Over the coming days, as NFL Draft prospects wait to learn their fate, ABC viewers will be introduced to their stories that go beyond the football field, thanks to ESPN’s Feature Unit.
Led by coordinating producer Greg Jewell, the team of feature producers Kris Schwartz and Steve Buckheit, content associate Eric Dowling and associate producer Cameron Moon captured interviews with more than 80 players coming through their set at the NFL Combine in early March. The vignettes will air throughout ABC’s coverage of the NFL Draft, which begins Thursday at 8 p.m. ET.
“This is a life-changing night for these players,” Jewell said. “To get a chance to get a little of their background as they are living this moment elevates the understanding of why we see so much passion and emotion when they are picked.”
JOE BURROW – LSU
These compelling stories show the depth of this year’s class, with interviews ranging from projected No. 1 pick – LSU’s Joe Burrow – to some lesser-known names such as Appalachian State’s Akeem Davis-Gaither, Kyle Dugger from Lenoir-Rhyne and Adam Trautman of Dayton.
KYLE DUGGER – LENOIR-RHYNE
NFL Draft coordinating producer Drew Gallagher, who oversees production of ABC’s coverage of the event, notes the importance of the vignettes as a way to tie together where these players come from to where they are going with the next step in their football careers.
“One of the main goals of our NFL Draft broadcasts is to introduce the human side of the players,” Gallagher said. “What is their background? Where does their motivation come from? What are their unique interests? We want the viewers and fans at home to get an understanding of what kind of person their team just drafted – beyond his abilities as a player.”
AKEEM DAVIS-GAITHER – APPALACHIAN STATE
The storytelling through the vignettes ranges from “incredible sacrifice, players who overcame tremendous odds or tragedies, and there are some that are just fun and show off the players’ interests and what makes them interesting.”
“Our team enjoys working on these because a bunch of us work on the NFL,” Jewell said. “Similar to a lot of hardcore NFL viewers, we aren’t as tapped into the storylines of all of the guys coming into the Draft. The stories we learn about these athletes serve as a strong introduction to who they are.
ADAM TRAUTMAN – DAYTON
With a stroke of luck, every interview was captured about a week before COVID-19 struck the sports world. Since then, Jewell and his team have been producing and editing the vignettes from home to get them ready for this week’s NFL Draft.
While the NFL Draft has the ability to surprise, delight, and sometimes even disappoint, one thing is clear: learning about the person behind the facemask will give NFL fans and ABC viewers something, and someone, to cheer for.