ESPN host and reporter Laura Rutledge is returning to Atlanta to cover the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl (Saturday, Dec. 28 at 4 p.m. ET, ESPN), with coverage beginning on SEC Network today. The city is full of familiar stomping grounds for Rutledge, having grown up in Atlanta, lived in the area in the early years of her career at ESPN, and covering the SEC Championship Game at both the defunct Georgia Dome and Mercedes-Benz Stadium several times over.
While “The A” feels like home, this year provided a whole new adventure as Rutledge and her husband Josh welcomed daughter Reese Katherine in the middle of college football season. Rutledge is back in full force following maternity leave, and took time from her responsibilities on Get Up, College Football Playoff prep and readying for Reese’s first Christmas to look back at one of the most eventful college football falls of her career.
You became a mom this fall and brought Reese on the road for a few SEC Nation weekends. How has having her changed how you prioritize your day and work schedule?
Every second counts now. I used to give myself a couple hours each day to just breathe and rest. Those days are gone!! It’s incredible the amount of energy that you can discover within yourself when your child needs you. I admire all moms so much. It’s a combination of the most important, hardest and most rewarding job around. I spend a lot of time multitasking and watching games while feeding Reese. My worry is that I’m not present enough with her, but we are doing the best we can right now!
— Laura Rutledge (@LauraRutledge) November 23, 2019
You spoke earlier this football season about the advice you received from other ESPN moms heading into motherhood. Now that you’re a few months in, what held true and is there anything you’d share with new/soon-to-be mothers in the industry that you wish you knew?
First of all, I am SO thankful for the amazing advice each of these moms gave me and still gives me. It’s been an incredible well of resources, wisdom and encouragement to dip into. So much of [their advice] has helped me, but the overarching message is that each child is different and each situation is different. They have encouraged me to do what’s best for us and not to compare to others and somehow their permission has helped make it ok. Thank you Kris Budden, Ramona Shelburne, Cassidy Hubbarth, Sage Steele, Nicole Briscoe, Elle Duncan, Jen Lada and Holly Rowe.
What’s been your favorite moment/memory of this college football season?
My favorite moment of this season was post-game on the field at the SEC Championship interviewing LSU players and Coach O after they beat Georgia. They were consumed with pure joy and I sat there thinking, “this is why I love this job.”
You’re covering the College Football Playoff Semifinal as both a sideline reporter (assigned to Oklahoma) and SEC Nation host. That makes for a pretty hectic schedule. How do you prep for covering both teams so deeply?
For me, the biggest key to prep is having a working knowledge of everything in college football so that I’m able to narrow my focus this time of year. With SEC Nation, we covered LSU throughout the year and I’ve been following Oklahoma from the jump as well. The type of prep is different because reporting on the game is more about internalizing each story and finding a way to communicate it efficiently between plays. Hosting SEC Nation is more about setting up analysts with information, storytelling and finding creative ways to let those conversations breathe. It will be a whirlwind, but I wouldn’t want it any other way!
This is your third College Football Playoff Semifinal as a sideline reporter. Any behind-the-scenes stories you haven’t shared before that viewers would find funny/interesting?
My first year as a reporter on a CFP semi, I was also hosting SEC Nation post-game. When Alabama won, I did a couple post-game interviews, ripped my mic pack off and ran across the field to host the show. I’m talking a full-out sprint across the field! I ended up leaving my mic from the game in the wrong place, so thank goodness we had great audio technicians to find it. It was a mad dash. . . literally!