Even though ESPN associate producer and writer Tory Zawacki Roy was in New Jersey on Zoom and the Siegel family was in Lubbock, Texas, she found a way to reduce the nearly 2,000 miles between them and be present.
“It starts with getting to know the family,” Zawacki Roy explained.
Before she focused on producing this feature about the Siegels for Sunday NFL Countdown and writing a companion piece for ESPN.com – which will be published Christmas Day – Zawacki Roy focused on communicating and connecting with the family.
“I would call and FaceTime the Siegels just like you would reach out to any other friend,” she remembers. “We had a friendship before we started.”
A former All-American on the women’s tennis team at Duke University, Zawacki Roy quickly found common ground with Tim Siegel, a former tennis coach at Texas Tech.
“Being a part of the tennis community for the majority of my life, it means so much to me to be able to work with Tim and his family to share their story,” she said.
Five years ago, Siegel’s son, Luke, sustained an anoxic brain injury. Since then, he continues to fight and progress, buoyed by his family, New Orleans Saints football, and quarterback Drew Brees’ faithful messages.
“The bond of sports, familiar things like watching the Saints with his dad, make a big difference,” Zawacki Roy said. “Sports goes so much further than any of us realize.”
In telling stories throughout the pandemic, Zawacki Roy has made a special effort to communicate and connect and pay close attention to the visuals on screen and follow them.
“The most important thing is being able to back away a little bit in terms of the usual priorities and let the story tell itself, let it breathe,” she explains.
In doing so, she saw how the family members’ love for one another and for their team continues to unite, uplift, and inspire them.
Zawacki Roy, who has been part of ESPN’s NFL team for the past five seasons, notes how grateful she is for the opportunity to tell the Siegels’ story: “I’ve learned so much from them as a producer and as a parent.”