterback Jared Goff to discuss the creation of audible names for a feature that will air on Saturday’s Countdown. “My favorite part about doing QB interviews is speaking the QB language and then breaking it down for people at home,” Hasselbeck said. “I know how paranoid QBs and coaches are to not give any secrets away but it is fun to hear some audibles, snap counts, or play calls that you can usually only hear in an NFL huddle. My favorite so far has been Red Left Swap Tight Close Z Right Sprint Right G U Corner Halfback Flat.” Allison Stoneberg contributed to this post. – Molly Mita
1. NBA on ESPN: The Lakers and the Jazz face off tonight at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN. 2. Men’s College Basketball: Louisville takes on No. 12 UNC on Saturday at noon on ESPN and No. 1 Duke travels to No. 13 Florida State on Saturday at 2 p.m. on ESPN. 3. Women’s College Basketball: USF will travel to No. 3 UConn at 1 p.m. and Georgia will host No. 13 Tennessee at 3 p.m. in a women’s college basketball doubleheader. 4. NFL Countdown on ESPN: Entering the biggest weekend of the NFL season so far, NFL Countdown will preview the day’s biggest games on both Saturday and Sunday at 10 a.m. on ESPN. – Molly Mita
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